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She Hates Numbers

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The Evolution of the Orgasm, a poem

illustration the evolution of the orgasm

The Evolution of the Orgasm, a poem

Does the new-twinned cell, as it sorts out
one tangled rat’s nest of nucleus

from the other with its slow patient dance
of cytoplasm and membrane, somehow know

the sweet involuntary contraction and release
of its division?  An organism’s inner tension

promotes as well as restrains
total disintegration.  Is each duplicating

mitochondrion frozen fast in the stream
of its own powerful, mindless barrage

of electrons?  Life on a cellular level
is both straightforward and incomprehensible.

Could any physical laws possibly hold
resolute in the embrace of such rapture?

Was the orgasm the means of our worldly
creation, or the end?  Less can be more,

but not in this case.  Is what makes you
come so easily explained?  As usual, let us

personify:  she is rich-skinned, veiled
cool in a white ruffled nightshirt….

Well-muscled, each movement sure, swift,
with only one purpose.  Her hair is short

or long, pulled tight or draped loose,
but the look in her eyes is a steely

constant, it says, I know you. I have always
known you.  I will know you even after

your tired flesh has flown away singing
through the air like a frightened dove,

and your pale, forgetful bones have fallen
into fine dry grit.  In my relentless arms

you will learn to surrender all fears, all
your dark secrets.  Forever and ever

will I love you.  Is it any wonder we dream
of her so often, with such helpless longing?

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Blood Mother, a poem (sculpture in the Orsay Museum, Paris)

illustration blood mother
Blood Mother, a poem (sculpture in the Orsay Museum, Paris)

She is made of wood, a silken hardness that begs touching.
Should anyone reach, trail a fingertip across her flesh,
the man in straps would speak, his mumbled words rasping
through the stopped air, turning beating cells boorish,

piercing desire’s heart, killing a love so old, so pure,
it has no real name. Such is obvious from the way she stands,
lifting her heavy hair, each hand the careful cynosure
of being — she drapes the primal fiber like garlands,

letting it flow free only to capture the thickness of trees.
Her eyes are closed. Under abraded lids resides the look
everyone knows: pupils enlarged by pain; simple refugees
from knowledge received of the body, woman’s final textbook.

The belly asks first. It says come, reside here within me,
neither cold, nor afraid, nor desirous — twirl and dream
of nothing but this spare salt universe, wear only veins, silky
wisps of hair, discreet, pale limbs enfolded by soft cream.

Her feet nourish the ground, her head becomes the forest.
Walk where her shadow falls, seek the margin of her arms,
soothe your tired neck in mother’s lucid heat, hedonist
entity you have become, set in blind motion under charms

worked by no laboratory scientist in a trim white robe.
Rather, you emerged redly from a thousand other deaths,
one messy cauldron holding shapes; the patient, springy web
of chosen elements drawn together, joined by many faiths.

The breasts want, too. Child, they sing in unison, nourish your
body with our thin white blood — suckle, cradle the nipple deep
against the palate, pull the flow from a dozen small pores, gnaw
strong like a velveted vise, drink true until you swallow sleep.

The need to believe is more than skin. Need is the whole glossy
image on this lonely wall; what it means to be such a mechanism!
She never schemed for her fey power — nor does she expect mercy.
You exist, mere fragile accident, in perfect jeweled synchronism.

Not as simple as punishment, nor as complex as grace, her skills
for life reside at a place men cannot enter, no fault of their
own. They build instead the world, of brick, stone; shy stabiles
meant to appease longing, courageous memorials to light, to air.

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Heads of Caracalla, a poem

illustration 1 heads of Caracalla

illustration 2 heads of caracalla

MC 0464

Heads of Caracalla, a poem

There are three of the ancient busts on display
in the Louvre.  Poor soul:  he only controlled
his great empire for six years.  I’ve been married
for seven, and though it isn’t like ruling Rome,

it’s hard enough.  Thus, I can’t imagine how
he managed, even if he could imprison or execute
at will.  Maybe stress did him in at twenty-nine.
True enough, during the heated third century

after Christ, the common man was too often dead
by thirty, teeth rotted away to stumps,
complexion scarred and worn, creased deep
like pegged and scraped hides drying in the sun.

