Monday, June 13, 2005

In Praise of Four-Letter Words

In case you're wondering, Ellen Bass is a poet who has a new book out called Mules of Love, who wrote this great poem:

In Praise of Four-Letter Words
by Ellen Bass

We tell shit
when the egg carton slips
and the ivory globes
splatter on blue tile.
And when someone leaves you
bruised as a dropped pear, you spit
that fucker, fucking bastard, motherfucker.
And if you just got fired, the puppy
swallowed a two-inch nail, or
your daughter needs another surgery,
you might walk around murmuring
under your breath like reciting a rosary.

Cock and cunt--we spew them out
as though they were offal,
as though that vulnerable
bare skin of the penis, that swaying it does
like a slender reed in a pond, the vulva
with its delicate mauve or taupe
or cinnamon fluted petals were the worst
things we know. You'd think we despise
the way they slide together,
can't bear all those nerves
bunched up close as angels
seething on the head of a pin.

And suck, our yes
to the universe, first hunger, whole
mammalian tribe of damp newborns
held in contempt for the urgent rooting,
the nubbly feel of the nipple in the mouth,
fine spray on the soft palate.

What does it mean
to bring another's body
into our body, whether through our mouth
or that other mouth--to be taken in?
When life cracks us
like a broken tooth,
when it wears us down
like the tread of old tires,
when it creeps over us
like shower mold, isn't this
what we cry for?

Maybe all that shouting
is shouting to God, to the universe,
to anyone who can hear us.
In lockdown within our own skins,
we're banging on the bars with tin spoons,
screaming in the only language strong
enough to convey the shock
of our shameful need. Fuck! --
we look around us in terrified amazement--
Goddamn! Goddamn! Holy shit!

I really enjoyed that poem... prose... or whatever you hip-cats are calling these things ;)

Though I must admit that the phrase "our shameful need" seemed to contradict the preceding sentiments. Not that one should feel constrained by the chains of logic.

In any event thanks for sharing it with us!
i never noticed that contradiction before.

on the other hand, maybe it's not so much a contradiction as just two sides to a sexual nature - most of us are pretty lusty, yet somehow shame-filled about it, all at the same time.
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