Poems about lust


(Playlist on Lust) **Art: The Leopard Queen by Frank Frazetta  (source)

“When you meet a young boy, be direct” by Addaeus (300s BC; Macedonia; epigrammatic poet) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

When you meet a young boy, be direct,
Do not prate of fraternal respect.
Speak frankly and grope
His balls, or all hope
Of achieving your ends will be wrecked.

“This is Anacreon’s grave” by Antipater of Sidon (100s BC; Greece)
– from World Poetry: an Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time

This is Anacreon’s grave. Here lie
the shreds of his exuberant lust,
but hints of perfume linger by
his gravestone still, as if he must
have chosen for his last retreat
a place perpetually on heat

“Never yet could I endure” by Archpoet (1130-1165; Western Europe; courtier)
– from Erotic Literature: Twenty-Four Centuries of Sensual Writing

Never yet could I endure
Soberness and sadness,
Jests I love and sweeter than
Honey find I gladness.
Whatsoever Venus bids
Is a joy excelling,
Never in an evil heart
Did she make her dwelling.

“The Love Feast” by W. H. Auden (1907-1973; York, England; English professor; essayist, literary critic) – from The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

In an upper room at midnight
See us gathered on behalf
Of love according to the gospel
Of the radio-phonograph.

Lou is telling Anne what Molly
Said to Mark behind her back;
Jack likes Jill who worships George
Who has the hots for Jack.

Catechumens make their entrance;
Steep enthusiastic eyes
Flicker after tits and baskets;
Someone vomits; someone cries. (…)

“Mad to be had, to be felt and smelled. My lips.” from The Platonic Blow (A Day for a Lay) by W. H. Auden (1907-1973; York, England; English professor; essayist, literary critic)
– from Erotic Literature: Twenty-Four Centuries of Sensual Writing

Mad to be had, to be felt and smelled. My lips
Explored the adorable masculine tits. My eyes
Assessed the chest. I caressed the athletic hips
And the slim limbs. I approved the grooves of the thighs.

I hugged, I snuggled into an armpit.
I sniffed the subtle whiff of its tuft. I lapped up the taste
Of its hot hollow. My fingers began to drift
On a trek of inspection, a leisurely tour of the waist.

Downward in narrowing circles they playfully strayed.
Encroached on his privates like poachers, approached the prick.
But teasingly swerved, retreated from meeting. It betrayed
Its pleading need by a pretty imploring kick. (…)

“Minnelied” by W. H. Auden (1907-1973; York, England; English professor; essayist, literary critic) – The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

When one is lonely (and You,
My Dearest, know why,
as I know why it must be),
steps can be taken, even
a call-boy can help.
To-night, for instance, now that
Bert has been here, I
listen to the piercing screams
of palliardising cats
without self-pity.

“Turkish. Belly Dancer. Sexy tricks.” by Automedon (1000 BC or 1000 AD; Greece; epigrammatic poet) – from Erotic Literature: Twenty-Four Centuries of Sensual Writing

Turkish. Belly-dancer. Sexy tricks.
(That quivering! Those fingernails!)
What do I like best? Hands here, here,
Soft, soft, stroking – or better,
Piping that little old man of mine,
Fondling each foldlet, tonguing,
Tickling, easing, teasing,
Then slipping on top, and …
I tell you, she could raise the dead.

“Texas Cowboy” by Karle Wilson Baker (1878-1960; Little Rock, Arkansas; writer, teacher, lecturer) – from Texas in Poetry 2

From garden-beds I tend, it is not far
To those great ranges where he used to ride;
Time’s shadowy Door still stands a rift ajar,
And Fancy, glancing backward and aside,
May glimpse him whirling in a storm, of dust,
A flashing bronze against a burning sky,
Before a sea of tossing horns up-thrust,
A peril thousand-pronged, to breast or die; (…)

Still from The Dutchman written by Amiri Baraka (Source)

“Like Rousseau” by Amiri Baraka (1934-2014; Newark, New Jersey; actor, teacher, theater director, theater producer, writer, activist) – from The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002

She stands beside me, stands away,
the vague indifference
of her dreams. Dreaming, to go on,
and go on there, like animals fleeing
the rise of the earth. But standing
intangible, my lust a worked anger
a sweating close covering, for the crudely salty soul. (…)

“The New World” by Amiri Baraka (1934-2014; Newark, New Jersey; actor, teacher, theater director, theater producer, writer, activist) – from The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry

The sun is folding, cars stall and rise beyond the window. The workmen leave the street to the bums and painters’ wives pushing their babies home. Those who realize how fitful and indecent consciousness is stare solemnly out on the emptying street.  The mourners and soft singers. The liars, and seekers after ridiculous righteousness. All my doubles, and friends, whose mistakes cannot be duplicated by machines, and this is all of our arrogance. Being broke or broken, dribbling at the eyes. Wasted lyricists, and men who have seen their dreams come true, only seconds after they knew those dreams to be horrible conceits and plastic fantasies of gesture and extension (…)

“Portishead Suite” by Rick Barot (b. 1969; Philippines/Bay Area, California; teacher, lecturer) – from The New American Young Poets

Then I woke up, the shuffle of images still with me. The water near-ice but bearable. Other figures underneath with me. Leaves floating like motes in a light-shaft. Goodbye, the kid was saying to the car, the plastic ball by his feet white as a moon.

Convinced by the dream’s exactness, all day I was moved by objects. To the lime: “Hello, Mambo.” To the paperclip: “Hello, Ponge.” I thought of your hand, flat and for once quiet on your chest. Its splay of twenty-seven bones, complicated as a spider web. (…)

“Sed non Satia” (Unslakeable Lust) by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867; essayist, art critic, translator of Edgar Allan Poe) – from Six French Poets of the Nineteenth Century

Bizarre déité, brune comme les nuits,
Au parfum mélangé de musc et de havane,
Oeuvre de quelque obi, le Faust de la savane,
Sorcière au flanc d’ébène, enfant des noirs minuits,

Je préfère au constance, à l’opium, au nuits,
L’élixir de ta bouche où l’amour se pavane;
Quand vers toi mes désirs partent en caravane,
Tes yeux sont la citerne où boivent mes ennuis.

Singular deity, brown as the nights,
Scented with the perfume of Havana and musk,
Work of some obeah, Faust of the savanna,
Witch with ebony flanks, child of the black midnight,

I prefer to constance, to opium, to nuits,
The nectar of your mouth upon which love parades;
When toward you my desires set out in caravan,
Your eyes are the cistern that gives drink to my cares. (…)

“To Alexis in Answer to His Poem Against Fruition. Ode” by Aphra Behn (1640-1689; Canterbury, England; playwright, novelist, translator)
– from The Broadview Anthology of Poetry

Ah hapless sex! Who bear no charms,
But what like lightning flash and are no more
False fires sent down for baneful harms,
Fires which the fleeting lover feebly warms
And given like past beboches o’er,
Like songs that please (though bad) when new,
But learned by heart neglected grew. (…)

“Abajo las lonjas” (Down with the Money-Exchange) by Carlos German Belli (b. 1927; Lima, Peru; translator, journalist, professor) – from Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry

¡Oh Hada Cibernética!,
cuándo de un soplo asolarás las lonjas,
que cautivo me tienen,
y me libres al fin
para que yo entonces pueda
dedicarme a buscar una mujer
dulce como el azúcar,
suave como la seda,
y comérmela en pedacitos,
y gritar después:
“¡abajo la lonja de azúcar,
abajo la lonja de la seda!”

Oh Cyber Fairy!
When from a blow you will destroy the markets,
What captive they have me,
And free me at last
So that I can then
To look for a woman
Sweet as sugar,
smooth as silk,
And eat it in bits,
And shout after:
“Down the sugar market,
Down the market of silk! ” (google translate)

“Untergrundbahn” (Subway Train) by Gottfried Benn (1886-1956; Berlin, Germany; essayist) – from German 20th Century Poetry

Die weichen Schauer. Blutenfruhe. Wie
Aus warmen Fellen kommt es aus den Waldern.
Ein Rot schwarmt auf. Das groBe Blut steigt an.

Durch all den Fruhling kommt die fremde Frau.
Der Strumpf am Spann ist da. Doch, wo er endet,
Ist weit von mir. Ich schluchze auf der Schwelle:
Laues Gebluhe, fremde Feuchtigkeiten

Lascivious shivers. Early bloom. As if
From warm furred skins it wafted from the woods.
A red swarms up. The great strong blood ascends.

