Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day Poetry

Poetry Crush: Everyday is Valentine’s (Vol.I)

9 Feb


Scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock:  “To Saint Valentine!”
An honor to valentine with first-rate hearts-of-cake:  Shane McCrae, Hannah Gamble, Paige Taggart, Amy Lawless, Todd Colby, Joanna Penn Cooper, Douglas Piccinnini, Jared White, Melissa Broder, Rauan Klassnik, Rena Mosteirin, Lee Ann Roripaugh & J. Hope Stein (me, duh).

Most often neighbor as you       most if neighbor means you only

Most often you most often spring pink      suns the trees the cherry now

Most often neighbor to the blue immediate blue sky

And none of the rain in the sky although rain

strips the pink light from the branches

As neighbors do although rain claims the branches into blossom

As neighbors do as you

have claimed me into life most often neighbor // The pink trees neighbor

to the blue sky not for      being pink / For being

from red the same distance      the sky is from the blue it is

As I with you from any man as you from any woman

Shane McCrae



At the end of his life he still had many
devotees, and for that, he was grateful.

Several devotees lined the window seats
of his bedroom, many of them
with his books in hand.

Most important to him, however,
was that he still was an erotic fixture
in the lives of women,

so several of them sat facing his bed,
vaginas glistening atop literal cushions.

Hannah Gamble



The next morning I noticed that he had this weird foreign object in his chest—but he wasn’t bleeding. It was almost like a tattoo. Babe what the….is that? We stood in the mirror of his bathroom not noticing. Big like a car part, I couldn’t believe it didn’t make him double over in pain as it moved its way up to his forehead. We weren’t on acid. I looked into his eyes and he looked into my eyes and we smiled a lot and ate takeout in bed. Did the delivery guy see your forehead? He just laughed, slapped my ass, and we ate chorizo burritos. I then felt immediately embarrassed. I keep soy milk in my fridge for when he comes over despite its disgusting aftertaste. I learned to really look at the people. Now if he isn’t in front of me or touching me, I ache throughout my whole body and the physical pain only increases over course of the day. So our bodies in their primitive states moved into a single body absent of worldly pain.

Amy Lawless


I’ve half-a-heart to kneel in the centerfold of every love magazine
To be in a billowing ball gown, would be, to dust the pony off and retire for fair-trade My spirit can’t be outsourced; it is inspiration from the centerfolds of every love issue! It is high and mighty like the spirit-clause you just signed
I’ve prospered from affairs on the high-angle with legendary jewels and redingotes
I horse backed along the boardwalk and later performed oral sex
I was accomplished, so shoot me!
I was skilled, so kill me!
I was adorned, so need me!
Properly keel over afterwards
I’ll dispose of your body into the trifecta of human duality
How we provoke and onward shift amicably
I’ve got pains for the hype, it sucker punches me into corners so unpleasant
Here we are, just the two of us, forever shunned to a hard earned maintenance
So kill me why don’tchya

Paige Taggart


Sure, I’ve thought about fucking you in my desk chair, silently not to disturb the neatness of your yellow summer shorts. Silently not to disturb our colleagues in surrounding cubicles. You putting small paperclips in my hair, your hands suggesting the rocking of my skull. Me straddling your lap, your bare ass in my desk chair shapes, suctioning into each other— We would continue to make the sounds of good business. A conference call with Coca-Cola, an email to Citibank, a spreadsheet of year-over-year gross profits. Me elevated in your lap, my face clearing just over the cubicle partition just visible enough across the office, my expression dismembered like a poet who’s fallen out of favor with her king.

J. Hope Stein



Tonight I’m going to shake your hand into butter,
curve around you until you’re gel,
climb the soft pieces of you with spikes,
insert a vibrating dial, and conjure you
into living goop. I will slip my hand
under your belt; and lose a wisdom tooth,
make a necklace of it, and hang it around
your neck. My gift of light will shimmer
on your smooth throat, and all the institutes of longing
will permeate the landscape with medicinal
cloud formations that disperse calming
solutions of tingle water and kink spray.
I will secrete a secret mud that enhances
your ability to thrust your hips into mine
on a bed that is damp and purple.
You are so smooth that when you get up,
you leave behind an impression
of our Lord and Savior.

