Complete Semen Study
morphology: “pinheads”: 2 percent
Laborious, stumpy, droopy, askew,
blundering into one another
while the healthy sperm zips by like the varsity water polo team
on their way to a party with the best-looking cheerleaders —
unbeautiful losers, unfittest and unmourned,
O my five-hundred-thousand-or-so pinheads
floundering in this plastic cup’s murky bottom,
what would you do to be half of someone?
Wank it sitting on the toilet in a fluorescent
pea-green hospital bathroom while learning to juggle one-handed
one cup and three brown-bagged Penthouses
offered by the deadpan female lab attendant?
You’d want it anyplace, I think.
They’d tie your wrists if you had wrists
to stop your rubbing off on fireplugs and brick buildings,
much less on a hand’s elastic flesh
you’re too dim to recognize is your own.
You’re the ones who can’t be taken to church
because you hump the pew cushions
while the rest of us are praying,
and try to straddle the priest’s leg like a puppy
while he exchanges an inspirational word or two
with each of his congregation as they file from the service.
I, on the other hand, am too mature for this.
The Pet-of-the-Month could almost be my granddaughter.
My metabolism has decelerated
to that of an elderly Galapagos tortoise
I could do very well all day sunning myself
under a thick, warm shell, and could easily take the next century
to burn the calories in a slice of pizza.
In the world for which my body was designed
I would have checked out long ago,
immolated at the ritual bonfire by my two hundred great-grandchildren
roasting a mammoth in my honor,
dancing for days stoned on sacred leaf juice,
and intermarrying like howler monkeys in the bushes.
It’s no doubt due to nights like this
that you weakened and malformed
and case your own watery tails until you decompose
into what the complete semen study classifies as “debris.”
The doctors say it’s age or car exhaust or groundwater toxins
or they-don’t-know-what, but eons ago there must have been a boy
waiting for the dopey old patriarch to die
so he could do his sister sweaty and writhing in the firelight.
If their child, slow-witted and guileless,
showed the endearing but useless gift
to greet everyone’s spirit no matter their status,
they might have thrown him the bones the dogs had finished with,
which is how they fed the shunned and the shamed,
unbeautiful losers, unfittest and unmourned,
O my five-hundred-thousand-or-so pinheads
floundering in this plastic cup’s murky bottom
I hereby hand over or removal and disposal
to the now surgically gloved
deadpan female lab attendant.
Rushing around these days preparing for an intense next (at least) six months, I feel a sense of premature loss. I know that I will be unable to continue reading as much or at the furious pace I have maintained for the last (almost) two years. This may, in fact, even be the last of these recap posts that I put together for a while because I simply doubt that I will have the time, nor will I have read enough to make these recaps worthwhile. This is not to say that they have been worthwhile in a wider sense (as in, useful to anyone but me). Indulgence at its finest. And now, I shall not have time to indulge in quite this way.
Knowing that this moment of bittersweet “parting” from leisurely, if voracious and greedy, reading was coming to an end, I spent most of August trying to work my way through things I’d begun reading and hadn’t finished, and through the list of books I’d already purchased but hadn’t seen fit to dive into yet. As of August 20, when I started drafting this, I had read 32 books, which is a good bit more ambitious than July’s 23 books. I hope to finish at least 10 more before the month ends (done). I don’t necessarily place stock in keeping a running tally on this, and it is not about quantity, as I keep having to explain to people. It’s just so satisfying to keep devouring such different writings from all over the world. Just this month, to note the diversity, I swung from Novica Tadić‘s spare poetry to Ousmane Sembène‘s Xala, both loved, from the complete Martha Quest/Children of Violence series by Doris Lessing (which I mostly disliked, wanting to kill Quest by the end, but nevertheless persevered) to non-fiction about hormones…
I don’t really know how much or what kinds of things I will find time to read, as I will be up to my eyeballs in formal study. That said, I am still the kind of weirdo who gets distracted looking for one thing – a poem I thought was written by Irving Feldman but was actually written by Michael Ryan that references semen – only to stumble on a good many clinical studies on semen quality, and I was drawn to/nearly obsessed with reading all those studies and their outcomes. And why? Who knows? Why was I so obsessed with teeth last year (and still)?