Through all of Spring the alien woman walks.
The stock, stretched, is there. But where it ends
Is far from me. I sob upon the threshold:
Sultry luxuriance, alien moistures teeming. (…)

“Late-Flowering Lust” by John Betjeman (1906-1984; Gospel Oak, London (UK); non-fiction writer, broadcaster, editor) – from The Broadview Anthology of Poetry

My head is bald, my breath is bad,
Unshaven is my chin,
I have not now the joys I had
When I was young in sin.

I run my fingers down your dress
With brandy-certain aim
And you respond to my caress
And maybe feel the same.

But I’ve a picture of my own
On this reunion night,
Wherein two skeletons are shewn
To hold each other tight; (…)

“From the Hazel Bough” by Earle Birney (1904-1995; Calgary, Alberta (CAN); novelist; essayist, playwright, editor) – from In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry

I met a lady
on a lazy street
hazel eyes
and little plush feet

her legs swam by
like lovely trout
eyes were trees
where boys leant out

hands in the dark and
a river side
round breasts rising
with the finger’s tide (…) Ghost of a Flea by William Blake, 1819-1820 (Source)

“Visions of the Dauthers of Albion” by William Blake (1757-1827; Soho, London (UK); painter, printmaker) – from The Columbia Anthology of British Poetry

I lovèd Theotormon,
And I was not ashamèd;
I trembled in my virgin fears,
And I hid in Leutha’s vale!

I pluckèd Leutha’s flower,
And I rose up from the vale;
But the terrible thunders tore
My virgin mantle in twain. (…)

“Girls of the Rodeo” by Margie Belle Boswell (1875-1963; Colorado/Texas; poetry teacher, member of poetry societies) – from Texas in Poetry 2

Here comes the dashing riders,
Girls who are Texas born,
Who know the rhythm of riding
Over prairie sage and thorn (…)

“Looking at Her” by Alan Charles Brownjohn (b. 1931; London, England; teacher, novelist)
– from The Oxford Book of Sonnets

When he looked at her, he invariably felt
Like stretching his arms up, as if about to do
A long and lustrous yawn. Of course she knew
She had that effect; and whether she lounged or knelt,
Or walked and simply stood, he was never clear
If she was prepared and eager to let him bring
His hands down around her neck, and press her near
– Or would shake her head and permit no such thing (…)

“A simple lust is all my woe” by Dennis Vincent Brutus (1924-2009; Zimbabwe/South Africa activist, educator, journalist) – from The Heinemann Book of African Poetry in English

A simple lust is all my woe:
the thin thread of agony
that runs through the reins
after the flesh is overspent
in over-taxing acts of love (…)

“Comes to Rest” by Constantine Petrou (C. P.) Cavafy (1863-1933; Alexandria, Egypt; journalist, civil servant) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

It must have been one o’clock at night
or half past one.

                        A corner in the wine-shop
behind the wooden partition:
except for the two of us the place completely empty.
An oil lamp barely gave it light.
The waiter, on duty all day, was sleeping by the door.

No one could see us. But anyway,
we were already so aroused
we’d become incapable of caution. (…)

“Of her removed and soul-infused regard” from A Coronet for his Mistress Philosophy by George Chapman (1559-1634; Hitchin, Hertfordshire (UK); dramatist, translator, classical scholar) – from The Oxford Book of Sonnets

Of her removed and soul-infused regard,
With whose firm species, as with golden
She points her life’s field, for all wars
And bears one chanceless mind, in all
The inverted world that goes upon her head,
And with her wanton heels doth kick
the sky,
My love disdains, though she be
And without envy sees her empery (…)

“A Ballad of Passive Paederasty” by Aleister Crowley (1875-1947; Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire (UK); occultist, novelist, mountaineer) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Of man’s delight and man’s desire
In one thing is no weariness —
To feel the fury of the fire,
And writhe within the close caress
Of fierce embrace, and wanton kiss,
And final nuptial done aright,
How sweet a passion, shame, is this,
A strong man’s love is my delight!

Free women cast a lustful eye
On my gigantic charms, and seek
By word and touch with me to lie,
And vainly proffer cunt and cheek;
Then, angry, they miscall me weak,
Till one, divining me aright,
Points to her buttocks, whispers ” Greek! ”
A strong man’s love is my delight! (…)

{see also Dedicace: “You crown me king and queen.”
“Go into the Highways and Hedges, And Compel Them to Come In”} of Elaine Thayer by E. E. Cummings (Source)

“God pity me whom (god distinctly has)” by Edward Estlin (E. E.) Cummings (1894-1962; Cambridge, Massachusetts (US); painter, essayist, novelist, playwright)
– from The Second Set: The Jazz Poetry Anthology, Volume 2

god pity me whom(god distinctly has)
the weightless svelte drifting sexual feather
of your shall i say body?follows
truly through a dribbling moan of jazz

whose arched occasional stepped youth swallows
curvingly the keeness of my hips;
or,your first twitch of crisp boy flesh dips
my height in a firm fragile stinging weather, (…)

“Conquest [or His Lady’s Might]” by Philippe Desportes (1546-1606; Chartres, France; court poet, Italian translator) – from The New Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse

Those eyes that set my fancy on a fire,
Those crispéd hairs that hold my heart in chains,
Those dainty hands which conquered my desire,
That wit which of my thoughts doth hold the reins:
Those eyes for clearness do the stars surpass,
Those hairs obscure the brightness of the sun,
Those hands more white than ever ivory was,
That wit even to the skies hath glory won.
O eyes that pierce our hearts without remorse!
O hands that conquer more than Caesar’s force!
O wit that turns huge kingdoms upside down!
Then, Love, be judge, what heart may there withstand
Such eyes, such hair, such wit, and such a hand?

“Wild Nights—Wild Nights!” by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886; Amherst, Massachusetts)- from The Erotic Spirit

Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a Heart in port –
Done with the Compass –
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight –
In thee!

“To His Coy Love. A Canzonet” from Odes by Michael Drayton (1563-1631; Hartshill, Warwickshire (UK))- from The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse 1509-1659

Shew me no more those Snowie Brests,
With Azure Riuerets branched,
Where, whilst mine Eye with Plentie feasts,
Yet is my Thirst not stanched.
O TANTALUS, thy Paines n’er tell,
By me thou art preuented ;
‘Tis nothing to be plagu’d in Hell,
But thus in Heauen tormented. (…)

“Cohabiting” by Stephen Dunn (b. 1939; Queens, New York (US); professor, essayist)
– from Contemporary American Poetry

There’s not a nude in a museum
or a person anywhere, taking a bath,
nearly as naked as that French girl,
stripped of all but her socks,
head shaved, being spat upon
by her own townspeople
in one of history’s sunlit
cobblestone squares. I’ve only
read about her, but somehow,
for me, she’s permanently fixed,
a scaffolding of awful
yet understandable righteousness
surrounding her, accentuating
the stark paleness of her skin,
the big war finally over,
and behind it, for centuries,
those without pity
with their saliva and their stones. (…)

“Bouquet of Dead Flowers” by David Eggleton (b. 1952; Auckland, New Zealand; mixed media, historian, filmmaker, editor) – from The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology

Her body was braille, was scent bottles uncorked,
was the music score her breath hummed;
and beyond us the sun was the giggling Buddha,
robed in saffron, licking his finger
to tear months from the calendar.
The days withdrew from us like acupuncture needles
each morning when we woke up,
and slipped from the bedding seeking the promise
of orange juice you could lick from the moment. (…)

“Of Your Father’s Indiscretions and the Train to California” by Lynn Collins Emanuel (b. 1949; Mt. Kisco, New York (US); professor, education director)
– from The Oxford Book of American Poetry

One summer he stole the jade buttons
Sewn like peas down Aunt Ora’s dress
And you, who loved that trail of noise and darkness
Hauling itself across the horizon,
Moths spiraling in the big lamps,
Loved the oily couplings and the women’s round hats
Haunting all the windows
And the way he held you on his knee like a ventriloquist
Discussing the lush push of grass against the tree’s roots
Or a certain crookedness in the trunk.
Now everything is clearer. (…)

{see also Outside Room Six: “Down on my knees again, on the linoleum outside room six”

“Song: If she be not as kind as fair” from the play The Comical Revenge by George Etherege (1636-1692; Maidenhead, Berkshire (UK); playwright)
– from The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse

IF she be not as kind as fair,
But peevish and unhandy,
Leave her, she’s only worth the care
Of some spruce jack-a-dandy.
I would not have thee such an ass,
Hadst thou ne’er so much leisure,
To sigh and whine for such a lass
Whose pride’s above her pleasure. (…)

“The River God” by Vicki Feaver (b. 1943; Nottingham, United Kingdom; creative writing professor) – from Modern Women Poets

doesn’t know why he’s such a strong swimmer;
why he drinks nothing but frothy black Guinness;
why when he stands at the top
of a long flight of stairs
he has to struggle to stop himself
raising his arms, diving into a pool
of swaying air; why in his fantasies
the girls undress – uncovering white necks
and shoulders, brown and pink nippled breasts,
the dark nests between their legs –
among reeds, under the grey-yellow light
of willows (…)

“Six Part Lust Story” by Jonathan Fisher (Christchurch, New Zealand)
– from The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology

He makes music
takes too many drugs
wears his girlfriend’s
“Hey Sister” boxers,
when they’re together,
lets me hug him when
I’m drunk & is followed
around by a group of other
lusting gay men (…)

“La Casada Infiel” (The Unfaithful Wife) by Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936; Granada, Andalusia, Spain; playwright, theatre director) – from The Erotic Spirit

Y que yo me la llevé al río
creyendo que era mozuela,
pero tenía marido.

Fue la noche de Santiago
y casi por compromiso.
Se apagaron los faroles
y se encendieron los grillos.
En las últimas esquinas
toqué sus pechos dormidos,
y se me abrieron de pronto
como ramos de jacintos.

 So I took her to the river
believing she was a maiden,
but she already had a husband.

It was on St. James night
and almost as if I was obliged to.
The lanterns went out
and the crickets lighted up.
In the farthest street corners
I touched her sleeping breasts
and they opened to me suddenly
like spikes of hyacinth. (…)

“Dealing Scraps” by Ruth Garnett (b. 1954; Webster Groves, Minnesota; creative writing professor) – from In Search of Color Everywhere: A Collection of African-American Poetry

I must have back this breath
you take away
like wine.

Your love
is formidable, like night
and certain prodding
to sobs.

When you leave
it is with nothing left;
weird shadow
haunt the light
and gaunt reflection
in glass. (…)

“Talkin’ Trash” by Elena Georgiou (London, England; professor, editor)
– from The World in Us: Lesbian and Gay Poetry of the New Wave

I want the phone to ring.

I want the sound of your voice
to smack my body as waves hit rock,
grinding down mountains, opening up
secrets hidden between my shoulder blades.

I want you to be beg me to let you come
over to wash my hair with rosewater.
When I refuse, I want you to hang up. (…)

{see also Intimate Mixture: “I have electricity in me”}

“Do It Again” by George Gershwin (1898-1937; New York, US) & Buddy DeSylva (1895-1950; New York, US; film producer, record executive) (2012 Broadway Rendition)
– from Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975

Tell me, tell me, what did you do to me?
I just got a thrill that was new to me,
When your two lips were pressed to mine.

When you held me I wasn’t snuggling
You should know I really was struggling.

I’ve only met you, and I shouldn’t let you, but …
Oh, do it again.

“Foreplay” by Tony Gloeggler (New York, US; manager of a group home)
Never Before: Poems About First Experiences

During recess in the fifth grade
giggling girls drew fat hearts
on the blackboard. They’d print
their names next to mine and shoot
arrows through them. My cheeks tinted
pink as I knelt on one knee, scaled
baseball cards against the back wall.
When I was twelve, we played “Hunter
and the Hunted” in couples. One team
counted, the other hid. Linda said no one
would find us and kissed my lips. She slipped
her tongue in my mouth, unzipped
my dungarees. I pinched her nipples,
listened for footsteps. (…) for Goethe’s Faust by Harry Clarke (Source)

“Das Tagebuch” (The Diary) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832; Frankfurt, Germany; novelist, playwright, natural philosopher, diplomat, civil servant)
– from Sappho to Valéry: Poems in Translation

aliam tenui, sed iam quum gaudia adirem,
Admonuit dominae deseruitque Venus.

I was with some other girl, but just short of the height of my pleasure
Suddenly Venus withdrew, for I remembered my love (Tibullus 1.5.39f)

Wir hören’s oft und glauben’s wohl am Ende:
Das Menschenherz sei ewig unergründlich,
Und wie man auch sich hin und wider wende,
So sei der Christe wie der Heide sündlich.
Das Beste bleibt, wir geben uns die Hände
Und nehmen’s mit der Lehre nicht empfindlich;
Denn zeigt sich auch ein Dämon, uns versuchend,
So waltet was, gerettet ist die Tugend.

The saying goes – it’s true enough, no doubt –
That man’s heart is for ever fathomless:
That Christians, though they turn and turn about,
Are sinners still, like pagans. Let’s confess
As much, and all shake hands! We carry out
What Virtue bids us, only rather less;
Why fret? For when by some wild imp we’re tempted
Another force prevails, and sin’s preempted. (…)

“Letter VI” by William Sydney (W. S.) Graham (1918-1986; Greenock, Scotland; associated with neo-romantic poets) – from The Edinburgh Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry

I moved and caught the sweet
Courtesy of your mouth.
My breath to your breath.
And as you lay fondly
In the crushed smell of the moor
The courageous and just sun
Opened its door.
And there we lay halfway
Your body and my body
Over the high moor. Without
A word then we went
Our ways. I heard the moor
Curling its cries far
Across the still loch. (…)

“Down, Wanton, Down!” by Robert Graves (1895-1985; Wimbledon, Surrey, England; novelist, critic, classicist, soldier, translator of Latin and Greek texts) – from The Harvill Book of Twentieth-Century Poetry in English

Down, wanton, down! Have you no shame
That at the whisper of Love’s name,
Or Beauty’s, presto! up you raise
Your angry head and stand at gaze?

Poor Bombard-captain, sworn to reach
The ravelin and effect a breach –
Indifferent what you storm or why,
So be that in the breach you die! (…)

{see also “The Blue-Fly”: “Five summer days, five summer nights / The ignorant, loutish, giddy blue-fly / Hung without motion on the cling peach”}

“The Precision” by Linda Alouise Gregg (b. 1942; Suffern, New York (US); creative writing lecturer – from Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World’s Most Popular Poetry Website

There is a modesty in nature. In the small
of it and in the strongest. The leaf moves
just the amount the breeze indicates
and nothing more. In the power of lust, too,
there can be a quiet and clarity, a fusion
of exact moments. There is a silence of it
inside the thundering. And when the body swoons,
it is because the heart knows its truth. (…)

“The Vine” by Robert Herrick (1591-1674; Cheapside, London (UK); cleric; lyric poet)
– from The Broadview Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Verse and Prose

I dreamed this mortal part of mine
Was metamorphosed to a vine,
Which crawling one and every way
Enthralled my dainty Lucia.
Methought her long small legs and thighs
I with my tendrils did surprise;
Her belly, buttocks, and her waist
By my soft nervelets were embraced.
About her head I writhing hung,
And with rich clusters (hid among
The leaves) her temples I behung,
So that my Lucia seemed to me
Young Bacchus ravished by his tree. (…)

{see also The Vision: “Sitting alone, as one forsook / Close by a silver-shedding brook,”}

“Meeting in a Lift” by Vladimír Holan (1905-1980; Prague, Czechoslovakia)
– from Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times

We stepped into the lift. The two of us, alone
We looked at each other and that was all.
Two lives, a moment, fullness, bliss.
At the fifth floor she got out and I went on up
knowing I would never see her again,
that it was a meeting once and for all,
that if I followed her I would be like a dead man in her tracks
and that if she came back to me
it would only be from the other world.

“Throbbings” by Jamil B. Holway (1883-1946; Damascus, Syria; civil servant, interpreter for US Immigration Service – from The New Anthology of American Poetry, Volume II: Modernisms 1900-1950

Zaynab complained against me
to the judge of love.
“He has sly eyes,” she told him,
“which roam around me
to devour my beauty.
Judge of love!
I am not safe anymore.

“I think his eyes are two bees
raiding the honey
which sweetens my lips.
I see them as two eagles
hovering in space,
descending to snatch me.
I think, and from my fear,
I think strange things.
God knows how much I suffer from my thoughts. (…)

“Ode 2.8” by Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) (65-8 BC; Venosa, Italy; soldier, scriba quaestorius; lyric poet) – from Sappho to Valéry: Poems in Translation

Vlla si iuris tibi peierati
poena, Barine, nocuisset umquam,
dente si nigro fieres vel uno
            turpior ungui,
crederem. sed tu, simul obligasti
perfidum votis caput, enitescis
pulchrior multo iuvenumque prodis
            publica cura.