Todd Colby

“LITTLE” “BEAR” for R.E.H.P.

I’ve said so cover’d and un
“the fruit is real”
the something as much

retain me

who is there
that I shake out a name

a system like the sun
is as arable

so I grow incurably so

entre amigos

woods? si, woods
spring the lock
in that I so nilled
like wilted mint
in public revived
I will

Douglas Piccinnini


In the light that should be out already, Lulu is making
You forget what it means to be a girl
And when she puts her bobbing face close to yours
And when she kisses you it is a poet’s kiss
That puts things into you I have put already
As Peer flosses his teeth for hours until they sparkle
With the knowledge of growing up amongst poets
And the precision fucking that is demanded by hotel life
About which all I want to convey is the smell
I never really learned the language another language uses
To describe this I want to tell you about my childhood
Which was many missed opportunities for me to help carry
The bag so big and the flesh so slack and thin
The normals ate who were enormous, ponderous and beautiful
And I was staring straight through to the ass bone and the ribs
And remarkably they had ceased for a moment to rot
And in the cloud cover glow of that luminescence
You could see all of the stains on my teeth with black light
You could see what I would look like when I get old
And it was not so bad really only a lot older looking
And more courageous and less fuckable but still in the same hotel
Because there never was an explosion the terrorists failed
To outwit the geologists after all that underneath the sand
The rock is porous and gravel will always be useful

Jared White


Apply this soothing gel made from roots and branches
to your forearms when you jump up warrior style
and run fist-first to the kitchen in your sleep.
I’ll buy you almond croissants.  I’ll hum to you
with my pretty good pitch.  You are falling asleep
and chuckling sweetly to yourself when you think of me;
I am taking photos of you sleeping and posting them online.
I know you don’t mind, so I break into your house
while you’re out and teach myself the bass.  Don’t worry
about that smoke smell, it’s my gentleness you’re loving.

Joanna Penn Cooper


Notgod set me on fire and was like good luck
I think the shirt you wear is ultimate
When it turns red nothing can walk soft
Maybe birth me up on your fingers
You taste like notsober alcoholics
Various breeds of errors and the way I feel you
No human power no human power
I cannot go there with you and I cried
The other life I was so nauseous
You didn’t know I almost threw up
What if I threw up on your tongue?
When I put you in my mouth I got better
Forgive every body its mouth
I talk like I am sister heaven
I am really sister darkness
I am both at once and you are also
You didn’t know you were an echo
In the dust I’ll kill you up
I think you learn by unbeing
Like first you die and then go oh

Melissa Broder


An old fat nymphomaniac who just can’t cum no matter how much she gasps, & wheezes, and rattles, & drips, filthy & black, all over yr fingers, neck & face, till finally you lift her, like a bird in yr fist. [ I wake up and a Meth-Head’s trying to sneak off with my Ipod, my house and my words. It’s Ron Silliman & his face’s ruined. “Kill the rat!” my wife explodes. Like a mushroom ] & twist her head off. Her eyes (so sweet & so tender) in yr left hand, ask so innocently—O, how did this all go so wrong?—while her body, in yr fist, continues to beat.

Rauan Klassnik


make sure it is on their birthday
so they can follow the story
of the awful thing you did or said
with “…and on my birthday???”

You’ll be giving them
the gift of others’ supercharged
sympathies which is also,
unfortunately, high-voltage hatred

directed at you.
But you probably already
had that coming, didn’t you,
you self-hating, off-putting poet?