Surely Caracalla’s own hands were soft,
languorous and pudgy, with those meticulous
shiny nails?  Perhaps he was afflicted
with diabetes, or simply poisoned by his lovely

but illiterate wife.  Will anyone wonder
what carried me off after a thousand years —
or even ten?  During three decades on earth,
sculptors recorded all his secrets:  first the pretty

baby, innocent and round-cheeked as any three-year-old,
blunt-cut curls springing away from his tender forehead
like the petals of an iris.  Around the time
of his ascension, he had become sullen, his eyes

impenetrable, glassy, his torso clumsy, thick-necked,
his full, full lips bowed with palpable cruelty.
I must admit, by the year of his death, he’d grown
into his flesh — he looks wise, even kind,

and his drilled marble eyes are lively, holding
a gleam of curiosity for something outside his own
imperial body.  I place my finger against the hard marble
cheek, hearing my own frail life tapping its brisk heels.

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Why I Hate You, a poem

illustration why i hate you

Why I Hate You

You know why I hate you?  You’re a weak vine, needing to be propped up, needing more comfort than a baby.  You imagine bugs, crawling up the walls, down your hair.  Their wings whir in the night like soft sobs.

I hate you because you’re ugly — a slob, a slut, a sucker.  Because you saw your mother passed out on the carpet in front of the television, one too many times, but you didn’t kill her the way she wanted to be killed.  You didn’t help when she needed you.  Because you let yourself be unimportant for so many years and did nothing to help yourself until it was too late, until you’d already lost the war.  Peace came on unfavorable terms, the enemy couldn’t be placated.

I hate you because you’re afraid of the dark.  When you’re with a man, you lean on the solidity of his body, the real beat of his heart, you listen to his rhythmic breathing, and you’re not afraid anymore, but you start to get antsy.  His body sounds so much stronger than yours.  They don’t cry the way you do.  Does that mean they don’t feel?  Why do they want to be with the likes of you?  You don’t have the slightest idea what you want from them.  Late at night is the worst.  The stars unfold ahead of you, and you can’t find your way to the future, stupid bitch.

That’s when I hate you the most.  You’re utterly without honor.  You imagine your ex-husband, fat and happy in his bed, eating candy.  He doesn’t suffer like you do, he has already forgotten why he married you in the first place.  He is perfect.  He is way above you in the cosmos, he is light, reason.  Your life is insignificant, ignorant and small, and won’t leave a shadow.

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Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

illustration heavenly dances heavenly intimacies

Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

“Isn’t there any heaven where old beautiful dances, old beautiful intimacies prolong themselves?”

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

How can I be “dead” to any of the men I once loved?  They are not “dead” to me.  Not even H.  How can I be “dead” to H.?  They — even H. — are each as alive as when I was with them; as alive as the first time they touched me, whether tentatively or with confidence; whether softly or roughly; whether with passion or mere lust.  It is shocking and appalling how H. lurched so radically to the right after 9/11.  He began that journey to the Tea-Party-Mad-Hatter-Neocon-Bill-Buckley-Wall-Street-Apologist-Fringe-Brainless-Faux-News-Right when Ronald Reagan was shot; I was with him the very night it happened.  We had a short affair, right then, because we started thinking the end of the world had arrived and we decided, like the crazy college students we were, to get married to celebrate our courage in the face of chaos!  I realized very early on (but still way too late!) I was embarrassed to be seen in public with him.  Did you ever start seeing, and marry someone whom you later realized you were embarrassed to be seen with?  Perhaps the person in question was “dorky,” “geeky,” dressed “badly,” or had questionable “taste.”  H. readily admits he was a “dork” in high school.  He was on the debate team; need I say more?  When you can’t bear to be seen in your lover’s/spouse’s/significant other’s/partner’s company, things usually don’t work out.

Still, I put in ten dutiful years, trying to make amends for my mistake in marrying H.  The second he started making the big bucks, he dumped me.  He left me for my best friend!  I guess I deserved it, not taking control of my own life & filing for divorce two weeks after we married.  And I guess I deserved how my ex-best-friend S. ruined me, as she subsequently did.  She was in charge of the whole group we had socialized with:  dictating how everyone in our “circle” should think, speak, act, or react.  H. was dead wrong about most everything, but, to his credit, he was dead right about her.  At the time I thought him merely woman-hating, but I see now, even though he did hate women, there was something more than simply being a “woman” he hated about her.  He was covering up the fact he loved her by pretending to hate her.  Now, I have no desire to see her, not ever again.  She is definitely “dead” to me.  Yes, I understand intellectually, a living death (call it shunning) can happen to anyone.