If for all the promises you regard so lightly
one, one penalty ever held, Varina,
should one tooth darken, even a torn toenail
leave you less smooth, dear,
yes, I’d trust you. But when you can swear with
“God strike me dead!” and falsify it, Lord you’re
lovelier yet, as you parade. The whole male
populace wants you. (…)

“When I watch the living meet” by Alfred Edward (A. E.) Housman (1859-1936; Bromsgrove, Worcestershire (UK); classical scholar, lecturer, letter-writer) – from Modern British Poetry

When I watch the living meet,
And the moving pageant file
Warm and breathing through the street
Where I lodge a little while,

If the heats of hate and lust
In the house of flesh are strong,
Let me mind the house of dust
Where my sojourn shall be long. (…)

Tune: “A Thousand Autumns” by Huang T’in-chien (Tingjian) (1045-1105; China; painter, scholar, government official, calligrapher; Song dynasty) – from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

The best thing in the world
Is precisely being together like this;
The nights getting longer,
The weather cool,
The rain dripping a bit outside the curtain,
The molded incense in the burner—
I’ve long dreamed about it
And now it’s really happening.

Our joy reached its peak and she turned lovely limp;
The jade was soft, the flower drooped and fell,
Her hairpin dangling on my sleeve,
Her hair piled on my arm,
The lamp lights her ravishing eyes,
Wet with perspiration, intoxicated—
Sleep, sweetheart, sleep;
Sweetheart, sleep.

“My life is spent in dissipation and wantonness!” by Ibn Quzman (1078-1160; Cordoba, Andalusia, Spain; zajal poet) – from Hispano-Arabic Poetry: A Student Anthology

My life is spent in dissipation and wantonness!
O joy, I have begun to be a real profligate!
Indeed it is absurd for me to repent
When my survival without a wee drink would be certain death.
Vino, vino! And spare me what is said;
Verily, I go mad when I lose my restraint! (…)

“Sex—A Five-Minute Briefing” by Nina Yurevna Iskrenko (1951-1995; Petrovsk, Russia; Moscow Poetry Club) – from In the Grip of Strange Thoughts: Russian Poetry in a New Era

And having hunched over her out of vileness out of tenderness
& abuse
He pulled out her soul having taken her the best he
Across the Urals Then closed the gate
Gabriela Sabatini, fomer Argentinian tennis player (source)

“Bring Me the Sweat of Gabriela Sabatini” by Clive James (b. 1939; Kogorah, Sydney, Australia; essayist, novelist, broadcaster, translator, memoirist, theatre performer)
– from The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology

Bring me the sweat of Gabriela Sabatini
For I know it tastes as pure as Malvern water,
Though laced with bright bubbles like the aqua minerale
That melted the kidney stones of Michelangelo
As sunlight the snow in spring.

Bring me the sweat of Gabriela Sabatini
In a green Lycergus cup with a sprig of mint,
But add no sugar –
The bitterness is what I want.
If I craved sweetness I would be asking you to bring me
The tears of Annabel Croft. (…)

“Thinking of Love” by Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001; Boston, Lincolnshire (UK); essayist; lyric poet) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

That desire is quite over
Or seems so as I lie
Using the sky as cover
And thinking of deep
Dreams unknown to a lover.
Being alone is now
Far from loneliness.
I can stretch and allow
Legs, arms, hands
Their complete freedom:
There is no-one to please.
But soon it comes-
Not simply the ache
Of a particular need,
But also the general hunger,
As if the flesh were a house
With too many empty

“Past Qualm of Hours” by Marla Jernigan
– from Another South: Experimental Writing in the South

plus the lust pardonable, these days anon
otherwise that potted monument deceived
my mouth’s by mouths born away
by pardon by beam that such pensiveness
which is all it ever tends to sing, those
faux pas of ornate kind marked
in unfound form as the delight, the very
wished-for you, permitted passion
in the tones of qualm and in bursting
came to bud, similitude, to reflection’s
shape, dreamy those who watch in fury (…)

“The Dark Angel” by Lionel Pigot Johnson (1867-1902; Broadstairs, Kent (UK); essayist, critic) – from Modern British Poetry

DARK Angel, with thine aching lust
To rid the world of penitence:
Malicious Angel, who still dost
My soul such subtile violence!

Because of thee, no thought, no thing,
Abides for me undesecrate:
Dark Angel, ever on the wing,
Who never reachest me too late!

When music sounds, then changest thou
Its silvery to a sultry fire:
Nor will thine envious heart allow
Delight untortured by desire. (…)

“On Groin” by Ben Jonson (1572-1637; Westminster, London (UK); playwright, actor, literary critic; popularized comedy of humours, lyric poet) – from The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse

Groin, come of age, his state sold out of hand
For his whore: Groin doth still occupy his land.

“The Emperor of China” by Shirley Kaufman (Daleski) (1923-2016; Seattle, Washington (US); translator) – from The Best American Poetry, 2001

The shape of a sound, your voice and the vowels as I saw them
in the first years, lips slightly open over mine and your warm
tongue bringing me here. The place of beginnings. We never
thought about the End. Where we are is only where we have been.
Diamond edge of the mind, our selves coming out of the rock
like spiked thistles. Something older than bodies that live
for a moment under the blankets, their moist skin touching.
Diamond and coal the same pure element of carbon. How you
talked about Lawrence when we first met. I want you to feel my
heart at the back of your throat. We can’t go on with the quarrels
near the rubble of the next war. If we could only remember
how we started, perhaps the words would remember us
the way we found the road home in a blackout. (…)

“GYN-astics” by Kemal Kurt (1947-2002; Çorlu, Turkey; short story writer, novelist, essayist, playwright, children’s book writer, photographer, translator) – from The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology

down there
where my feelings for you
come to a head
I feel the strength
of my love
and the flow of your warmth

the temporary result
of my feelings
is that i desire you
the sight of you
strokes my eyes (…)

“The Mutes” by Denise Levertov (1923-1997; Ilford, Essex (UK); essayist, letter-writer, poetry editor for The Nation) – from Being Alive

Those groans men use
passing a woman on the street
or on the steps of the subway

to tell her she is a female
and their flesh knows it,

are they a sort of tune,
an ugly enough song, sung
by a bird with a slit tongue

but meant for music?

Or are they the muffled roaring
of deafmutes trapped in a building that is
slowly filling with smoke? (…)’Amour dorloté par les belles dames by Mina Loy, 1906 (source)

“Love Songs to Joannes” by Mina Loy (1882-1966; London, England; playwright, novelist, actress, lamp designer, artist; Futurist, bohemian) – from The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 1

The skin-sack
In which wanton duality
All the completions
Of my infructuous impulses
Something the shape of a man
To the casual vulgarity of the merely observant
More of a clock-work mechanism
Running down against time
To which I am not paced
My fingertips are numb
From fretting your hair
A God’s doormat
On the threshold of your mind (…)

“The Libertine” by (Frederick) Louis MacNeice (1907-1963; Belfast, Ireland; playwright, fiction writer, essayist, memoirist, literary critic) – from The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry

In the old days with married women’s stockings
Twisted round his bedpost he felt himself a gay
Dog but now his liver has begun to groan,
Now that pick-ups are the order of the day:
O leave me easy, leave me alone.

Voluptuary in his ‘teens and cynic in his twenties,
He ran through women like a child through growing hay
Looking for a lost toy whose capture might atone
For his own guilt and the cosmic disarray:
O leave me easy, leave me alone. (…)

“’O Hero, Hero!’ thus he cried full oft” from Hero and Leander: The Second Sestiad by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593; Canterbury, England; playwright)
– from Erotic Literature: Twenty-Four Centuries of Sensual Writing

“O Hero, Hero!” thus he cried full oft;
And then he got him to a rock aloft,
Where having spied her tower, long stared he on’t,
And prayed the narrow toiling Hellespont
To part in twain, that he might come and go;
But still the rising billows answered, “No.”
With that he stripped him to the ivory skin
And, crying “Love, I come,” leaped lively in.
Whereat the sapphire visaged god grew proud,
And made his capering Triton sound aloud,
Imagining that Ganymede, displeased,
Had left the heavens; therefore on him he seized.
Leander strived; the waves about him wound,
And pulled him to the bottom, where the ground
Was strewed with pearl, and in low coral groves
Sweet singing mermaids sported with their loves
On heaps of heavy gold, and took great pleasure
To spurn in careless sort the shipwrack treasure.

