Posts Tagged ‘physical’


a lot can be solved
by physical affection
— coming together
in mutually confirmed
blind ignorance of being

There were some terribly difficult dynamics at work, between colleagues, about a year ago. I found one person in particular above all quite problematic to relate to. Last night I dreamed I was with her, and that we were just on the verge of beginning to touch each other in a sexual way. I suppose you could call it flirting. Then I was being like that with a whole series of female colleagues, in the dream. It felt quite liberating. Earlier in my life for decades I was extremely uptight about touching women, whether sexually or just socially embracing. It’s so tempting to imagine I have made ‘progress’ in being more confident now. The dream kind of confirms this point of view. But I wanted to challenge it in the poem.



pelvis to pelvis
we understand each other
— while yet the entire
mystery, both of ourselves
and the universe, remains

Sexual coupling is such a deeply entrenched instinct, you don’t need to have done it in order to understand it. Anyone can understand John Donne’s poem The Extasie — as I did at the age of seventeen when I studied it at school, even though I was a virgin. Similarly, love that is unconsummated and/or unrequited still has so much of a sexual element, one is bound to wonder whether the presence or absence of physical sex actually means anything at all. In my life I have very often fallen in love with women and the love has been unconsummated or unrequited. Last night I dreamed of one of them, a girl named Judith Everard, who was my partner once a week at English Country Dancing when I was in my last year at Cambridge. Probably suggested by the plotline of Danny and the Human Zoo (autobiographical drama by Lenny Henry which I watched last night on BBC iPlayer).


our army’s skill, praised
this morning by the Dean of
St Paul’s Cathedral
— what a hypocrite I am,
nursing my moral outrage!

I suppose the thought here is that whatever moral outrage flickered momentarily into life, providing the impetus for this poem, was itself as violent (psychologically speaking) as the physical violence, murder, butchery being celebrated this morning in St Paul’s Cathedral. I tuned in very briefly to TV coverage of the service. I am not “a pacifist”. But I am 90% pacifist.


so why do women
get put on a pedestal
by men? — it’s as though
we want to elevate them
away from their own Being

And incidentally, away from ours — away anywhere — just away. I’m afraid this poem is itself something of a defence/barrier against the unsavoury content of last night’s dream. The great love of my life, at least through my teens and twenties, was a girl named Anna with whom I never had any degree of physical intimacy at all. But in my dream last night she was focused, to the exclusion of all else, upon achieving physical intimacy with me. It felt very undignified, even in the dream: so it’s perfectly clear the dream is bringing her down off a pedestal. The poem tries to do the same thing but I’ve noticed a circularity in the way the capitalization of my final word Being somehow restores her to her pedestal even though the sense of the poem is arguing completely against this tendency. Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan (the last two lines of Goethe’s Faust) is normally translated ‘The Eternal Feminine draws us upward’. But, via Google, I’ve found ‘Woman Eternal, draw us on high’ which seems better to me. Anyhow, either way, the fact Goethe chose to end Faust this way helps convey how deep-seated the whole pedestal thing is, in the male psyche.


I stare goggle-eyed,
drooling, as she undresses
— how I hate myself!
words drop from my mouth — empty,
hollow, hypocritical

It might be a better poem as a haiku, axing lines four and five altogether. Except that the whole point seemed to be not so much just the fact that I was admiring a woman physically, as that I then launched into a systematic denial of my own physicality and hers. I felt compelled (in the dream) to try and assure her that she was admired for so many more reasons than just her body. Of itself that might sound perfectly fine. But I could feel the hollowness and hypocrisy of what I was saying. I suspect there’s a resonance here with Rembrandt’s depiction of the Biblical story of Susannah (I saw the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery last weekend). But mainly I think this dream relates to a conversation at work yesterday. I used the word trauma, someone asked if I meant physical trauma or the more intangible kind. I referenced Peter Levine who writes books which I believe call into question whether the distinction would be really meaningful. It’s funny how we feel as though we’re disintegrating when we experience sexual desire. But the real enemy of integration, in the dream, is my rationalising mind.