hedgehog jammed

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An odd convergence of thoughts and imagery appears. That which appears in this Larkin poem (a hedgehog jammed into the lawnmower blades), that which I conjure up when I think of the Czech poem “Half a Hedgehog” and the dual thought of a Nemerov poem referring to “power mowers” and a book I read that dealt with language misunderstanding/mishearing (in which someone had misunderstood and written the term “paramour” as “power mower”).

Oddly, as irreverent as it may seem, I discovered this poem the same day as someone close to me lost a very close friend suddenly. I was preparing it to include here when I heard the news of this shocking death, and suddenly these words had new and urgent relevance: “the first day after a death, the new absence/Is always the same; we should be careful/Of each other, we should be kind/While there is still time.”

The Mower
Philip Larkin
The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

strange fate of mannequins

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It is no secret that I have always been a bit afraid of mannequins. They continue to freak me out.

To the Mannequins
Howard Nemerov
Adorable images,
Plaster of Paris
Lilies of the field,
You are not alive, therefore
Pathos will be out of place.

But I have learned
A strange fact about your fate,
And it is this:

After you go out of fashion
Beneath your many fashions,
Or when your elbows and knees
Have been bruised powdery white,
So that you are no good to anybody—

They will take away your gowns,
Your sables and bathing suits,
Leaving exposed before all men
Your inaccessible bellies
And pointless nubilities.

Movers will come by night
And load you all into trucks
And take you away to the Camps,
Where soldiers, or the State Police,
Will use you as targets
For small-arms practice,

Leading me to inquire,
Since pathos is out of place,
What it is that they are practicing.

“daylong, nightlong, interminable grind”

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Reading Pornography in Old Age
Howard Nemerov

Unbridled licentiousness with no holds barred,
Immediate and mutual lust, satisfiable
In the heat, upon demand, aroused again
And satisfied again, lechery unlimited.

Till space runs out at the bottom of the page
And another pair of lovers, forever young,
Prepotent, endlessly receptive, renews
The daylong, nightlong, interminable grind.

How decent it is, and how unlike our lives
Where “Fuck you” is a term of vengeful scorn
And the murmur of “sorry, partner” as often heard
As ever in mixed doubles or at bridge.

Though I suspect the stuff is written by
Elderly homosexuals manacled to their
Machines, it’s mildly touching all the same,
A reminiscence of the life that was in Eden

Before the Fall, when we were beautiful
And shameless, and untouched by memory:
Before we were driven out to the laboring world
Of the money and the garbage and the kids

In which we read this nonsense and are moved
At all that was always lost for good, in which
We think about sex obsessively except
During the act, when our minds tend to wander.

Sexuality

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In my experience, anyone who avidly, eagerly gives voice to his own ‘sexual generosity’, talking it up, is fooling himself. Why would you need to brag if your prowess speaks for itself? Also in my experience, straight men are the only people who, generally speaking, do this. (Always exceptions, of course.) They are, quite often, as with many other aspects of life, a lot of talk and very little action – and this mismatch between saying and doing leads to a whole hell of a lot of dissatisfaction and frustration.

Thus, it comes as no surprise to me or anyone else to learn that a recent survey concludes that lesbians give women far more orgasms than men.

“You could say that straight women are least likely to achieve orgasm during sex, but it’s just as true to say that if you have sex with a straight man, you’ve chosen the demographic least likely to make you come.”

I’m ignoring the “you’ve chosen” statement above, as most people don’t choose their sexual orientation or the ‘demographic’ from whom they seek sexual pleasure (although I grant that anyone could at any time choose to have an experience with just about anyone if they want to). But clearly the idea that it’s a choice is still something pervasive for a lot of people. When I shared the original article via social media, there was the inevitable comment: “So are you converting?” Could there be a more idiotic question? It’s no wonder things are the way they are in the world. Even if there were a choice, this assumption that someone would choose the option where she gets more sexual completion ignores all the other parts of interaction and relationships?! As if the orgasm is the only thing that matters to anyone in the long run. I guess we know where the person who would ask this question places importance.

The survey attempts obvious explanations, e.g. women intimately know the anatomy of other women, so of course they will give each other more orgasms. I tend to agree with the article in that it criticizes this glib conclusion. Every woman (and man) is different and responds to stimuli differently. Even ignoring interpersonal, individual chemistry, it does not come down to mechanics and technique alone, although those factors help. The article points out – not that this will come as any surprise either – that heterosexual sex is, implicitly, focused on the man’s pleasure and outcome first and foremost, so when it’s done for the man, the whole experience is done.