“Qui gravis es nimium, potes hinc iam, lector, abire” (Let every prudish reader use his feet) by Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis) (38/41-102/104 AD; Hispania; epigrammatic poet) [tr. Anthony Reid] – from Roman Poets of the Early Empire

Qui gravis es nimium, potes hinc iam, lector, abire
quo libet: urbanae scripsimus ista togae;
iam mea Lampsacio lascivit pagina versu
et Tartesiaca concrepat aera manu.
o quotiens rigida pulsabis pallia vena,
sis gravior Curio Fabricioque licet!
tu quoque nequitias nostri lususque libelli
uda, puella, leges, sis Patavina licet.
erubuit posuitque meum Lucretia librum,
sed coram Bruto; Brute, recede: leget.

Let every prudish reader use his feet
And bugger off—I write for the elite.
My verses gambol with Prapic verve
As dancing harlots’ patter starts a nerve.
Though stern as Curius or like Fabricius,
Your prick will stiffen and grow vicious.
Girls while they drink—even the chastest folk—
Will read each naughty word and dirty joke.
Lucretia blushes, throws away my book.
Her husband goes. She takes another look.

{see also “The breath of balm from foreign branches pressed”
“My taste in woman, Flaccus? Give me one.”}

“Epigram. At 12 o’clock in the afternoon” by Meleager (100 BCE; Gadara (Jordan); epigrammatic poet) – from World Poetry: an Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time

  At 12 o’clock in the afternoon
in the middle of the street–

       Summer had all but brought the fruit
to its perilous end:
& the summer sun & that boy’s look

       did their work on me.
Night hid the sun
Your face consumes my dreams.

       Others feel sleep as feathered rest;
mine but in flame refigures
your image lit in me.

07/01/05 alumni itemsYoung Girl Defending Herself Against Eros by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1880 (source)

“After the Pleasure Party: Lines Traced under an Image of Amor Threatening” by Herman Melville (1819-1891; New York, US; novelist, short story writer, teacher, sailor, lecturer, customs inspector) – from American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, Vol. 2

Fear me, virgin whosoever
Taking pride from love exempt,
Fear me, slighted. Never, never
Brave me, nor my fury tempt:
Downy wings, but wroth they beat
Tempest even in reason’s seat.

   Behind the house the upland falls
With many an odorous tree—
White marbles gleaming through green halls—
Terrace by terrace, down and down,
And meets the star-lit Mediterranean Sea.

   ‘Tis Paradise. In such an hour
Some pangs that rend might take release.
Nor less perturbed who keeps this bower
Of balm, nor finds balsamic peace?
From whom the passionate words in vent
After long revery’s discontent? (…)

 The Fall and Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Michelangelo, 1509-1510 (source)

“Si come secco legno in foco ardente” (Like dry wood in a burning fire) by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564; Caprese, Florence (ITA); sculptor, painter, architect) [tr. James M. Saslow] – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Si come secco legno in foco ardente
arder poss’io, s’i’ non t’amo di core,
e l’alma perder, se null’altro sente.
E se d’altra beltà spirto d’amore
fuor de’ tu’ occhi, è che m’infiammi o scaldi,
tolti sien quegli a chi sanz’ essi muore.
S’io non t’ amo e ador, eh’ e’ mie’ più baldi
pensier sien con la speme tanto tristi
quanto nel tuo amor son fermi e saldi.

Like dry wood in a burning fire
may I burn, if I don’t love you from my heart,
and lose my soul, if it seels anything else.
And if a spirit of love heat and inflame me
with any beauty other than your eyes,
may they be taken from me, who’d die without them.
If I don’t love and adore you, may my boldest
thoughts, along with their hope, become as sad
as they are firm and constant in love of you.

“The Hares” by Susan Miles (Ursula Wyllie Roberts) (1887-1975; Meerut, India; novelist; suffragist) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

The wild hare of love
Is alert at his feet.
Oh, the fierce quivering heart!
Oh, the heart’s fierce beat!

He has tightened his noose.
It was fine as a thread;
But the wild hare that was love
At his feet lies dead. (…)

I too beneath your moon, almighty Sex” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950; Rockland, Maine; playwright, activist) – from American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, Vol. 1

I too beneath your moon, almighty Sex,
Go forth at nightfall crying like a cat,
Leaving the lofty tower I laboured at
For birds to foul and boys and girls to vex
With tittering chalk; and you, and the long necks
Of neighbours sitting where their mothers sat
Are well aware of shadowy this and that
In me, that’s neither noble nor complex. (…)

“Sleepless” by Eileen Myles (b. 1949; Cambridge, Massachusetts; professor, essayist, short-story writer, novelist) – from The World in Us: Lesbian and Gay Poetry of the New Wave

The other woman is dark
and green and curly, full of rocks
and sauce and dark lights hanging

in the sky. She’s the sound of a
yawning cave. She pulls me down
and makes me whisper evil and
violent wishes, makes me spank
her with a whip and fierce
rules and fond names to cage
her in. (…)

“Balance” by Marilyn Nelson (Waniek) (b. 1946; Cleveland, Ohio; professor, translator, children’s book author, director of a writer’s colony) – from A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women

He watch her like a coonhound watch a tree.
What might explain the metamorphosis
he underwent when she paraded by
with tea-cakes, in her fresh and shabby dress?
(As one would carry water from a well–
straight-backed, high-headed, like a diadem,
with careful grace so that no drop will spill–
she balanced, almost brimming, her one name.) (…)

“New Year’s Eve in Bismarck, North Dakota” by Kathleen Norris (b. 1947; Washington, D.C.; essayist, arts administrator) – from Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry

Flying in
Before snow closed the aiport,
For a way out,
Drinking at the Patterson,
Peppermint schnapps
For the season,
The town,
The storm.
The bartender joins in
He’s old and wears a black
String tie.

A cowboy, drunk, says
“you’re lookin’ good.
Got a figure like a bombshell.
Like an angel. An angel from outer space.
Some guys’d up n’ say,
‘C’mon, you’re gonna have some.’ I believe in God.
I’d never say that to a girl.” (…)

“I Would Not Recommend Love” by Harold Norse (1916-2009; Brooklyn, New York (US); experimental writer; Beat movement) – from City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology

my head felt stabbed
by a crown of thorns but I joked and rode the subway
and ducked into school johns to masturbate
and secretly wrote
of teenage hell
because I was “different”
the first and last of my kind
smothering acute sensations
in swimming pools and locker rooms
addict of lips and genitals
mad for buttocks (…)

“Greed and Aggression” by Sharon Olds (b. 1942; San Francisco, California, US)
– from The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: Poems for Men

Someone in Quaker meeting talks about greed and aggression
and I think of the way I lay the massive
weight of my body down on you
like a tiger lying down in gluttony and pleasure on the
elegant heavy body of the eland it eats,
the spiral horn pointing to the sky like heaven.
Ecstasy has been given to the tiger,
forced into its nature the way the
forcemeat is cranked down the throat of the held goose,
it cannot help it, hunger and the glory of
eating packed at the center of each
tiger cell, for the life of the tiger and the
making of new tigers, (…)

{see also Sex without Love: “How do they do it, the ones who make love without love?”}

“Elegy 1.5” by Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) (43 BC – 17 AD; Sulmona, Italy) [tr. Christopher Marlowe] – from The Erotic Spirit

aestus erat, mediamque dies exegerat horam;
adposui medio membra levanda toro.
pars adaperta fuit, pars altera clausa fenestrae,
quale fere silvae lumen habere solent,
qualia sublucent fugiente crepuscula Phoebo,
aut ubi nox abiit, nec tamen orta dies.
illa verecundis lux est praebenda puellis,
qua timidus latebras speret habere pudor.
ecce, Corinna venit, tunica velata recincta,
candida dividua colla tegente coma,
qualiter in thalamos famosa Semiramis isse
dicitur, et multis Lais amata viris.
quae cum ita pugnaret, tamquam quae vincere nollet,
victa est non aegre proditione sua.
ut stetit ante oculos posito velamine nostros,
in toto nusquam corpore menda fuit:

In summer’s heat and mid-time of the day
To rest my limbs upon a bed I lay,
One window shut, the other open stood,
Which gave such light as twinkles in a wood,
Like twilight glimpse at setting of the sun
Or night being past, and yet not day begun.
Such light to shamefaced maidens must be shown,
Where they may sport, and seem to be unknown.
Then came Corinna in a long loose gown,
Her white neck hid with tresses hanging down:
Resembling fair Semiramis going to bed
Or Laïs of a thousand wooers sped.
I snatched her gown, being thin, the harm was small,
Yet strived she to be covered therewithal.
And striving thus as one that would be cast,
Betrayed herself, and yielded at the last. (…)

“The Little Old Lady in Lavender Silk” by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967; Long Branch, New Jersey, US; essayist, short-story writer, literary critic, satirist, screenwriter)
– from The Norton Book of Light Verse

In my youth, when the crescent was too wan
To embarrass with beams from above,
By the aid of some local Don Juan
I fell into the habit of love.