Hannah Gamble

tsunami in love: kintsukuroi / golden joinery

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. – Barbara Bloom

safe is just another empty signifier
when she is water and the clay
that cupped her was a shattered bowl

triggering tsunami a sparkly blue shooter
pinging the splintered mib
of the fractured nuclear reactor core

this is what playing for keeps means
this broken imperfection / these cracked
masks / this crazed helplessness

this is what no going back means
no taking back the feral chipped singing
gouging open her fault lines and wounds

aggrandizing them with molten gold
blood veins of cinnabar alchemizing
to mercury like smelt silvering the shore

safe is just another empty signifier
because she is water and the clay
that cupped her was a shattered bowl

until after months in pieces she lets you
hold and rock her in these postures of repair
(and when she spills you do not drown

and when she rages in her radioactive
expansion cloud chamber you become
that slim umbilical tethering the astronaut

seaweed that fetters rafts of sea otters)
buttery lamp light by the side of the bed
gilding together what’s broken no more

Lee Ann Roripaugh


As most young pains
whaling their voyage
a fine, boisterous something about everything

her great original—the Tyre of this Carthage;—the place where the first dead American
whale was stranded. Those aboriginal whalemen
give chase to the Leviathan?

imported cobble-stones
risk a harpoon
a night, a day
my destined port, a very dark and dismal night
cheerless with anxious grapnels
pieces of silver—myself

gloom towards the north
darkness towards the south—
my dear Ishmael

My Dear Ish

Rena Mosteirin

Poetry Crush: Valentine Issue

5 Feb

I asked the authors from Hyacinth Girl Press to share their favorite erotic poems and here is the result.  I must say that the list is more than I hoped for and incredibly diverse and that I learned a lot.    (Above Image from “Picnic at Hanging Rock”)

Silk of a Soul By Zbigniew Herbert

Initially, I chose Galway Kinnell’s “Rapture,” as my favorite erotic poem – and it is a headily, beautifully erotic work – but then I began to think about other poets whose work I find very sensual, if not blatantly erotic. I’ve been reading Zbigniew Herbert’s The Collected Poems on and off for over a year now, and he came to mind right away . . . but when I searched through the book, nothing jumped out at me and said “erotic” like Kinnell’s poems will say “erotic.” I was a little stumped – what made me think Herbert wrote erotic poems? – and then I found “Silk of a Soul,” and I remembered why. In this poem, Herbert reveals the sexual charge that comes from intimacy, but not the intimacy of flesh: the intimate act of witness, of seeing the intangible part of another person. His spare, charged lines (“I must/peek inside her/to see what she wears/at her centre”) are charged with sexual energy because they ring true: the human brain is most excited by complete knowledge of another person, a knowledge that includes the physical and carnal and visceral, but also the airy, rarified parts of a person that are seldom revealed, and seldom revealed willingly. Herbert’s furtive look into this woman – both voyeuristic and tender – is charged, too, because of its fleeting quality. He recognizes that the cost of intimacy is change. And isn’t that a large part of what makes sexual love, and other acts of intimacy, so compelling and so alluring – the inherent risk?  — Sarah Kain Gutowski


Silk of a Soul

did I speak – with her
either about love
or about death

only blind taste
and mute touch
used to run between us
when absorbed in ourselves
we lay close

I must
peek inside her
to see what she wears
at her centre

when she slept
with her lips open
I peeked

and what
and what
would you think
I caught sight of

I was expecting
I was expecting
a bird
I was expecting
a house
by a lake great and silent

but there
on a glass counter
I caught sight of a pair
of silk stockings
my God
I’ll buy her those stockings
I’ll buy them

but – what will appear then
on the glass counter
of the little soul

will it be something
which cannot be touched
even with one finger of a dream


Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker

I’m one of those girls who gets wet reading Kathy Acker. It isn’t something I think about; it just happens. Discovering her work gave me the freedom to say  words like ‘cunt’ (it rhymes fantastically with my last name) and mean it every way possible—with shame, anger, courage and abuse. I get hot because I’ve been there—humiliated—and experience freedom within her writing. This excerpt is from the novel, Blood and Guts in High School. I cannot think of it as anything but poetry.  — Susan Yount


I didn’t want anyone to notice me ‘cause I was blind so I crawled under the splinters

of the bar. The music stopped. A lot of feet passed by. Some of them by accident kicked me.

