Poem: Edna St Vincent Millay, ‘I, being born a Woman and Distressed’

I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn wtih pity, — let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

1923

Second of my postings for National Poetry Month.  I’ve always liked this sexy, cheeky, clever sonnet from Edna St Vincent Millay.  Millay was a North American poet, a feminist and an openly bisexual woman who had an open marriage with her husband Eugen Boissevain.

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Poem: Katie Donovan, ‘Yearn On’

I want you to feel
the unbearable lack of me.
I want your skin
to yearn for the soft lure of mine;
I want those hints of red
on your canvas
to deepen in passion for me:
carmine, burgundy.
I want you to keep
stubbing your toe
on the memory of me;
I want your head to be dizzy
and your stomach in a spin;
I want you to hear my voice
in your ear, to touch your face
imagining it is my hand.
I want your body to shiver and quiver
at the mere idea of mine.
I want you to feel as though
life after me is dull, and pointless,
and very, very aggravating,
and that with me you were lifted
on a current you waited all your life to find,
and had despaired of finding,
as though you were wading
through a soggy swill of inanity and ugliness
every minute we are apart.
I want you to drive yourself crazy
with the fantasy of me,
and how we will meet again, against all odds,
and there will be tears and flowers,
and the vast relief of not I,
but us.
I am haunting your dreams,
conducting these fevers
from a distance,
a distance that leaves me weeping,
and storming,
and bereft.

Katie Donovan is a contemporary Irish poet.

This poem has no bearing on my current romantic life, but the other day Andy and I and another friend were talking about some of our more disastrous moments in love and the conversation made me think of this poem.  When you’re in love with someone it’s incredibly hard to accept that they don’t love you back.  For me, this poem encapsulates our desire for the beloved to feel the same way that we do, even though we know, really, that they don’t.

Katherine Mansfield, ‘Friendship’

‘Friendship’

When we were charming Backfisch*
With curls and velvet bows
We shared a charming kitten
With tiny velvet toes.

It was so gay and playful;
It flew like a woolly ball
From my lap to your shoulder
And, oh, it was so small,

So warm – and so obedient
If we cried: ‘That’s enough!’
It lay and slept between us,
A purring ball of fluff.

But now that I am thirty
And she is thirty one,
I shudder to discover
How wild our cat has run.

It’s bigger than a Tiger,
Its eyes are jets of flame,
Its claws are gleaming daggers,
Could it once have been tame?

Take it away, I’m frightened!
But she, with placid brow,
Cries: ‘This is our Kitty-witty!
Why don’t you love her now?’

*Backfisch: teenagers

(1919)

Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923) was an important Modernist writer best known for her short fiction.  She was bisexual and had sexual relationships with men and women during her life.

Walt Whitman for a Sunday Afternoon

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.
She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.
Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.
Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.
Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.
The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their long hair,
Little streams pass’d all over their bodies.
An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.
The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun,
they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.

Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass

Another one I pinched from the greatpoets lj community.  I just love this erotic piece of poetry, particularly because the subject is a woman gazing at men (although, as a gay man Whitman probably put something of himself into this).

e. e. cummings, ‘i like my body when it is with your’

i like my body when it is with your
body.  It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body.  i like what it does,
i like its hows.  i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss,  i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh… And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

e.e. cummings

A sexy one for the weekend.

Dionne Brand, ‘Sonnet X’

Then it is simple. I felt the unordinary romance of
women who love women for the first time. It burst in
my mouth. Someone said this is your first lover, you
will never want to leave her. I had it in mind that I
would be an old woman with you. But perhaps I
always had it in mind simply to be an old woman,
then, I decided it was you when you found me in that
apartment drinking whiskey for breakfast. When I came
back from Grenada and went crazy for two years, that
time when I could hear anything and my skin was
flaming like a nerve and the walls were like paper
and my eyes could not close. I suddenly sensed you
at the end of the room waiting. I saw your back arched
against this city we inhabit like guerillas, I brushed my
hand, conscious, against your soft belly, of waking up.

 

 

Dionne Brand (1953) is a Canadian poet, novelist, essayist, academic and documentarian. She was born in the Caribbean and writes about race, gender, sexuality and feminism. She has published 9 collections of poetry.

Poem: ‘Well, then let slip the masks’

Screw introspection, let’s have some erotic lesbian poetry.

Well, then let slip the masks
and all the notes we have taken,
let them fall to the ground and turn into petals
to make more luxurious our bed, or let them
turn into leaves and blow in the air, let them
make patterns, let them amuse themselves.
The curve of your breast is like the curve
of a wave: look, held, caught, each instant
caught, the wave tipping over and we in our bower,
the two of us sheltered, my hands on your thighs,
your body, your back, my mouth on your mouth
and the hollows of your jaws and your head
nuzzling my breasts. And the wave above us is
folding over now, folding and laughing. Will you
take to the sea, my darling? Will you let me caress you?
The tips of your feet, your legs, your sex?
Will you let my tongue caress you? Will you
lie in my arms? Will you rest? And if the sun
is too strong, should burn too much, will you
walk with me to where the light is more calm
and be in me where the seas heave and are
serene and heave again and are themselves?

Suniti Namjoshi & Gillian Hanscombe

1986