And I learned how to kiss and be merry- an
Education left better unsung.
My neglect of the waters Pierian
Was a scandal, when Grandma was young.

Though the shabby unbalanced the splendid,
And the bitter outmeasured the sweet,
I should certainly do as I then did,
Were I given the chance to repeat. (…)

“Trovato ho il mio angioletto” (I have found my little angel) by Sandro Penna (1906-1977; Rome, Italy) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Trovato ho il mio angioletto
fra una losca platea.
Fumava un sigaretto
e gli occhi lustri avea…

I have found my little angel
amid a shady audience.
Smoking a small cigar
and with shining eyes…

“Doing, a filthy pleasure is, and short” by Petronius (Gaius Petronius Arbiter) (27-66 AD; Massalia (Marseille), France; novelist) [tr. Ben Jonson]
– from The Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation

Doing, a filthy pleasure is, and short;
And done, we straight repent us of the sport:
Let us not then rush blindly on unto it,
Like lustful beasts, that only know to do it:
For lust will languish, and that heat decay.
But thus, thus, keeping endless holiday,
Let us together closely lie and kiss,
There is no labour, nor no shame in this;
This hath pleased, doth please, and long will please; never
Can this decay, but is beginning ever.

“Moonburn” by Marge Piercy (b. 1936; Detroit, Michigan, US; novelist, social activist)
– from The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 2

I stayed under the moon too long.
I am silvered with lust.

Dreams flick like minnows through my eyes.
My voice is trees tossing in the wind.

I loose myself like a flock of blackbirds
storming into your face. (…)

“But for Lust” by Ruth Pitter (1897-1992; Ilford, London, UK)
The New Penguin Book of English Verse

But for lust we could be friends,
On each other’s necks could weep:
In each other’s arms could sleep
In the calm the cradle lends:

Lends awhile, and takes away.
But for hunger, but for fear,
Calm could be our day and year
From the yellow to the grey (…)

“Now it’s in all the novels, what’s pornography to do?” by Peter Porter (1929-2010; Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; essayist, editor, translator) – from The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

Now it’s all the novels, what’s pornography to do?
Stay home where it’s always been—in the mind.
It’s always been easier to wank than to grind,
yet love is possible, palpable and happens to you.

It’s nice to have someone say thank you afterwards
goes to old joke. But are the manual writers
right, are masturbators nail biters?
(Even the Freudians are anti, albeit in long words.) (…)

“Pleasure” by Attipate Krishnaswami (A. K.) Ramanujan (1929-1993; Mysore, Karnataka, India; essayist, scholar of Indian literature, philologist, folklorist, translator, playwright)
The Poetry of Our World: An International Anthology of Contemporary Poetry

A naked Jaina monk
ravaged by spring
fever, the vigour

of long celibacy
lusting now as never before
for the reek and sight

of mango bud, now tight, now (…)

“Moveable Figures” by Heather Ramsdell (Williamsburg, New York, US; playwright)
– from Isn’t It Romantic: 100 Love Poems by Younger American Poets

rather deception than retreat, painted in flesh, in the broken arcade,
dust and flecks of red remain

in the instance you and me, by small degrees able aberrations in flesh,
part hiding part enjoying being swallowed

we are very much particles flung here which stuck, are in accordance
with a theory of relations, never in this picture completely enough (…)

“Two Songs” by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012; Baltimore, Maryland, US; essayist, Feminist activist) – from Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times

Sex, as they harshly call it,
I fell into this morning
at ten o’clock, a drizzling hour
of traffic and wet newspapers.
I thought of him who yesterday
clearly didn’t
turn me to a hot field
ready for plowing,
and longing for that young man
pierced me to the roots
bathing every vein, etc. (…) Muse by John De Moss (source)

“Nos fesses ne sont pas les leurs” (Our Assholes Are Different) by Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891; Charleville, Ardennes, France; letter and prose writer) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Nos fesses ne sont pas les leurs. Souvent j’ai vu
Des gens déboutonnés derrière quelque haie,
Et, dans ces bains sans gêne où l’enfance s’égaie,
J’observais le plan et l’effet de notre cul.

Plus ferme, blême en bien des cas, il est pouvu
De méplats évidents que tapisse la claie
Des poils; pour elles, c’est seulement dans la raie
Charmante que fleurit le long satin touffu.

Our assholes are different from theirs. I used to watch
Young men let down their pants behind some tree,
And in those happy floods that youth set free
I watched the architecture of our crotch.

Quite firm, in many cases pale, it owes
Its form to muscles, and wickerwork
Of hairs; for girls, the most enchanting lurk
In a dark crack where tufted satin grows. (…)

“John Evereldown” by Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935; Head Tide, Maine, US; playwright, letter writer) – from Nineteenth Century American Poetry

WHERE are you going to-night, to-night,
Where are you going, John Evereldown?

There’s never the sign of a star in sight,

Nor a lamp that s nearer than Tilbury Town.

Why do you stare as a dead man might?

Where are you pointing away from the light? (…)

“A Ramble in St. James’s Park” by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680; Ditchley, Oxfordshire, UK; courtier, satirist) – from The Broadview Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Verse and Prose

Much wine had passed, with grave discourse
Of who fucks who, and who does worse
(Such as you usually do hear
From those that diet at the Bear),
When I, who still take care to see
Drunkenness relieved by lechery,
Weent out into St. James’s Park
To cool my head and fire my heart.
But though St. James has th’ honor on ‘t,
‘Tis consecrate to prick and cunt.
There, by a most incestuous birth,
Strange woods spring from the teeming earth;
For they relate how heretofore,
When ancient Pict behan to whore,
Deluded of his assignation
(Jilting, it seems, was then in fashion),
Poor pensive lover, in this place
Would frig upon his mother’s face; (…)

{see also The Imperfect Enjoyment: “Naked she lay, clasped in my longing arms,”}

“Married Love” by Liz Rosenberg (b. 1955; Long Island, New York, US; teacher, anthologist, novelist, children’s book author, book reviewer) – from The Norton Introduction to Literature

The trees are uncurling their first
green messages: Spring, and some man
lets his arm brush my arm in a darkened
theater. Faint-headed, I fight the throb.
Later I dream
the gas attendant puts a cool hand
on my breast, asking a question.
Slowly I rise through the surface of the dream,
Brushing his hand & my own heat away. (…)

“O I repented, wore my pious cloak” by Sa’di (Abū-Muhammad Muslih al-Dīn bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī) (1210-1291/1292; Shiraz, Iran) [tr. Dick Davis]
– from World Poetry: an Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time

O I repented, wore my pious cloak,
Listened and looked wherever wise men spoke,
But then I saw that cypress-bodied boy
And I forgot their sayings at a stroke.

“The End of the Affair” by Epifanio San Juan Jr. (b. 1938; Santa Cruz, Manila, Philippines; professor, Tagalog writer, civic intellectual, activist, writer, essayist, video/film maker, editor) – from Returning a Borrowed Tongue: Poems by Filipino and Filipino American Writers

On the ceiling of the dim pavilion
Where fire burns most deeply, you behold those inscrutable shapes
As if in a dream:
an iceberg on the great Salt Lake desert,
A hedgehog burrowing into its lunar hole….

Palestrina’s love, you hold yourself inviolable—
You would loose the prodigal stride of words
And stake the painstaking vision— (…)

“A Poem for My Father” by Sonia Sanchez (b. 1934; Birmingham, Alabama, US; columnist, dramatist, essayist) – from The Oxford Anthology of African American Poetry

how sad it must be
to love so many women
to need so many black
perfumed bodies weeping
underneath you.
when i remember all those nights
i filled my mind with
long wars between short
sighted trojans & greeks (…)

“What country woman bewitches your mind” by Sappho (630-570 BC; Lesbos, Greece; lyric poet) – from Sappho’s Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece

What country woman bewitches your mind…
wrapped in country clothes…
not knowing how to draw her skirts around her ankles?