How difficult will it be to feel as though I am (if temporarily) giving this up?
Thoughts on reading for August:
I don’t have words for this, for William Stafford. Unrivaled beauty, poetry… the only book I read in August to which I gave a five-star (of five) rating – without reservation.
Laux’s poetry often sets me on fire. I have to read the work again and again, and find my throat has gone dry.
Good – really good
While I didn’t love White is for Witching, it – like Boy, Snow, Bird (which I loved last month) – delivered unusual characters that kept me in the story and unable to stop until the end. I think that’s what I enjoy about Oyeyemi – characters and character development.
“White is for witching, a colour to be worn so that all other colours can enter you, so that you may use them. At a pinch, cream will do.”
It was one of those nights when I found myself revisiting the poetry of Tomaž Šalamun – probably my favorite poet from Slovenia – when I was reminded of Andrej Blatnik. For me, these are the true exports of Slovenia – not a certain “be best” First Lady.
I was charmed by Blatnik’s ability to write a complete short story in often only a few words. Not perfect but quite arresting in its way.
Entertaining/informative/thoughtful or some combination thereof
Poetry – poetry – poetry. Usually the poetry I read makes it into the “highly recommended” (must not miss) category, but this month I read a lot of solid poetry that is nevertheless nothing I want to revisit and don’t necessarily think anyone else needs to either. But poetry is very personal, if you like it at all, so it’s not really for me to say.
I don’t think I ran into any coincidences this month… at least none worth noting.
Biggest disappointment (or hated/disliked)
*The entire Children of Violence series – Doris Lessing
It probably isn’t so much disappointment because I had no expectations, but by the time I finished reading Doris Lessing’s Children of Violence series, I wanted to kill Martha Quest and all the other characters populating these books. Still, I could not quite not finish… I also cannot say what it is about them/this series that I hate so much. Not that there are not flashes of what the Nobel committee must have seen when they gave Lessing her Nobel for lit – although who can trust that institution these days? Some timely and timeless observations:
“He went so far, carried away by the official in him, as to make various sound remarks about the unsuitability of danger for women. She thought he must be joking; nothing is more astonishing to young women than the ease with which men, even intelligent and liberal-minded men, lapse back into that anonymous voice of authority whenever their own personal authority is threatened, saying things of a banality and a pomposity infinitely removed from their own level of thinking.” – from A Proper Marriage
Yes, afraid of marriage perhaps, but sometimes the sea and sand underfoot warm and soften the idea of being eternally bound.
It’s March. And was it really, truly a year ago since that other thing happened?
–Michael RyanThe love we’ve defined for ourselvesin privacy, in suffering,keeps both of us lonely as a fist,but does intimacy mean a happy ending?I’m afraid of marriage.Driving past them at night, the shadowson a drawn curtain hide terrible lives:a father stuck in a job, his daughteropening her blouse to strangers.And your hands, for example,like a warm liquid on my facedon’t evaporate as you take them away.Nor are our betrayals silent,although we listen only in passing.We’re learning how to walk unlit streets,to see threats instead of trees,the right answer to a teenageropening his knife. The answer is yes.Always we couldn’t do otherwise.
Where I’ll Be GoodWanting leads to worse than oddity.The bones creak like bamboo in wind,and strain toward a better life outside the body,the life anything has that isn’t human.Feel the chair under you? What does it want?Does lust bend it silly, like a rubber crutch?Tell a tree about the silky clasp of cunt.It won’t shift an inch. It won’t ache to touch.Let me not cruise for teens in a red sports car,or glare too long at what bubbles their clothes.Let me never hustle file clerks in a bar.Keep me from the beach when the hot wind blows.If I must go mad, let it be dignified.Lock me up where I’ll feel like wood,where wanting won’t send me flopping outside,where my bones will shut up, where I’ll be good.