The elephant, the huge old beast, is slow to mate; he finds a female, they show no haste they wait for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts slowly, slowly to rouse as they loiter along the river-beds and drink and browse and dash in panic through the brake of forest with the herd, and sleep in massive silence, and wake together, without a word. So slowly the great hot elephant hearts grow full of desire, and the great beasts mate in secret at last, hiding their fire. Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts so they know at last how to wait for the loneliest of feasts for the full repast. They do not snatch, they do not tear; their massive blood moves as the moon-tides, near, more near till they touch in flood.
It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined Half of the night with our old friend Who'd showed us in the end To a bed I reached in one drunk stride. Already I lay snug, And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side. I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug, Suddenly, from behind, In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed: Your instep to my heel, My shoulder-blades against your chest. It was not sex, but I could feel The whole strength of your body set, Or braced, to mine, And locking me to you As if we were still twenty-two When our grand passion had not yet Become familial. My quick sleep had deleted all Of intervening time and place. I only knew The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.
After the earth finally touches the sun, and the long explosion stops suddenly like a heart run down, the world might seem white and quiet to something that watches it in the sky at night, so something might feel small, and feel nearly human pain. But it won't happen again: the long nights wasted alone, what's done in doorways in the dark by the young, and what could have been for some. Think of all the lovers and the friends! Who does not gather his portion of them to himself. at least in his mind? Sex eased through everyone, even when slipping into death as into a beloved's skin, and prying out again to find the body slumped, muscles slack. and bones begun their turn to dust. Then no one minds when one lover holds another, like an unloaded sack. But the truth enters at the end of life. It enters like oxygen into every cell and the madness it feeds there in some is only a lucid metaphor for something long burned to nothing, like a star. How do you get under your desire? How do you peel away each desire like ponderous clothes, one at a time, until what's underneath is known? We knew genitals as small things and we were ashamed they led us around, even if the hill where we'd lie down was the same hill the universe unfolded upon all night, as we watched the stars, when for once our breathing seemed to blend. Each time, from that sweet pressure of hands, or the great relief of the mouth, a person can be led out of himself Isn't it lonely in the body? The myth says we ooze about as spirits until there's a body made to take us, and only flesh is created by sex. That's why we enter sex so relentlessly, toward the pleasure that comes when we push down far enough to nudge the spirit rising to release, and the pleasure is pleasure of pure spirit, for a moment all together again. So sex returns us to beginning, and we moan. Pure sex becomes specific and concrete in a caress of breast or slope of waist: it flies through itself like light, it sails on nothing like a wing, when someone's there to be touched, when there's nothing wrong. So the actual is touched in sex, like a breast through cloth: the actual rising plump and real, the mind darting about it like a tongue. This is where I wanted to be all along: up in the world, in touch with myself. . . Sex, invisible priestess of a good God, I think without you I might just spin off. I know there's no keeping you close, as you flick by underneath a sentence on a train, or transform the last thought of an old nun, or withdraw for one moment alone. Who tells you what to do or ties you down! I'd give up the rest to suck your dark lips. I'd give up the rest to fix you exact in the universe, at the wildest edge where there's no such thing as shape. What a shame I am, if reaching the right person in a dim room, sex holds itself apart from us like an angel in an afterlife, and, with the ideas no one has even dreamed, it wails its odd music for pure mind. After there's nothing, after the big blow-up of the whole shebang, what voice from what throat will tell me who I am? Each throat on which I would have quietly set my lips will be ripped like a cheap sleeve or blown apart like the stopped-up barrel of a gun. What was inside them all the time I wanted always to rest my mouth upon? I thought most everything stuck dartlike in the half-dome of my brain, and hung there like fake stars in a planetarium. It's true that things there changed into names, that even the people I loved were a bunch of signs, so I felt most often alone. This is a way to stay alive and nothing to bemoan. We know the first time we extend an arm: the body reaches so far for so long. We grow and love to grow, then stop, then lie down. I wanted to bear inside me this tender outcome. I wanted to know if it made sex happen: does it show up surely in touch and talk? does it leak from the mind, as heat from the skin? I wanted my touching intelligent, like a beautiful song.
Tell me no more of minds embracing minds, And hearts exchang'd for hearts; That spirits spirits meet, as winds do winds, And mix their subt'lest parts; That two unbodied essences may kiss, And then like Angels, twist and feel one Bliss. I was that silly thing that once was wrought To practise this thin love; I climb'd from sex to soul, from soul to thought; But thinking there to move, Headlong I rolled from thought to soul, and then From soul I lighted at the sex again. As some strict down-looked men pretend to fast, Who yet in closets eat; So lovers who profess they spririts taste, Feed yet on grosser meat; I know they boast they souls to souls convey, Howe'r they meet, the body is the way. Come, I will undeceive thee, they that tread Those vain aerial ways Are like young heirs and alchemists misled To waste their wealth and days, For searching thus to be for ever rich, They only find a med'cine for the itch.
Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.
I sing the body electric, The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them, They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them, And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul. Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves? And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead? And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself balks account, That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect. The expression of the face balks account, But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face, It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists, It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not hide him, The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth, To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more, You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side. The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the contour of their shape downwards, The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls silently to and from the heave of the water, The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the horse-man in his saddle, Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances, The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting, The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter in the garden or cow-yard, The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses through the crowd, The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown after work, The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance, The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes; The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps, The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes suddenly again, and the listening on the alert, The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv'd neck and the counting; Such-like I love--I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's breast with the little child, Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with the firemen, and pause, listen, count.