One kicked me too hard.

“Do you want to fuck me, scumbag?” President Carter said to me.

“I can’t fuck.”

“You’ve got syphilis?”

“I’ve got cancer.”

“Gee.” He put his arms around me and kissed me.


















I couldn’t hear any of that political music shit I just wanted to kiss

the guy again and again. The music made it so you couldn’t hear the words

and the music itself was so loud music couldn’t be heard

you weren’t hearing

this is beyond hearing

you is just vibrations so there’s no difference between self and music.


Gacela of Love Unforeseen by Federico Garcia Lorca

The erotic is deeply rooted in the body: to be erotic, the poem’s words must live in the physiological. This one of Lorca’s “Gacelas” is one of the only poems that makes me shudder every time I read it. One of the ways it gets to the body is the repetition of such a hopelessly large word as forever – you don’t know what it means but you know it is urgent. Then follow that with “Garden of my agony” and I am slain. The meter of the Spanish-language original gets so gorgeous here – one stressed syllable, two unstressed, like waltz. The poem ends in death; the erotic is also fundamentally dark and full of surrender. I read through many translations before deciding to do my own (with debts to the many versions I have read beforehand). – Niina Pollari
Gacela del Amor Imprevisto

Nadie comprendía el perfume
de la oscura magnolia de tu vientre.
Nadie sabía que martirizabas
un colibrí de amor entre los dientes.

Mil caballitos persas se dormían
en la plaza con luna de tu frente,
mientras que yo enlazaba cuatro noches
tu cintura, enemiga de la nieve.

Entre yeso y jazmines, tu mirada
era un pálido ramo de simientes.
Yo busqué, para darte, por mi pecho
las letras de marfil que dicen siempre,

siempre, siempre: jardin de mi agonia,
tu cuerpo fugitivo para siempre,
la sangre de tus venas en mi boca,
tu boca ya sin luz para mi muerte.


Gacela of Love Unforeseen

Nobody understood the perfume
of the dark magnolia of your belly.
Nobody knew how you martyred
the hummingbird of love between your teeth.

A thousand tiny Persian horses slept
in the plaza in the light of your forehead’s moon
while I for four nights laced myself
to your waist, the enemy of snow.

Between plaster and jasmine, your gaze
is a pale and seeding branch.
I searched through my chest to give to you
the ivory letters that say forever,

forever, forever: Garden of my agony,
your body fleeing from me forever,
the blood of your veins now in my mouth,
your mouth already lightless for my death.


All my seasick sailors by Lynn Crosbie

For me, in-depth intensity is far more erotic than semi-casual flinging. In recent years, my desire for powerful intensity is borderline brimming with uncertainty and unknowing related to ebbing and flowing, but that doesn’t make it dissipate. I desire a new beginning, filled with a large scale, all kinds of strange tales and talismans, and strong sails. I crave a strange power to affix me, lift me up, and wet me into creatively drenched, passionate, powerful, deliciously visceral terrain.  — Juliet Cook


all my seasick sailors

Sly and second-sighted, my friends have abandoned ship. Rats,
escaping in small grey
lifeboats, their annular tails turn the tide, their lambent eyes, like the
moon, dictate its flow.
The violinist plays Autumn as the masts unfold, water lilies in the
pitch of the sea.

A message in semaphore, what I have always longed to know — to stand
by the stern, and
with courage, let go. Nostalgia’s poison

love spreads out like a sheaf of photographs, memory without blood,
a fluked anchor,
undone. The line that breaks when the storm comes, the truth that
sailors know:
red skies without delight,

a bad sign. To navigate you must know where you are going, with an
exact chart,
pin-stuck with ellipses. Accidents, typhoon, the fibrous stakes of sea
monsters, the diamond ice caps,

miracles that have changed course, carved passages into the new
worlds, where sailors
arise. In white militia,

letters come like gulls flat on the crest of waves, infatuation coursing,
like a science of chaos,

they appear in envelopes of ice, intermittent ghosts — to remind me
that love is spectral,

The rapids were turbulent toward the Asian corridor, sailing into
     Lachine. It is China, after all.
Rare and fragile, esteemed from a great distance,

protected in shelf-ice.

