Posts Tagged ‘sex’

no choice

the gut argues for
sexual congress — never
such raw compulsion
as now — two bodies wholly
determined to do their thing

In 1969 Ian McKellen toured playing Marlowe’s Edward II, which I saw at the age of thirteen at the New Theatre Cardiff. Ironic, given at that point in my life I was oblivious to any homosexual feelings — nevertheless I was profoundly impressed and moved by the representation on stage of the historically fairly-accurate love affair between Edward II and his court favourite Piers Gaveston. Twenty years later, a dream told me that that particular couple had had ‘no choice’ — it had been fated — and I knew immediately, awake, that this had been my own feeling about my own gay love affair on which I embarked in 1971. Some decisions come from such a deep place that they can only be right however much misery and heartache they subsequently bring.

In my dream last night I was embracing another man’s wife. My poem describes the dynamic between us quite well. She was Judith whom I knew in 1977 by her maiden name of Everard. I was thoroughly smitten, but she was out of my league. Not in any carnal sense, for I don’t think she would have been interested in ‘sex before marriage’ in any case. But morally out of my league. She had a strength of character and integrity which I lacked. She has stayed firmly on a pedestal in my memory for the last forty years. It feels momentous to dream of her now as another man’s wife amenable to being seduced by me. I have dreamed of her reasonably often over the years, but cannot recall any similar dream where she comes down off her pedestal so decisively. In the dream, I was mainly concerned for my own unfaithfulness, not hers. I knew I’d betrayed Liz, and was looking desperately for ways of remedying the situation.

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hugs

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.

self-tolerance

threads of energy
— gloriously contorted,
intricate system
of twisted knots locked against
letting go — tolerate it!

Lots of assonance here for anyone who appreciates such things. This poem came to me after I had stepped back from the hopeless attempt to describe my dream literally in a poem. I dreamed a woman was initiating sexual contact by kissing me on the neck and then I was putting my hand up between her legs, exploring with a mixture of tentativeness and determination. It’s completely clear to me this dream has been suggested by a news item last night, involving graphic testimony from one of the girls who was groped on New Year’s Eve in Cologne. So the dream positions me as one of the gropers. How do I deal with that? I fell to reflecting on the business of dream interpretation. Our sexual energies are contorted by so much deep, deep anxiety as to whether they’re allowed, whether they’re acceptable, whether they’re the norm. You can see that quite clearly with a dream like this, once you’re awake. It’s like glimpsing a system of knots, without being able to make sense of where all the different threads are leading, let alone having any chance of untangling it. Freud was wrong in so much of what he said and did and wrote and thought. He lost himself in a mass of speculation and called it science. His whole idea of devising a system of ‘treatment’ is a lost cause. But he is a brilliant genius nevertheless, just for identifying the existence of a problem with being alive as a human being, which nobody else had ever spotted properly: namely, our buried desires stay with us and are potentially infinite in scope.

pre-empt

enemy attack
scheduled for ten-thirty — death’s
timing is perfect
— here is the moment — right now —
I can be sure you love me

Goodness knows who or what ‘the enemy’ symbolises, but in my dream there was some kind of quite rigid expectation of an attack at 10.30 — to the point where I would have felt let down if it hadn’t come. In a quite separate dream, I was being embraced by a female friend with whom I have poetry in common (so not Liz!), and who in the real world I would hesitate to identify as someone who ‘loved’ me, but who in the dream clearly did. Her embrace was infinitely tender, without a trace of sexual temptation. I am pleased at the way my poem unites the two dreams in what seems to me a meaningful and aesthetically successful way.

back story

I don’t want to be
part of whatever this is
— I don’t understand —
why are you all behaving
as though we know each other?