I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons, And in them the fathers of sons, and in them the fathers of sons. This man was a wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person, The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and beard, the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes, the richness and breadth of his manners, These I used to go and visit him to see, he was wise also, He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old, his sons were massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome, They and his daughters loved him, all who saw him loved him, They did not love him by allowance, they loved him with personal love, He drank water only, the blood show'd like scarlet through the clear-brown skin of his face, He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sail'd his boat himself, he had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner, he had fowling-pieces presented to him by men that loved him, When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish, you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of the gang, You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit by him in the boat that you and he might touch each other.
I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough, To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough, To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough, To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then? I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea. There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well, All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.
This is the female form, A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot, It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction, I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor, all falls aside but myself and it, Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what was expected of heaven or fear'd of hell, are now consumed, Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response likewise ungovernable, Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all diffused, mine too diffused, Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching, Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delirious nice, Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn, Undulating into the willing and yielding day, Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day. This the nucleus--after the child is born of woman, man is born of woman, This the bath of birth, this the merge of small and large, and the outlet again. Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the exit of the rest, You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul. The female contains all qualities and tempers them, She is in her place and moves with perfect balance, She is all things duly veil'd, she is both passive and active, She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as daughters. As I see my soul reflected in Nature, As I see through a mist, One with inexpressible completeness, sanity, beauty, See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female I see.
The male is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his place, He too is all qualities, he is action and power, The flush of the known universe is in him, Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him well, The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is utmost become him well, pride is for him, The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul, Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he brings every thing to the test of himself, Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes soundings at last only here, (Where else does he strike soundings except here?) The man's body is sacred and the woman's body is sacred, No matter who it is, it is sacred--is it the meanest one in the laborers' gang? Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf? Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as much as you, Each has his or her place in the procession. (All is a procession, The universe is a procession with measured and perfect motion.) Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant? Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has no right to a sight? Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, and the soil is on the surface, and water runs and vegetation sprouts, For you only, and not for him and her?
A man's body at auction, (For before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the sale,) I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business. Gentlemen look on this wonder, Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it, For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one animal or plant, For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd. In this head the all-baffling brain, In it and below it the makings of heroes. Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in tendon and nerve, They shall be stript that you may see them. Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition, Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not flabby, good-sized arms and legs, And wonders within there yet. Within there runs blood, The same old blood! the same red-running blood! There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings, aspirations, (Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in parlors and lecture-rooms?) This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers in their turns, In him the start of populous states and rich republics, Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and enjoyments. How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring through the centuries? (Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace back through the centuries?)
A woman's body at auction, She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers, She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers. Have you ever loved the body of a woman? Have you ever loved the body of a man? Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and times all over the earth? If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred, And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted, And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more beautiful than the most beautiful face. Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool that corrupted her own live body? For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.
O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you, I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the soul, (and that they are the soul,) I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and that they are my poems, Man's, woman's, child, youth's, wife's, husband's, mother's, father's, young man's, young woman's poems, Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears, Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids, Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges, Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition, Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue, Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest, Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones, Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger, finger-joints, finger-nails, Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side, Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone, Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root, Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above, Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg, Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel; All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body or of any one's body, male or female, The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean, The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame, Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity, Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman, The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings, The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud, Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming, Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening, The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes, The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair, The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body, The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out, The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees, The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones, The exquisite realization of health; O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul, O I say now these are the soul!
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond any experience,your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose or if your wish be to close me,i and my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending; nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility:whose texture compels me with the colour of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing (i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens;only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
I must not gaze at them although Your eyes are dawning day; I must not watch you as you go Your sun-illumined way; I hear but I must never heed The fascinating note, Which, fluting like a river reed, Comes from your trembing throat; I must not see upon your face Love's softly glowing spark; For there's the barrier of race, You're fair and I am dark.
Give me hunger, O you gods that sit and give The world its orders. Give me hunger, pain and want, Shut me out with shame and failure From your doors of gold and fame, Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger! But leave me a little love, A voice to speak to me in the day end, A hand to touch me in the dark room Breaking the long loneliness. In the dusk of day-shapes Blurring the sunset, One little wandering, western star Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow. Let me go to the window, Watch there the day-shapes of dusk And wait and know the coming Of a little love.
When you are old and grey and full of sleep, And nodding by the fire, take down this book, And slowly read, and dream of the soft look Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; How many loved your moments of glad grace, And loved your beauty with love false or true, But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, And loved the sorrows of your changing face; And bending down beside the glowing bars, Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled And paced upon the mountains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
I am not yours, not lost in you, Not lost, although I long to be Lost as a candle lit at noon, Lost as a snowflake in the sea. You love me, and I find you still A spirit beautiful and bright, Yet I am I, who long to be Lost as a light is lost in light. Oh plunge me deep in love—put out My senses, leave me deaf and blind, Swept by the tempest of your love, A taper in a rushing wind.
The fountains mingle with the river And the rivers with the ocean, The winds of heaven mix for ever With a sweet emotion; Nothing in the world is single, All things by a law divine In one another's being mingle— Why not I with thine? See the mountains kiss high heaven, And the waves clasp one another; No sister-flower would be forgiven If it disdain'd its brother; And the sunlight clasps the earth, And the moonbeams kiss the sea— What is all this sweet work worth If thou kiss not me?