I touch this china from rim to stem, and feel its raised flowers,
brought to me from the ocean’s
floor.  In spite of the danger, the mariners have garlanded the stingray
—as the lashings narrowed,

they retrieved me from the wreck.


The Wreck of the Deutschland by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Perhaps it seems surprising that Gerard Manley Hopkins is the author of the most erotic poem I can think of, but The Wreck of the Deutschland moves me beyond belief & never fails to provide. What I find erotic in poetry (& elsewhere) is possession, is a mix of restriction & danger & raw honesty & being known. & it is everywhere in this poem. That it involves God or shipwrecks has always seemed incidental to me—this poem, at its heart, is about the terror & glory of submission. — Lisa Ciccarello

I did say yes
O at lightning and lashed rod;
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night:
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height:
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.


First Poem for You by Kim Addonizio

One of my favorite erotic poems is “First Poem for You,” by Kim Addonizio, from The Philosopher’s Club(BOA Editions, 1994).  It is a gorgeous, subtle sonnet that begins, “I like to touch your tattoos in complete / darkness, when I can’t see them.”  I love to read this poem, to imagine the tattoos in the dark, and to teach it to college students and watch their eyes and mouths open in awe!  A poem can do that?!  I admire how this poem explores the sensuality, vulnerability, fear, and complicatedness of love, and the excitement of the beginnings of love. I don’t have any tattoos, but our local butcher at the Jewel does, and she’s a tattoo artist on the side and plays volleyball with my husband.  One of these days, maybe Valentine’s Day, I will hand her a copy of this poem when I ask for a salmon fillet.  Hmm, maybe I will get a Beatles tattoo when I’m 64. — Kathleen Kirk


First Poem for You

I like to touch your tattoos in complete
darkness, when I can’t see them. I’m sure of
where they are, know by heart the neat
lines of lightning pulsing just above
your nipple, can find, as if by instinct, the blue
swirls of water on your shoulder where a serpent
twists, facing a dragon. When I pull you
to me, taking you until we’re spent
and quiet on the sheets, I love to kiss
the pictures in your skin. They’ll last until
you’re seared to ashes; whatever persists
or turns to pain between us, they will still
be there. Such permanence is terrifying.
So I touch them in the dark; but touch them, trying.

Vanilla by Bill Luoma

A few years ago I picked up this anthology secondhand: An Anthology of New (American) Poets (Talisman House. Jarnot, Schwartz, Stroffolino, eds). It’s a strange and wonderful book- there are, like, eight hundred different styles represented, mostly by poets I hadn’t known about before but kept reading after I saw them here. Bill Luoma is one such poet, and his “Vanilla” has always been in the back of my head as a lighthearted and sly “erotic” poem: if you do any amount of confectionary baking (and I do), you know that the scent (and, eventually, the taste) of pure vanilla extract is borderline pornographic. …Also: “Verily  / your delicates flavor a teaspoonful in combination.” – My boyfriend has no idea what that means, but I promised him it’s totally sexy.  —Brooklyn Copeland



The beautiful bird talk is certainly a form
of your tastebuds and fleshy lips. Verily
your delicates flavor a teaspoonful in combination.
The fan shape adds an extra boost. Coloring
also enters into it. At this point I am unfocused
by all the melting. Your ice cream face
and numerous aerial hairs make my heart
beat against the spikes of lucky stars.
This to me is pure vanilla extract.


