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Wednesday Shout Out

By Rigoberto González

Ah, to go back to the mornings of innocence, and to the afternoons of transgression:

Case Studies
I am eleven and convinced sex
is everything I have read in the forbidden
Havelock Ellis on the top shelf that needs a ladder
to bring down into my fetish-a-day report
to the grade-school playground
where nobody believes it is possible
for a man to love a high-heeled shoe
pressed into his butt or is willing to lick
sticky brown underwear.
Lady down the street lets me read her True Confessions.
I squirm over the transgressive kisses
of decent women making Mistake with Men
and letting them Go Too Far. Three-paragraph
caresses turn into a thrumming pulse
burning under my shorts even as I think
it likely the Perfect Marriageable Man
must beg to be whipped
or yearns to stuff his bride with dirty socks.
In the attic of my friend Debby’s house
we find a pack of playing cars, crisp, glossy,
hardly used. Black-and-white photos
of men wagging their wormy things—
handsome and ugly, young and old,
obscenely naked among the diamonds
and hearts making their birthday suits.
We use them for dart boards, turning pricks
into holes of erasing accuracy.
The curiosities and explorations of this poem from Claudia Carlon’s debut collection are central to the book—a poetic Bildungsroman, if you will, in which a young speaker’s nascent sexuality (and other important rites of passage) must navigate into the mixed messages and mysterious metaphors of the adult world. The poem is less about sex education as it is about the creativity and resilience of the young, and how during puberty we shape a context even for the most surprising of encounters. In this case, with the literature of fetishism, steamy romance novels, and pornography. Ah, memories.
Naughty poet. Carlson doesn’t resist the urge to pun and play at the end of the poem: “turning pricks/ into holes.” Need I say more?
(From The Elephant House by Claudia Carlson, Marsh Hawk Press, 2007. Used with the permission of the author.)

Comments (7)

  • On October 10, 2007 at 10:10 pm Hilary Beckett Schlessiger wrote:

    Also feast with Carlson in the company of Blake, of Goya, marvel at her compelling empathy with Sleeping Beauty, her wicked ode to “Pornos: Muse of Hack” . The Elephant House — such delicious and beautiful poems!
    Hilary Beckett

  • On October 11, 2007 at 8:07 am Jennifer Greenhill-Taylor wrote:

    Carlson is a fearless poet, who places no limitations on her subjects, but approaches all with a sense of wonder, affection and generosity that allows us to eperience her vision with joy, not trepidation. Her fairy tale poems are particularly brilliant, bringing a whole new viewpoint to those familiar and dark old tales. Case Studies is an important poem for women, as it reveals that we are indeed sexual from a very early age, something not much discussed. It also reveals the ability of the young to look at everything with a slightly detached curiosity, which does not kill the cat, it simply makes it more eager to discover the complexities of life among the grown-ups.

  • On October 11, 2007 at 9:48 am Jeanne McIntosh wrote:

    I agree with Mr. Gonzales – naughty by delightful! What young girls has not been curious about sex? Especially if she had no brothers to observe running around naked. And curious girls tend to turn the incident into humor rather than be turned on!
    Claudia is my daughter-in-law, and I am so proud of her accomplishments

  • On October 11, 2007 at 1:50 pm Natalie Allen wrote:

    Well, speaking as one who is still exploring, I’d say this poem is pretty dead on. And “Fearless Poet” is a perfect title, Ms. Greenhill-Taylor. My Mother is brilliant.

  • On October 11, 2007 at 4:53 pm Deborah Atherton wrote:

    The Fetish a Day Report might gather quite a following even in this day and age – if there isn’t a blog with that name, there ought to be.
    I love the way the poem evokes all our first misconceptions about sex, and the excitement and misery attendant on the misunderstanding. This poem and Elephant House do indeed have many of the elements of a Blldungsroman – that’s a really astute observation – as the poet wanders through a world full of shocks, wonders, and inconsistencies, in pursuit of her own adulthood.

  • On October 15, 2007 at 1:55 pm Andrea Hollander Budy wrote:

    This is an intriguing example of the poems in Claudia Carlson’s wide-eyed collection. Throughout THE ELEPHANT HOUSE Carlson’s imaginings explore so much that is worthy of our attention.

  • On October 15, 2007 at 9:51 pm christina carlson wrote:

    Since I can’t separate the poet from the child-self Claudia writes about…
    I find it interesting that she chose to embrace “true confession” stories in her play as a child with her younger sister, but protectively withheld Havelock.
    I must have been seven or younger. We were in the car on a long summer trek across the country… The pipecleaner doll was in her most beautiful tissue paper dress and she was being prepared to be sacrificed as a virgin. Intrigued as I was, a part of me questioned,”where does she get this stuff?” I am somewhat reassured to know, Claudia was not channeling romance novelists, but had incorporated their work into something way more thrilling. To do so defied the boundaries of her feminist mom (who claimed the role of rebel herself).
    I am very proud of her work. It is familiar and wonderful to be mesmerized and pulled in by Claudia’s words!!

Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, October 10th, 2007 by Rigoberto González.