The upshot of all this boring history?  I’ve been waiting for something a long time.  I can’t blame anyone but myself for my unhappiness, not anymore.  There is something dispirited inside me, something empty, drained, and beaten — something sick, something tired, something that has surrendered.  I gave up, when?  When my first ex-husband arbitrarily said no to children, breaking his solemn vow.  When I realized I couldn’t find happiness outside myself — not with an old love, not with a new love, not with any of my subsequent husbands, my friends, my eventual children, or my family.  Yes, to casual acquaintances and virtual strangers I am “happy, happier than I’ve ever been.”  And it’s true!  I’ve never been this happy, this contented, in my life.  Yes, there are still problems.  My oldest son is still half the world away, fighting an endless war on behalf of my “country.”  My youngest son still has an ignorant, racist, rabidly conservative father.  I am getting old.  My face is melting.  My neck is turning into a wattle.  I am drooping.

Still, I cannot imagine any of them, the men I have loved or made love to, being dead to me the way my former best friend, S., is dead to me.  Yet that is how they must feel about me, the way I feel about her.  Wanting her removed from my memories.  Wanting never to have met her.  Not missing anything about her.  She wants to see me, I heard from a mutual friend I still speak to.  I don’t want to see her, or even see the mutual friend.  I don’t even want to get as close as that!  Because of reasons.  Top secret, NSA, DOD, CIA, FBI, SEC, IRS, FDLE, GPD, ACSO reasons!  No further comment!

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what makes a good dominatrix, a short story

illustration what makes a good dominatrix

What Makes A Good Dominatrix

 1.  Married Men

I’ve had men, married men, fall in love with me and offer to leave their wives, just because I told them I had red hair all over. Years ago, I used to think I would never get involved with a married man. That was before my own marriage broke up and I realized just how bad it can be, trapped in that dry, crumbling life, that intimate desert. You’ll do anything for a sip of water. Anything. I’ve had married men tell me, before I met you, I hated to get out of bed in the morning. Yes, I’ve done things I swore I’d never do. Life carries certain traps for the unwary.

When my mother’s marriages broke up, she always took to the bottle. I haven’t done that yet, though the other night I did drink a whole bottle of wine by myself. Felt like shit the next day. Drinking kills two days, the day of the binge and the day after. When I got married, I thought it was forever. So did he. He was five years older. I only go with younger men now. Helps give me an edge, being female. Younger men are grateful to older women. One old boyfriend warned me that as I got into my thirties it would be harder and harder for me to find men. It hasn’t, though. Seems they pop up when I least expect them.

My soon-to-be-ex-husband, he’s even dating an older woman now. I call her the feel-good woman, because that’s what she does for him — makes him feel good about himself. I only remind him of everything he did wrong, all the mistakes he made that he plans never to make again. He thinks he won’t make the same errors in the future because he’ll be with a different person, and there will be a whole different load of emotional baggage to contend with. Do I sound bitter?

I should explain, the reason he has a girlfriend is because I have a boyfriend. It was unfortunate the way it happened — I did things out of order. I should have moved out before I got a boyfriend. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Was it my fault that after 17 years of not coming I went a little nuts?   Now, my husband admits he treated me in ways that make him ashamed of himself, but he’s not willing to make it up. He’s past all that, he’s healed, and he’s going to start rebuilding his life in a positive way. Wish I could. I’m not as quick on the uptake as he is. I had no idea how much my heart was woven into his coldness.

When he called me a slut in public the first time, we were out in front of our daughter’s gymnastics studio. You know the crowd that hangs out there — typical suburban moms — fashion coordinates, nice shoes, lipstick, sweet little clutch bags — I was inside a swarm of those when he laid that one on me. I tried to pretend no one was watching. I didn’t look at any of them, not even the one with the spangled t-shirt tied into a knot over her skinny hips. I stared at the sidewalk, counted to ten, inhaled, exhaled, and felt the moments wash over me like cool water. I thought about the endless waves of orgasms I planned on having that night with my lover, the way their magic would lift me up on their purple foamy crest and wipe all this ugliness clean out of my head.

2.  Love

In her early thirties, my mom’s sister was involved with a married man. He wouldn’t leave his wife because of the children. Aunt Frieda put up with his unannounced, late night visits for years. It’s all about men loving us. We love them without thinking, that’s the way our hormones take us. We’ve got to persuade them to love us in spite of theirs. I used to be so mad at Aunt Frieda for her lack of morals — I’ve since learned my moral desert is even more profound than hers. I was the first love of her life, she tells me now. She took care of me every weekend until I was almost two, used to chase me down the long dark hallways of my grandparent’s house, which I loved. I still love being chased down hallways, as long as it’s with a friendly intent. Everybody wants to be chased by someone who loves them, caught in their arms and held tight….

