Penises and Pussies: Not Your Ordinary Post

The other morning, I stumbled onto a new poem by Taylor Mali on his facebook page that was better than coffee for waking me up. The best thing about reading a Mali poem is that in my head I hear and see him performing it--he's a delight to watch and one of my favorite performers, period, right up there with William Shatner for knowing how to work a crowd with his enunciations and pauses.

The title alone is eye-popping: "Ode to the Desiccated Headless Carcass of a Squirrel (and Also to My Lover’s Waxed Pussy)." Who's going to pass by reading a poem with a title that incorporates headless squirrel bodies and waxed pussies? Thank gods it wasn't a cat, right, given the waxing and the whole lover bit?

It begins innocently:

"I used to think I knew what love was.
I used to think I knew what it looked like."

Thankfully it doesn't segue into it looking like a desiccated, headless squirrel corpse, although that would have been fascinating, but it does involve said squirrel:

"Listen, I may not know what love is,
but I know what it looks like:
It’s a beautiful, blond, naked girl,
with a waxed pussy, walking to the edge
of the woods carrying the desiccated
headless carcass of a squirrel."

This is bold, shocking, edgy, and funny. What a wonderful wakeup! And it immediately reminded me of another edgy poet, Nancy Mairs and her poem, "The Toy," in which the bather grows a penis, masturbates, and then the penis "withers" and washes down the drain.

Look, I may not know what good poetry is,
But I know what fun poetry sounds like: 
It is a poem, when reading aloud, 
that one can not get through without laughing,
partly in delight and partly like a skickering fourth grader.

It is a poem that, despite its surface shock power, 
offers truths up like diamonds:

"But this isn’t a poem about hours
spent staring deeply into the unobstructed
pink and tender face of God" (Mali).

It is a poem that leaves you wondering,
Is it significant: the growing, using and losing
Of a penis, of no more than momentary use?
Is that all she thinks of it, as a toy to be disposed of?

"In the steamy heat she breathed rapidly, pressing her buttocks
into the slick white enamel, and then groaned as the jet of
milky fluid spurted though her fingers.
The penis withered quickly. Soon it fell off. When she
pulled the plug, it disappeared into the whorl of the drain. She
stood up and scrubbed her oiled skin with a red towel." (Mairs)


Or are they both using words, penises and pussies, to feel them on the tongue, the sound, the hiddenness, the self-consciousness we feel at frank language in open places, when sex and the innermost mysteries are meant to somehow be left behind the closed and barred doors of the temple's most inner sanctums?
Mali's exalts and Mairs' reduces, and yet, together they are two sides of the same coin. We are exalted, catapulted outside of ourselves when we see the sacred between our partner and ourselves, and yet reduced to nothing more than a bodily function when we reduce that sacredness to a toy, a phantasm, with no meaning, no relevance, no function. Of course, it withers and washes away, leaving us less than.

1 comment:

E Fischer said...

It doesn't feel like it is meant to shock, though many would of course be horrified by the language. He seems to be taking a dream image and describing it, though personally I would hardly call it a poem. Reminds me of this piece, (written in 1981)
"I stare out at the world through my ceiling to floor window.
I see the homes and the people, the traffic.
The cashew nuts somehow feel arousing.
I use a towel. It feels good and dirty.
Yes, out there, good and dirty".