Body of a Woman by Yusef Komunyakaa

Talking Dirty to the Gods was my first foray into contemporary poetry when I came across it in a book store in high school, and yes, the man carrying a giant phallus on the cover drew me in at 15. The entire collection is full of alternately erotic and unsettling imagery, but Body of a Woman is a poem that, in addition to eroticism, has a beautiful wistfulness that has brought me back to the poem over and over. It could also be said that Yusef Komunyakaa himself is my long-standing poetry crush. I’ve been reading his work for the past 12 years, and have managed to attend readings he’s done in 4 separate cities. I’m hoping to make it 5 at the AWP in Chicago this year. So maybe “poetry stalkee” is more accurate? Hopefully he doesn’t Google himself too often…  —Margaret Bashaar


Body of a Woman

Here you are, still
Reposed behind glass
Like a work of art. Yes,
Body of precious aloneness,

There are times I desire you
In a lover’s arms. Sometimes
I want you making fierce love,
With moans like thought bubbles

Of pleasure forever in Pompeii’s
Lava & ash. Yet, other nights,
As Miles Davis plays ballads
In the background, like tonight,

There’s only irony: I see
You’re gazing out toward
The House of the Faun,
Waiting for someone.


i’ll tell you a dream i had once by e. e. cummings

e.e. cummings is famous for his once-daring formats and syntax, but his themes were traditional, and much of his poetry is love poetry. He wrote scads of amorous poems, often exalted, sometimes sexy.

Poking around for a poem for this piece, I discovered Norton has put out a volume of cummings poems called ‘Erotic Poems.’ It made me want to shout – one, because it’s a marketing ploy for Valentine’s Day, and two, because many of his non-sexual poems have something dotingly erotic about them, because cummings seemed to experience everything sensually – the rain, the ocean, trees, light, anything beautiful he set eyes on.

Some of his erotic poems don’t start out erotic at all – the poet simply ends up in the territory. It happens in the poem “let’s live suddenly without thinking,” for example, and it happens in the following poem, “i’ll tell you a dream i had once,” too. In the first line, it seems the poem could go anywhere, but it ends up with a pair of lovers (truly) becoming one. As erotica goes it may be on the tame side, but I love it for its naked, playful embrace. — Sarah Sloat


i’ll tell you a dream i had once…

i’ll tell you a dream i had once i was away up in the sky Blue,everything:

a bar the bar was made of brass hangIng from strings (or)someThing i was

lying on the bar it was cOOl i didn’t have anything on and I was all hot all

Hot and bar was


O My lover,

there’s just room for me in You

my stomach goes into your Little Stomach My legs are in your legs Your


under me around; my head fits(my head)in your Brain-my,head’s


she(said laughing

)with your head.all big


It by Sharon Olds

When asked to choose an erotic poem for Poetry Crush, I selected “It,” by Sharon Olds, which appears in her collection The Gold Cell. It is easy to do erotic poetry in a way that is easy, but it is hard to do erotic poetry the way Olds does. She fully inhabits each of her erotic poems. She does not hold back. She writes erotic work that is as tender, and as dirty, as it gets. She often overlaps the tender and dirty in one poem, as well as taking the reader places they don’t expect to go. — Dana Guthrie Martin


Sometimes we fit together like the creamy
speckled three-section body of the banana, that
joke fruit, as sex was a joke when we were kids,
and sometimes it is like a jagged blue comb of glass across
my skin,
and sometimes you have me bent over as thick paper can be
folded, on the rug in the center of the room
far from the soft bed, my knuckles pressed against the grit in the grain of the rug’s
braiding where they
laid the rags tight and sewed them together,
my ass in the air like a lily with a wound on it
and I feel you going down into me as
if my own tongue is your cock sticking
out of my mouth like a stamen, the making and
breaking of the world at the same moment,
and sometimes it is sweet as the children we had
thought were dead being brought to shore in the
narrow boats, boatload after boatload.
Always I am stunned to remember it,
as if I have been to Saturn or the bottom of a trench in the
sea floor, I
sit on my bed the next day with my mouth open and think of it.


