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Wednesday Shout Out
Ah, to go back to the mornings of innocence, and to the afternoons of transgression:
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.)