{see also “Equal to the Gods”}

“Mata fumi ka” (Another Letter) by Senryū (Senryū Hachiemon Karai) (1718-1790; Tokyo, Japan; government official) [tr. Haruo Shirane]
– from Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900

mata fumi ka
sokora e oke to
hikaru kimi

“Another letter?
Put it down somewhere over there,”
says the Shining Genji

“Yoi goke ga” (There’ll soon be) by Senryū (Senryū Hachiemon Karai) (1718-1790; Tokyo, Japan; government official) [tr. Makoto Ueda]
– from Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900

yoi goke ga
dekiru to hanasu
isha nakama

“There’ll soon be
a charming widow”—that’s the talk
among the doctors

“Sonnet 151” by William Shakespeare (1564-1616; Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK; playwright, actor) – from The Oxford Anthology of English Poetry: Volume I: Spenser to Crabbe

Love is too young to know what conscience is;
Yet who knows not, conscience is born of love?
Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,
Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove.
For thou betraying me, I do betray
My nobler part to my gross body’s treason;
My soul doth tell my body that he may
Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason,
But rising at thy name, doth point out thee
As his triumphant prize. Proud of this pride,
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.
No want of conscience hold it that I call
Her ‘love,’ for whose dear love I rise and fall.

{see also Sonnet 129: “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame / Is lust in action”

“Eros In His Striped Blue Shirt” by Reginald Shepherd (1963-2008; New York, US; creative writing teacher, essayist) – from The World in Us: Lesbian and Gay Poetry of the New Wave

Eros in his striped blue shirt
and green plaid shorts goes strolling
through Juneau Park at eight o’clock
with only a hooded yellow windbreaker
for protection, trawling the bushes after work

while tugboats crawl the dark freshwater
outlook. Mist coming in not even from a sea, rain
later in the evening from Lake Michigan, a promise
like wait till your father gets home. The air

is full of fog and botched seductions, reluctance
of early summer to arrive. It’s fifty-five degrees
in June, the bodies can barely be made out
leaning on picnic tables under trees or (…)

“Fourth Song” by Philip Sidney, Sir (1554-1586; Penshurst, Kent, UK; courtier, scholar, soldier) – from The New Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse

Only joy, now here you are,
Fit to hear and ease my care;
Let my whispering voice obtain,
Sweet reward for sharpest pain;
Take me to thee, and thee to me.
No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.

Night hath closed all in her cloak,
Twinkling stars love-thoughts provoke:
Danger hence good care doth keep,
Jealousy itself doth sleep;
Take me to thee, and thee to me.
No, no, no, no, my dear, let be. (…)

“Summer Storm” by Louis Simpson (1923-2012; Jamaica; teacher, translator, essayist)
– from The Oxford Book of Sonnets

In that so sudden summer storm they tried
Each bed, couch, closet, carpet, car-seat, table,
Both river banks, five fields, a mountain side,
Covering as much ground as they were able.

A lady, coming on them in the dark
In a white fixture, wrote to the newspapers
Complaining of the statues in the park.
By Cupid, but they cut some pretty capers! (…)

“Pursuing beauty, men descry” by Thomas Southerne (1660-1746; Oxmantown, Dublin, Ireland; playwright) – from The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse

Pursuing beauty, men descry
The distant shore and long to prove
(Still richer in variety)
The treasures of the land of love.

We women, like weak Indians, stand
Inviting from our golden coast
The wandering rovers to our land:
But she who trades with ’em is lost.

With humble vows they first begin,
Stealing unseen into the heart;
But, by possession settled in,
They quickly act another part. (…) by John M. Strudwick, 1888 (scene from Spenser’s The Faerie Queen) (source)

“And in the midst of all, a fountaine stood” from The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser (1552/1553-1559; London, England) – from Erotic Literature: Twenty-Four Centuries of Sensual Writing

And in the midst of all a fountaine stood,
Of richest substance that on earth might bee,
So pure and shiny that the silver flood
Through every channell running one might see:
Most goodly it with curious ymageree
Was overwrought, and shapes of naked boyes,
Of which some seemd with lively jollitee
To fly about playing their wanton toyes,
Whylest others did them selves embay in liquid joys (…)

“The Source” by Jon Howie Stallworthy (1935-2014; London, England; anthologist, essayist, historian) – from The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology

The dead living in their memories
are, I am persuaded, the source
of all that we call instinct

Taking me into your body
you take me out of my own,
releasing an energy,
a spirit not mine alone (…)

“Sous-Entendu” by Anne Stevenson (b. 1933; essayist, literary critic, biographer of Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

Don’t think

that I don’t know
that as you talk to me
the hand of your mind
is inconspicuously
taking off my stocking,
moving in resourceful blindness
up along my thigh.

Don’t think
that I don’t know
that you know
everything I say
is a garment.

“To start with, grapple your opponent ‘round” by Strato (Straton) (100 AD; Sardis, Lydia, Turkey; anthologist) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

A. To start wit, grapple your opponent round
The waist, bestride and pin him to the ground.
B. You’re mad! For that I’m hardly competent,
Wrestling with boys is something different.
Withstand my onslaught, Cyris, hold your own!
Let’s practice together what you do alone.

{see also “A twelve-year-old looks fetching in his prime”}

“Upon My Lady Carlisle’s Walking in Hampton Court Garden” by John Suckling (1609-1641; London, England; inventor of the card game cribbage) – from The Cavalier Poets: An Anthology

Didst thou not find the place inspired,
And flowers, as if they had desired
No other sun, start from their beds,
And for a sight steal out their heads?
Heardst thou not music when she talked?
And didst not find that as she walked
She threw rare perfumes all about,
Such as bean-blossoms newly out,
Or chafèd spices give?—

I must confess those perfumes, Tom,
I did not smell; nor found that from
Her passing by ought sprung up new.
The flowers had all their birth from you;
For I passed o’er the self-same walk
And did not find one single stalk
Of anything that was to bring
This unknown after-after-spring. (…)

“Aholibah” by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909; London, England; playwright, novelist, literary critic, essayist; contributor to Encyclopædia Britannica)
– from Chapters into Verse, Vol. I: Genesis to Malachi

IN the beginning God made thee
A woman well to look upon,
Thy tender body as a tree
Whereon cool wind hath always blown
Till the clean branches be well grown.

There was none like thee in the land;
The girls that were thy bondwomen
Did bind thee with a purple band
Upon thy forehead, that all men
Should know thee for God’s handmaiden.

Strange raiment clad thee like a bride,
With silk to wear on hands and feet
And plates of gold on either side:
Wine made thee glad, and thou didst eat
Honey, and choice of pleasant meat. (…)

“Arrowhead Christian Center and No-Smoking Luncheonette” by Janet Sylvester (b. 1950; Cambridge, Massachusetts, US; professor)
– from Real Things: An Anthology of Popular Culture in American Poetry

Arthur sauntered over to me
with a sheet of yellow paper that said:
I, blank blank, room for my name, do renounce fornication,
smoking, dancing, and so one. I will take on the Lord.
I signed. He asked me out. I had heard that about Arthur.
“Oh Arthur, you’re so crazy,” I said
as we warmed up his white Chevrolet.
Later, when all the windows were steamy, he kissed me
without opening his lips (…)

“A lusty wench as nimble as an eel” by John Taylor (1578-1653; Gloucester, Gloucestershire, UK; waterman, travel writer) – from The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse

A lusty wench as nimble as an eel
Would give a gallant leave to kiss and feel;
His itching humour straightway was in hope
To toy, to wanton, dally, buss and grope.
‘Hold, sir,’ quoth she, ‘My word I will not fail,
For you shall feel my hand, and kiss my t_.’

“Men” by Dora Teitelboim (1900) – from Proletpen: America’s Rebel Yiddish Poets

Every step the sidewalks span:
A gauge,
a scale,
a microscope,
stripping my dress to its last thread
ready for free-exchange (…)

“Nine Times a Night” by Unknown English (Frankie Armstrong rendition)
– from Erotic Literature: Twenty-Four Centuries of Sensual Writing

A rambling young sailor to London came down,
He’d been paid off his ship in old Liverpool town.
When they asked who he was, well, he answered them, “Right,
I do belong to a family called nine times a night.”