The Hummingbird:  A Seduction by Pattiann Rogers

Pattiann Rogers masters the art of the single-sentence poem in this gorgeous, sensual ode. Her longing tone makes the imagery crackle even more, in the way we are often more vivid in our expression of wants, in our aching overtures of what I would do if I could. . . . than when our desires are gratified.  – Lauren Eggert-Crowe


If I were a female hummingbird perched still
And quiet on an upper myrtle branch
In the spring afternoon and if you were a male
Alone in the whole heavens before me, having parted
Yourself, for me, from cedar top and honeysuckle stem
And earth down, your body hovering in midair
Far away from jewelweed, thistle, and bee balm;

And if I watched how you fell, plummeting before me,
And how you rose again and fell, with such mastery
That I believed for a moment you were the sky
And the red-marked bird diving inside your circumference
Was just the physical revelation of the light’s
Most perfect desire;

And if I saw your sweeping and sucking
Performance of swirling egg and semen in the air,
The weaving, twisting vision of red petal
And nectar and soaring rump, the rush of your wing
In its grand confusion of arcing and splitting
Created completely out of nothing just for me,

Then when you came down to me, I would call you
My own spinning bloom of ruby sage, my funnelling
Storm of sunlit sperm and pollen, my only breathless
Piece of scarlet sky, and I would bless the base
Of each of your feathers and touch the tine
Of string muscles binding your wings and taste
The odor of your glistening oils and hunt
The honey in your crimson flare
And I would take you and take you and take you
Deep into any kind of nest you ever wanted.


Poet to Tiger by May Swenson

May Swenson melts me with craft and a deep commitment to play.– J. Hope Stein


Poet to Tiger

You went downstairs
saw a hair in the sink
and squeezed my toothpaste by the neck.
You roared. My ribs are sore.
This morning even my pencil’s got your toothmarks.
Big Cat Eye cocked on me you see bird bones.
Snuggled in the rug of your belly
your breath so warm
I smell delicious fur.
Come breathe on me rough pard
put soft paws here.

You don’t put salt on anything
so I’m eating without.
Honey on the eggs is all right
mustard on the toast.
I’m not complaining I”m saying I’m
living with you.
You like your meat raw
don’t care if it’s cold.
Your stomach must have tastebuds
you swallow so fast.
Night falls early. It’s foggy. Just now
I found another of your bite marks in the cheese.
I’m hungry. Please
come bounding home
I’ll hand you the wine to open
with your teeth.
Scorched me a steak unsalted
boil my coffee twice
say the blessing to a jingle on the blue TV.
Under the lap robe on our chilly couch
look behind my ears “for welps”
and hug me.

You’re right I brought a grain
or two of sand
into bed I guess in my socks.
But it was you pushed them off
along with everything else.
Asleep you flip
over roll
everything under
you and off
me. I’m always grabbing
for my share of the sheets.
Or else you wake me every hour with sudden
growled I-love-yous
trapping my face between those plushy
shoulders. All my float-dreams turn spins
and never finish. I’m thinner
now. My watch keeps running fast.
But best is when we’re riding pillion
my hips within your lap. You let me steer.
Your hand and arm go clear
around my ribs your moist
dream teeth fastened on my nape.
A grain of sand in the bed upsets you or
a hair on the floor.
But you’ll get
in slick and wet from the shower if I let
you. Or with your wool cap
and skiing jacket on
if it’s cold.
Tiger don’t scold me
don’t make me comb my hair outdoors.
Cuff me careful. Lick don’t
crunch. Make last what’s yours.

You get into the tub holding The Naked Ape
in your teeth. You wet the blond
three-cornered pelt lie back wide
chest afloat. You’re reading
in the rising steam and I’m
drinking coffee from your tiger cup.
You say you dreamed
I had your baby book
and it was pink and blue.
I pointed to a page and there
was your face with a cub grin.

You put your paws in your armpits
make a tiger-moo.
Then you say: “Come here
Poet and take
this hair
off me.” I do.
It’s one of mine. I carefully
kill it and carry
it outside. And stamp on it
and bury it.

In the begonia bed.
And then take off my shoes
anot to bring a grain
of sand in to get
into our bed.
I’m going to
do the cooking
now instead
of you.
And sneak some salt in
when you’re not looking.