April 09, 2005

Sex, blood, and poetry

Another poem for . When I brought this one to class, students talked about the dominant culture's negative attitudes towards menstruation, sex, and the body, especially the female body. Both women and men came up with all kinds of slang about menstruation, most of which -- when we analyzed it -- implies that a menstruating woman is defective, unclean, or sexless. We talked about how many women in our culture have internalized negative attitudes towards their own bodies. There was a tangent about eating disorders. Students talked about how native women used moss instead of tampons, and how women living in community cycle together. We talked about native cultures in which women who are menstruating are considered to be at the height of their spiritual powers. One student said, "I like how poetry gets us talking about all sorts of taboo topics." Me too.

Love in Blood Time

When I saw my blood on your leg, the drops so
dark and clear, that real arterial red,
I could not even think about death, you
stood there smiling at me,
you squatted in the tub on your long haunches
and washed it away.
The large hard bud of your sex in my mouth,
the dark petals of my sex in your mouth,
I could feel death going farther and farther away,
forgetting me, losing my address, his
palm forgetting the curve of my cheek in his hand.
Then when we lay in the small glow of the
lamp and I saw your lower lip
glazed with light like liquid fire
I looked at you and I tell you I knew you were God
and I was God and we lay in our bed
on the dark cloud, and somewhere down there
was the earth, and somehow all we did, the
blood, the pink stippling of the head, the
peal fluid out of the slit, the
goodness of all we did would somehow get
down there, it would find its flowering in the world.

Sharon Olds


dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

Awesome poem, jo(e). Pobably one of the most viscerally descriptive poems I've read in a very long time. I can taste metal as I write this.

Do you ever relate this sort of thing out to Mary Douglas' Purity and Danger? Of course, it is preferable to have a case like yours where the students bring enough to the table that you don't have to add much yourself.

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

Sorry I can't spell (just petend I'm witing with a stuffy nose).

Laura said...

I love Sharon Olds. She's one of my favorite writers.

jo(e) said...

Dr. M: I am not familiar with Mary Douglas' work. But I just googled her .... and that is exactly the kind of stuff we talk about. More to add to my summer reading list.

Songbird said...

Wow. Just wow.

bitchphd said...

Wow, that is fantastic, and I had never read it. Thank you.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Love, love, love it! I'll pull this out and show it to Sergei next time I'm 'banished to the Red Tent'!

Terminaldegree said...


Students and profs would never be able to discuss this poem at the school where I teach.

Your students are lucky to have you.

delagar said...

I loves that Sharon Olds. I think she's my favorite poet working today.

Blogs are a lot of fun during poetry month.

Friday Mom said...

Another beautiful poem, Jo(e). I'm really beginning to wish I could take a poetry class with you. Your students are lucky to have someone who will help challenge the negative messages about women and their bodies, and provide alternative messages that promote a healthy understanding of gender and sexuality.