Reading Jung in the seventies, I came across the terms endogamous and exogamous. Specifically with reference to libido, which can be endogamous or exogamous. In the context of psychoanalysis, it’s a way of distinguishing between the energy — emotional, sexual, psychological — which derives from one’s earliest incestuous fantasy-feelings towards members of one’s own family (endogamous libido), on the one hand, and on the other, the energy which reaches out beyond the family towards actual sexual partners — in other words (at its most gross interpretation) strangers. Normal, friendly social interaction outside the family cannot really happen (from what I’ve observed in myself) unless it manages to incorporate an astonishingly powerful component of endogamous libido. In other words in social groups, we make an unspoken, unconscious mutual contract — whereby we agree each to treat the other, in some small measure, as though they were ‘family’. These ponderings formed a large part of my mental life in my twenties, when shyness was really a problem for me. In my dream last night, I felt alarmed at being treated as a long-lost buddy by a couple of young men whom I didn’t know at all. It turned out they were in therapy with the same analyst as me. I was then left with the problem whether that was a good enough reason to accept their premise of brotherhood. On the whole I felt extremely suspicious and disinclined to play ball. There was something not right about it — eventually transpiring to be that the analyst was treating each patient as a sexual partner — so we were bound together by mutual collusion in this situation. All part of my ongoing forty-year-long struggle to decide what I think of psychoanalysis. I still don’t know.

crazy ugly

geriatric sex —
I accept the craziness
— desire was always
crazy — right from the very
beginning of existence

I woke desperate for orgasm, having been dreaming of sex with an older woman — or indeed — an ancient woman. She was living quite alone in an attic room, accessed by clambering a quaint wooden staircase. My interest in her as a person seemed to focus on the idea that she had been a singer (an unfulfilled ambition of my mother’s in real life). I did feel a lot of interest in her as a person, quite apart from the crazy sexual attraction I was experiencing in the dream. I don’t suppose this link will remain live for very many weeks, but it’s a brilliant review by Adam Mars-Jones, of a book about grieving. I sent it to my sister yesterday, as being relevant to our current struggles to process my mother’s decline into possible dementia, and drawing her attention particularly to the last couple of paragraphs about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, where Mars-Jones refers to Kubler-Ross as ‘the madwoman in the attic’. A reference of course to Jane Eyre‘s Mrs Rochester. But also quite possibly to Jean Rhys’s The Wide Sargasso Sea — a book I still have never read though I must — which retells Jane Eyre from Mrs Rochester’s point of view. Have also realised a probable source for the dream in yesterday’s events — a book by the poet C.K.Williams called Misgivings which I’m currently reading. It’s an autobiography. But it’s mostly a terribly subjective and detailed account of his feelings towards his parents. And there was a brief passage I read last night describing an early, Oedipal, memory of seeing his mother naked:

I’m in a room with my mother. I’m looking not up but straight across at her, so I must be standing, perhaps in a crib. My mother is next to a window; I watch her, though she doesn’t know that I do. A block of yellow sunlight fills part of the room, and when it touches my mother — she’s naked, or partly naked — it turns golden, and then the whole room is glowingly golden. I’m acutely aware of my mother’s body, especially her breasts; surely I’ve seen her breasts before — she nursed me for some weeks — but never with the appalled half-furtiveness with which I behold them now. I seemed to have experienced beauty and shyness and shame all in the same intake of breath.

male gaze

all women — except
lesbians — are expected
to participate
in the male ego’s crazy
insane wish-fulfilment game

The title came after the poem. And I do not know much — or anything — about what ‘the male gaze’ means to Laura Mulvey who coined the term. In fact I first heard the phrase about 12 months ago and assumed it just meant the way men stare at women. I only found out otherwise by reading Wikipedia just now. The poem came out of a very poorly-remembered dream in which the revelation that someone was a lesbian seemed very important, and otherwise, I was hooking up determinedly with a variety of female strangers (i.e. women who weren’t based on anyone I know, or know of, in my waking life). Awake, I fell to reflecting on how odd it is that there are these two genders, male and female, and that all my life I have accepted the fact of heterosexual desire because I seem to have no choice in the matter. There must be a better vantage point. But I cannot reach it. I am a man in a world consisting of men and women. I have almost no understanding at all of what sexual desire is, or how it works, or what it signifies. In this I believe I am typical of my species. It’s theoretically possible that individuals other than myself may have achieved the understanding I lack. But all the signs are, that this is not the case, and that, if anything, I am unusual for being able to recognise my own ignorance. Most human beings seem unable or unwilling to feel challenged by the opaque mystery which is our own sexual behaviour, preferring instead to take it for granted as a given fact of existence.