A buxom young widow who still wore her weeds,
Well, her husband had left her his money and deeds,
And resolved she was on her conjugal rights
To soften her sorrow with nine times a night.

So she sent for her serving girls Ann and Amelia
To keep a look out for this wonderful sailor.
And if ever by chance he appeared in their sight
They should bring her the glad tidings of nine times a night. (…)

“Balanide 2” by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896; Metz, France; decadent movement)
– from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Gland, point suprême de l’être,
De mon maître,
De mon amant adoré
Qu’accueille, avec joie et crainte
Ton étreinte
Mon heureux cul, perforé

Tant et tant par ce gros membre
Qui se cambre,
Se gonfle et, tout glorieux
De ses hauts faits et prouesses,
Dans les fesses
Fonce en élans furieux.

Gland, the supreme point of being,
From my master,
From my beloved lover
What welcomes, with joy and fear
Your embrace
My happy ass, perforated

So much and so much by this big member
Who arches,
Swells and, all glorious
Of his great deeds and prowess,
In the buttocks
Dash in furious elk. (…) (google translate)

{see also “Mille o tre” (Thousands and Three): “My lovers do not belong to the two rich classes”}

“The Cabin-Boy” by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628-1687; London, England; pamphleteer, satirist, playwright, soldier, courtier)
– from The New Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse

Nay, he could sail a yacht, both nigh and large,
Knew how to trim a boat, and steer a barge:
Could say his compass, to the nation’s joy,
And swear as well as any cabin-boy.
But not one lesson of the ruling art
Could this dull blockhead ever get by heart;
Look over all the universal frame.
There’s not a thing the will of man can name,
In which this ugly perjur’d rogue delights,
But ducks and loit’ring, butter’d buns, and Whites.

“In May’s gaud gown and ruby reckoning” by Karen Volkman (b. 1967; Miami, Florida; teacher, essayist) – from Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century

In May’s gaud gown and ruby reckoning
the old saw wind repeats a colder thing.

Says, you are the bluest body I ever seen.
Says, dance that skeletal startle the way I might.

Radius, ulna, a catalogue of flex.
What do you think you’re grabbing

with those gray hands? What do you think
you’re hunting, cat-mouth creeling (…)

“A Tall Tale; or, A Moral Song” by Phyllis Webb (b. 1927; Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; creative writing professor, radio broadcaster, anthologist)
– from The Broadview Anthology of Poetry

The whale, improbable as lust,
carved out a cave
for the seagirl’s rest;
with rest the seagirl, sweet as dust, devised
a manner for the whale
to lie between her thighs.
Like this they lay
within the shadowed cave
under the waters, under the waters wise,
and nested there, and nested there and stayed,
this coldest whale aslant the seagirl’s thighs. (…)

“Native Moments” by Walt Whitman (1819-1892; West Hills, New York, US; essayist, journalist) – from The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry

NATIVE moments! when you come upon me—Ah you are here now!
Give me now libidinous joys only!
Give me the drench of my passions! Give me life coarse and rank!
To-day, I go consort with nature’s darlings—to-night too;
I am for those who believe in loose delights—I share the midnight orgies of young men;
I dance with the dancers, and drink with the drinkers;
The echoes ring with our indecent calls;
I take for my love some prostitute—I pick out some low person for my dearest friend,
He shall be lawless, rude, illiterate—he shall be one condemn’d by others for deeds done;
I will play a part no longer—Why should I exile myself from my companions?
O you shunn’d persons! I at least do not shun you,
I come forthwith in your midst—I will be your poet,
I will be more to you than to any of the rest.

“For What It’s Worth” from Kora in Hell: Improvisations 1  by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963; Rutherford, New Jersey, US; novelist, short-story writer, playwright, physician; Modernist, Imagist) – from Models of the Universe: an Anthology of the Prose Poem

For what it’s worth: Jacob Louslinger, white haired, stinking, dirty bearded, cross eyed, stammer tongued, broken voiced, bent backed, ball kneed, cave bellied, mucous faced—deathling,—found lying in the weeds “up there by the cemetery.” “Looks to me as if he d been bumming around the meadows for a couple of weeks.” Shoes twisted into incredible lilies: out at the toes, heels, tops, sides, soles. Meadow flower! ha, mallow! at last I have you. (Rot dead marigolds—an acre at a time! Gold, are you?) Ha, clouds will touch world’s edge and the great pink mallow stand singly in the wet, topping reeds and a closet full of clothes and good shoes and my-thirty-year’s-master’s-daughter’s two cows for me to care for and a winter room with a fire in it—. I would rather feed pigs in Moonachie and chew calamus root and break crab’s claws at an open fire: age’s lust loose!

“Spontaneous Me” by Walt Whitman (1819-1892; West Hills, New York, US; essayist, journalist) – from The Norton Anthology of American Literature

Spontaneous me, Nature,
The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with,
The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder,
The hill-side whiten’d with blossoms of the mountain ash,
The same, late in autumn—the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and light and dark green,
The rich coverlid of the grass—animals and birds—the private untrimm’d bank—
the primitive apples—the pebble-stones,
Beautiful dripping fragments—the negligent list of one after another, as I happen to call
them to me, or think of them, (…)

{see also “I Am He That Aches with Love”}

viper-witherfrom George Wither’s Emblem Book, illustrated by Gabriel Rollenhagen and Crispin van Passe, 1635 (source)

“Women, as some men say, unconstant be” by George Wither (1588-1667; Bentworth, Hampshire, UK; pamphleteer, satirist) – from The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse

Women, as some men say, unconstant be;
’Tis like enough, and so no doubt are men:
Nay, if their scapes we could so plainly see,
I fear that scarce there will be one for ten.
Men have but their own lusts that tempt to ill:
Women had lusts and men’s allurements too:
Alas, if their strengths cannot curb their will,
What should poor women, that are weaker, do?
O, they had meed be chaste and look about them,
That strive ’gainst lust within and knives without them.

“Unwarily so was never no man caught” by Thomas Wyatt, Sir (1503-1542; Allington Castle, Kent, US; ambassador) – from The Oxford Book of English Verse

  UNWARILY so was never no man caught,
With steadfast look upon a goodly face,
As I of late: for suddenly, methought,
My heart was torn out of his place.
Though mine eye the stroke from hers did slide,
And down directly to my heart it ran;
In help whereof the blood did glide,
And left my face both pale and wan.
Then was I like a man for woe amazed,
Or like the fowl that fleeth into the fire;
For while that I upon her beauty gazed,
The more I burn’d in my desire. (…)

“That Man” by Reginald Shepherd
“Trying to Sleep on My Father’s Couch and Staring at the Fractured Plaster, I Recall” by Barnstone
“My Required Tool” by Justin Cain
“8 O’Clock Defeat. Approximately” by Christopher Cook
“Copula” by John Cope
“Natural Functions” by Jonathan Cott
“For a Lady’s Summons of Non-Entry” by William Drummond
The Obscure: “It’s the poor first light of morning” by Norman Dubie
“In Kind” by Linda France
“New York Spring” by Linda France
“I Feel Unattractive during Mating Season” by Cindy Goff
“New Comers” by Melinda Goodman
“To His Importunate Mistress” by Paul Griffin
“Epithalamium: Hymen hath together tied” by Hatton
“Doggerel for the Great Czech Phallometer” by Richard Katrovas
“Seven Deadly Sins” by Yusef Komunyakaa
“Tarzan” by Jaime Manrique
“Out of the house or be the wife I want” by Martial
“Dirge in Jazz Time” by Vassar Miller
“Tomato” by Tatyana Milova
“I Dreamt of Lasca” by Jack E. Murphy
“I don’t know as I get what D.H. Lawrence is driving at” by Frank O’Hara
“Love Poem” by Barbara J. Orton
“Dog Star” by Gerry Gomez Pearlberg
“Coition’s brief, a nasty cheat” by Petronious Arbiter
“The Curve of your lips” by Olga Popova
“Rockstar Poet” by Elizabeth Rees
“Lady Macbeth, Afterward” by Edwin Romond
“A Bitch” by Anna Swirszcrynska
“Midnight already and you are still not here” by Unknown
“Oh springtime of unquenched desires” by Unknown Afghani
“He’s an awkward bedfellow and I love to keep” by Verlaine
“The Imperfect Enjoyment” by William Walsh

One thought on “Lust”

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