A couple days ago, I watched this documentary, about a lesbian sado-masochist. She seemed so calm, so together, so gentle and caring, and I’m not any of those things, so I paid her close attention. She said she gets put into bondage whenever she’s depressed — it makes her feel safe. I thought about all the ordinary power games people play out in the real world, and to twine it into sex seems perfectly natural. I can definitely understand why a person might want to dominate another, or be dominated by another.   The world is too scary; people have to put up with too many kinds of shit. They want to control when they get hurt.

This married guy I met in a bar, John, wants me to dominate him. His wife won’t, so he’s asked me. She thinks those sorts of people are weirdoes. Well, she’s right — but what’s wrong with being a weirdo? I mean, they’re not criminals. I think she’s just afraid she won’t be able to handle him. I love submissive men, the larger the better. That’s why you tie them up, see….

John was sitting there, looking perfectly normal, and a big beefy ex-football player. He bought me a drink, seemed harmless. We talked about his medical practice — he’s a chiropractor, the guys who crack your back. Big, strong hands; the way he held his drink at the bar was so graceful. He talked about his wife a lot at first. She’s perfect, he said. I mean, they’re soul-mates and everything. She just won’t dominate him. Isn’t it funny what people want? They want a little of everything, all at different times. Sometimes I really love to dominate a man. Other times, I don’t have anything but softness and submission in my whole body.

My soon-to-be-ex-husband will tell you how bitchy I am. My boyfriend says my husband didn’t know what kind of woman I was, but he did. My husband knew me to the core. He knew what was there, and decided one day he didn’t want any more of it. Talk about high maintenance! Some men will tell you they’ve never met a woman who wasn’t — but let my husband have his dreams. The bright, successful, completely self-sufficient woman. Like, what would she be doing looking for somebody like him then? For that matter, why would she want a man at all?

I’ve tried to do without men. I love women, I think they’re beautiful, I get along with them better than men — I just miss that crazy anatomical difference. Anatomy being destiny, and all.

3.  Loneliness

So John said, dominate me, please, Mistress. I said, how? But he can’t tell me, he doesn’t have enough words. I’m on my own to figure it out. He wants to be my slave. I guess I could pretend he’s my ex-husband, and go from there. John needs me to wear a leather jumpsuit, preferably red. He wants me to ride him like a big dog, make him crawl; lick the bottom of my shoes and stuff. He wants me to tie him to the bed and almost burn him with a cigarette.

He said the woman he used to do this with almost killed him. She sat on his face, started coming, and forgot to let him breathe. He had to bite her to get some air, and he explained what had happened, and she apologized for almost killing him, but then of course she had to whip him again for being bad. He said his dick springs into life when women are mean to him. He’s 6′ 3″, 235 pounds, and he wants to be powerless. He wants to surrender control. He wants the woman to have it all. It’s not whips and chains, it’s pure power.

I found this book called “What Makes a Great Dominatrix.” Full of practical pointers. For example, you have to be mysterious to the submissive person. You have to maintain a certain dignity and distance. If you’re too familiar, too chatty, evidently it ruins the illusion. Because it’s really the submissive who’s in control. A good dominant doesn’t do anything the submissive doesn’t really want. That torture thing is a myth. Nope, the submissives have to beg you for it. You’re doing them a big huge favor when you give them what they want. It’s so nice to be needed by someone. John needs me. Lots of loneliness out there in the world.

I don’t know whether I’m just afraid to be alone or whether I’m really loony over men just like my mother. She let it affect her mind, though — for her, it went way beyond the level of harmless hobby. Consequently, she lost a lot of things. One day, she even lost me. That’s when I knew it had to end badly. I knew she’d end up on somebody’s floor, naked to the waist, watch stopped.

I was crazy about horses — and boys — during my formative sexual years. Horses were all I drew, in the margins of my class notes, on the back of my class folders — the teacher’s voice would fade away, and all I’d hear was the clopping of hoofs, the whinnying of the great beast that could carry me away from all the pain. I wanted to run away every night, but didn’t because I didn’t know how I’d make my way in the world. I should have run away, it would have turned out better. All the things I would have missed, sure I think of those; but I would have been blissfully ignorant of many things. Such as the way my mother looked, dead on the floor, naked to the waist, watch stopped. Think of not knowing that, think of being spared that agony. Replaying in memory the nightly scenes, the gaunt body flung against my door, pleading for admission. Unlike me, she didn’t have what it takes to dominate anyone or anything. I think I’ve got what it takes. And yes, I still pray for amnesia every morning.

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