“I’m no preacher but I can tell you this – the lives that people lead are driving them crazy and their insanity comes out in the way they drive.”
Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counterglance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.
Infants begin to see by noticing the edges of things. How do they know an edge is an edge? By passionately wanting it not to be. The experience of eros as lack alerts a person to the boundaries of himself, of other people, of things in general. It is the edge separating my tongue from the taste for which it longs that teaches me what an edge is. Like Sappho’s adjective glukupikron, the moment of desire is one that defies proper edge, being a compound of opposites forced together at pressure. Pleasure and pain at once register upon the lover, inasmuch as the desirability of the love object derives, in part, from its lack. To whom is it lacking? To the lover. If we follow the trajectory of eros we consistently find it tracing out this same route: it moves out from the lover toward the beloved, then ricochets back to the lover himself and the hole in him, unnoticed before. Who is the real subject of most love poems? Not the beloved. It is that hole.
Photo by Juliet van Otteren: Sand Embrace (1978)
An old man asked me for a cigarette
and I carefully dealt out two.
“Been lookin’ for job. Gonna stand
in the sun and smoke.”
He was close to rags and rage
and he leaned against death.
It was a cold day, indeed, and trucks
loaded and heavy as old whores
banged and tangled on the streets…
We drop like planks from a rotting floor
as the world strives to unlock the bone
that weights its brain.
(God is a lonely place without steak.)
We are dying birds
we are sinking ships –
the world rocks down against us
throw out our arms
throw out our legs
like the death kiss of the centipede:
but they kindly snap our backs
and call our poison “politics.”
Well, we smoked, he and I – little men
nibbling fish-head thoughts…
All the horses do not come in,
and as you watch the lights of the jails
and hospitals wink on and out,
and men handle flags as carefully as babies,
you are a great-gutted instrument of
heart and belly, carefully planned –
so if you take a plane for Savannah,
take the best plane;
or if you eat chicken on a rock,
make it a very special animal.
(You call it a bird; I call birds
And if you decide to kill somebody,
make it anybody and not somebody;
some men are made of more special, precious
parts: do not kill
if you will
a president or a King
or a man
behind a desk –
these have heavenly longitudes
If you decide,
who stand and smoke and glower;
we are rusty with sadness and
with climbing broken ladders.
we were never children
like your children.
We do not understand love songs
like your inamorata.
Our faces are cracked linoleum,
cracked through with the heavy, sure
feet of our masters.
We are shot through with carrot tops
and poppyseed and tilted grammar;
and waste days like mad blackbirds
and pray for alcoholic nights.
Our silk-sick human smiles wrap around
us like somebody else’s confetti:
we do not even belong to the Party.
We are a scene chalked-out with the
sick white brush of age.
We smoke, asleep as a dish of figs.
We smoke, as dead as fog.
A bathtub murder
or something quick and bright; our names
in the papers.
Known, at last, for a moment
to millions of careless and grape-dull eyes
that hold themselves private
to only flicker and flame
at the poor cracker-barrel jibes
of their conceited, pampered
Known, at last, for a moment,
as they will be known
and as you will be known
by an all-gray man on an all-gray horse
who sits and fondles a sword
longer than the night
longer than the mountain’s aching backbone
longer than all the cries
that have a-bombed up out of throats
and exploded in a newer, less-planned
We smoke and the clouds do not notice us.
A cat walks by and shakes Shakespeare off of his back.
Tallow, tallow, candle like wax: our spines
are limp and our consciousness burns
the remaining wick life has
doled out to us.
An old man asked me for a cigarette
and told me his troubles
is what he said:
that Age was a crime
and that Pity picked up the marbles
and that Hatred picked up the
He might have been your father
He might have been a sex-fiend
or a saint.
But whatever he was,
he was condemned
and we stood in the sun and
and looked around
in our leisure
to see who was next in
Photo by Lance Iversen for the San Francisco Chronicle: Panhandler Roy Gray, age 70, recalls the good old days in and around Howard Street at 3rd that also carried the nickname of Skid Row. Today the area mostly consists of the Moscone Center, and upscale hotels and restaurants. Thursday May 7, 2009.
The nose is really a sexual organ. Smelling. Is. Desiring.
We have five senses, but only two that go beyond the boundaries of ourselves. When you look at someone, it’s just bouncing light, or when you hear them, it’s just sound waves, vibrating air, or touch is just nerve endings tingling…
Know what a smell is? It’s made of the molecules of what you’re smelling. Some part of you, where you meet the air, is airborne. Little molecules of you…Up my nose.
Mmmm…Nice, Try it. Inhale…
Smelling. And tasting. First the nose, then the tongue. They work as a team, see. The nose tells the body – the heart, the mind, the fingers, the cock – what it wants, and then the tongue explores, finding out what’s edible, what isn’t, what’s most mineral, food for the blood, food for the bones, and therefore most delectable…
Salt…Mmm. Iron. Clay…Chlorine. Copper. Earth…
What does that taste like?…
It tastes like ”nighttime”?…
Photo by Beata Wilczek
A man should be careful not to raise the anger of a woman, for he has to sleep sometimes – with his eyes closed.
Illustration by Roland Topor