And, as poet Howard Nemerov will remind us anyway – and this is probably true for all of us, no matter our orientation, gender or age – “We think about sex obsessively except
During the act, when our minds tend to wander.”

Reading Pornography in Old Age
-Howard Nemerov

Unbridled licentiousness with no holds barred,
Immediate and mutual lust, satisfiable
In the heat, upon demand, aroused again
And satisfied again, lechery unlimited.

Till space runs out at the bottom of the page
And another pair of lovers, forever young,
Prepotent, endlessly receptive, renews
The daylong, nightlong, interminable grind.

How decent it is, and how unlike our lives
Where “Fuck you” is a term of vengeful scorn
And the murmur of “sorry, partner” as often heard
As ever in mixed doubles or at bridge.

Though I suspect the stuff is written by
Elderly homosexuals manacled to their
Machines, it’s mildly touching all the same,
A reminiscence of the life that was in Eden

Before the Fall, when we were beautiful
And shameless, and untouched by memory:
Before we were driven out to the laboring world
Of the money and the garbage and the kids

In which we read this nonsense and are moved
At all that was always lost for good, in which
We think about sex obsessively except
During the act, when our minds tend to wander.

Sin-o-matic (Okay – cinematic is what I meant…) and middle-aged sex lives

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To accompany a stack of bureaucratic kind of stuff I needed to do this weekend but had been shuttling off to some dark corner for “another day”, I decided to watch a bunch of films (or half-watch, as was sometimes the case). Strangely when binge watching in that kind of succession, I don’t remember everything I watched. The other night I saw a decade-old Japanese film called Quill, about the life and training of a dog that went on to be a service dog (and its eventual death). I can only remark that the Japanese make fascinatingly weird movies and observations, and I am always astounded by how much Japanese I actually remember. (It is definitely a use-it-or-lose-it language, but its grammatical simplicity lends itself to quick recall – at least for me.)

As for today’s viewing, I cannot even remember what I watched. I remember In a World because it just finished now. I expected to hate it because Lake Bell normally grates on me hard – and a vehicle that is written and directed by and starred in by HER – could I expect something positive? Expect, no. But be pleasantly surprised – yes.

But what else? I was in and out of the house all day, doing these bureaucratic tasks and baking some muffins – meaning that the films weren’t really my priority. And there were some tv shows thrown into it just to mix things up (and mix up my memory). I saw a German film called Lore (since World War II stories so ably buoy one’s spirits…). And a French film called Sexual Chronicles of a French Family. And then… what? There was something earlier that completely slipped my mind until I was semi-immersed (when I was not in the middle of making a frittata, anyway) in the Sexual Chronicles film – the discussions on middle-aged (and older) sex lives made me feel a kind of strange melancholy, made me think a bit of a poem from Howard Nemerov (“Reading Pornography in Old Age”*) and then took me back a few hours to the film I had seen earlier in the day – Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini (one of his, if not the, last roles). They are two regular, divorced, middle-aged people navigating the dating world, which – by their portrayal – makes it look just as awkward and fraught with missteps as dating at every other stage in life (even if things start out auspiciously enough – as though they have both gotten past insecurities and issues that tripped them up in earlier life). Yes, middle-aged, divorced dating movies, despite the sweetness of this one and its charming, funny and self-deprecating dialogue, depress me.

Hmm. And that’s enough said.

I leave you in Nemerov’s capable hands.

*Reading Pornography in Old Age

Unbridled licentiousness with no holds barred,
Immediate and mutual lust, satisfiable
In the heat, upon demand, aroused again
And satisfied again, lechery unlimited.

Till space runs out at the bottom of the page
And another pair of lovers, forever young,
Prepotent, endlessly receptive, renews
The daylong, nightlong, interminable grind.

How decent it is, and how unlike our lives
Where “Fuck you” is a term of vengeful scorn
And the murmur of “sorry, partner” as often heard
As ever in mixed doubles or at bridge.

Though I suspect the stuff is written by
Elderly homosexuals manacled to their
Machines, it’s mildly touching all the same,
A reminiscence of the life that was in Eden

Before the Fall, when we were beautiful
And shameless, and untouched by memory:
Before we were driven out to the laboring world
Of the money and the garbage and the kids

In which we read this nonsense and are moved
At all that was always lost for good, in which
We think about sex obsessively except
During the act, when our minds tend to wander.