A man in terror of impotence
or infertility, not knowing the difference . . . .
                                             Adrienne Rich
We live in dread of something:
Need, perhaps. Tears,
the air inside a woman's dress,
the deep breath of non-ambition.
In a valley of stone,
men had to carry stones.
In a sea of fertility,
women could drown
in the wake of conceptions.
We no longer build in stone—
houses of rice paper, beds
of feather. Manhood
is the one stone we still
insist on, lifting it
From abandoned quarries,
carrying it on our backs
even when we make love,
until the woman beneath us
calls passion a kind of
Suffocation, surfaces for air
like a young child whose head
has been pushed beneath the water,
a way to learn swimming.
Did you come? we ask,
her head bobbing above the brine
that pours from us. Applause
is what we want now,
Her wet hands
clapping in the last wind
before she sinks again,
before she holds us again
so tight we both plunge
like a cry for help
into the water,
Before we fall to the bottom—
Stones
not even the fish
will pause to tell apart.
 
From Sympathetic Magic, published by Water Mark Press in 1980. Copyright © 1980 by Michael Blumenthal. Used by permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

Be Kind by Michael Blumenthal
Not merely because Henry James said
Fish Fucking by Michael Blumenthal
Jew by Michael Blumenthal
The melancholy of Chopin and cruel breathing
Manners by Michael Blumenthal
Just because a man pulls out your chair for you
Night Baseball by Michael Blumenthal
At night, when I go out to the field
Suburban by Michael Blumenthal
Conformity caught here, nobody catches it
The Difference between a Child and a Poem by Michael Blumenthal
If you are terrified of your own death
The Nurse by Michael Blumenthal
Now come the purple garments, now the white
United Jewish Appeal by Michael Blumenthal
My grandmother was eighty-nine and blind


Further Reading

Poems about Gender
Blur
by Andrew Hudgins
Children in a Field
by Angela Shaw
Fast Speaking Woman [excerpt]
by Anne Waldman
I, Being born a Woman and Distressed (Sonnet XLI)
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Ontario
by Mark Levine
poem in praise of menstruation
by Lucille Clifton
poem to my uterus
by Lucille Clifton
Sci-Fi
by Tracy K. Smith
Songs of a Girl
by Mary Carolyn Davies
The Poster Girl’s Defence
by Carolyn Wells
Poems About Passion and Sex
9.
by E. E. Cummings
Canterbury Tales, Wife of Bath's Prologue [Excerpt]
by Geoffrey Chaucer
A Greek Island
by Edward Hirsch
A Sequence
by Leslie Scalapino
Almost There
by Timothy Liu
Antique
by Arthur Rimbaud
Arts & Sciences
by Philip Appleman
At the Touch of You
by Witter Bynner
Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm
by Carl Phillips
Because I cannot remember my first kiss
by Roger Bonair-Agard
Blue
by May Swenson
Boston
by Aaron Smith
Carrefour
by Amy Lowell
corydon & alexis, redux
by D. A. Powell
Elegy 5
by Ovid
Erotic Energy
by Chase Twichell
First Turn to Me...
by Bernadette Mayer
Fish Fucking
by Michael Blumenthal
Fixed
by Christopher Stackhouse
In Praise of Shame
by Lord Alfred Douglas
Kinky
by Denise Duhamel
Libido
by Rupert Brooke
Me in Paradise
by Brenda Shaughnessy
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers
by Michael Ryan
National Nudist Club Newsletter
by Wayne Koestenbaum
No Platonic Love
by William Cartwright
Novel
by Arthur Rimbaud
Poems of Passion and Sex
Prague
by Khadijah Queen
Privilege of Being
by Robert Hass
Safe Sex
by Donald Hall
Sex
by Michael Ryan
Song
by James Joyce
The Ecstasy
by Phillip Lopate
The Elephant is Slow to Mate
by D.H. Lawrence
The Hug
by Thom Gunn
To His Mistress Going to Bed
by John Donne
Undressing You
by Witter Bynner
Wild Rose
by Bryher
XIII
by César Vallejo
Year of the Tiger
by Miguel Murphy