Erica Jong Poems Parable of the four Poster

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Love is everything it's cracked up to be…It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for.

Erica Jong

Parable Of The Four-Poster

Because she wants to touch him,
she moves away.
Because she wants to talk to him,
she keeps silent.
Because she wants to kiss him,
she turns away
& kisses a man she does not want to kiss.

He watches
thinking she does not want him.
He listens
hearing her silence.
He turns away
thinking her distant
& kisses a girl he does not want to kiss.

They marry each other -
A four-way mistake.
He goes to bed with his wife
thinking of her.
Sher goes to bed with her husband
thinking of him.
-& all this in a real old-fashioned four-poster bed.

Do they live unhappily ever after?
Of course.
Do they undo their mistakes?
Never.
Who is the victim here?
Love is the victim.
Who is the villian?
Love that never dies.

Erica Jong

The End of the World

Here, at the end of the world,
the flowers bleed
as if they were hearts,
the hearts ooze a darkness
like india ink,
& poets dip their pens in
& they write.

"Here, at the end of the world,"
they write,
not knowing what it means.
"Here, where the sky nurses on black milk,
where the smokestack feed the sky,
where the trees tremble in terror
& people come to resemble them. . . . "

Here, at the end of the world,
the poets are bleeding.
Writing & bleeding
are thought to be the same;
singing & bleeding
are thought to be the same.

Write us a letter!
Send us a parcel of food!
Comfort us with proverbs or candied fruit,
with talk of one God.
Distract us with theories of art
no one can prove.

Here at the end of the world
our heads are empty,
& the wind walks through them
like ghosts
through a haunted house.

Erica Jong

Colder

He was six foot four, and forty-six
and even colder than he thought he was
James Thurber, The Thirteen Clocks

Not that I cared about the other woman.
Those perfumed breasts with hearts
of pure rock salt.
Lot's wives-
all of them.

I didn't care
if they fondled him at parties,
eased him in at home
between a husband & a child,
sucked him dry
with vacuum cleaner kisses.

It was the coldness that I minded,
though he's warned me.
"I'm cold," He said- (as if that helped any).
But he was colder
than he thought he was.

Cold sex.
A woman has to die
& be exhumed
four times a week
to know the meaning of it.

His hips are razors
his pelvic bones are knives,
even his elbows could cut butter.

Cold flows from his mouth
like a cloud of carbon dioxide.
Hie penis is pure dry ice
which turns to smoke.
His face hands over my face-
An ice carving.

One of these days
he'll shatter
or
he'll melt.

Erica Jong

Smoke

Smoke, it is all smoke
in the throat of eternity. . . .
For centuries, the air was full of witches
Whistling up chimneys
on their spiky brooms
cackling or singing more sweetly than Circe,
as they flew over rooftops
blessing & cursing their
kind.

We banished & burned them
making them smoke in the throat of god;
we declared ourselves
"enlightened."
"The dark age of horrors is past,"
said my mother to me in 1952,
seven years after our people went up in smoke,
leaving a few teeth, a pile of bones.

The smoke curls and beckons.
It is blue & lavender
& green as the undersea world.
It will take us, too.

O let us not go sheepishly
clinging to our nakedness.
But let us go like witches sucked heavenward
by the Goddess' powerful breath
& whistling, whistling, whistling
on our beautiful brooms.

Erica Jong

Beast, Book, Body

I was sick of being a woman,
sick of the pain,
the irrelevant detail of sex,
my own concavity
uselessly hungering
and emptier whenever it was filled,
and filled finally
by its own emptiness,
seeking the garden of solitude
instead of men.

The white bed
in the green garden--
I looked forward
to sleeping alone
the way some long
for a lover.

Even when you arrived,
I tried to beat you
away with my sadness,
my cynical seductions,
and my trick of
turning a slave
into a master.

And all because
you made
my fingertips ache
and my eyes cross
in passion
that did not know its own name.

Bear, beast, lover
of the book of my body,
you turned my pages
and discovered
what was there
to be written
on the other side.

And now
I am blank
for you,
a tabula rasa
ready to be printed
with letters
in an undiscovered language
by the great press
of our love.

Erica Jong

Climbing You

I want to understand the steep thing
that climbs ladders in your throat.
I can't make sense of you.
Everywhere I look you're there--
a vast landmark, a volcano
poking its head through the clouds,
Gulliver sprawled across Lilliput.

I climb into your eyes, looking.
The pupils are black painted stage flats.
They can be pulled down like window shades.
I switch on a light in your iris.
Your brain ticks like a bomb.

In your offhand, mocking way
you've invited me into your chest.
Inside: the blur that poses as your heart.
I'm supposed to go in with a torch
or maybe hot water bottles
& defrost it by hand
as one defrosts an old refrigerator.
It will shudder & sigh
(the icebox to the insomniac).

Oh there's nothing like love between us.
You're the mountain, I am climbing you.
If I fall, you won't be all to blame,
but you'll wait years maybe
for the next doomed expedition.

Erica Jong

Ordinary Miracles

Spring, rainbows,
ordinary miracles
about which
nothing new can be said.

The stars on a clear night
of a New England winter;
the soft air of the islands
along the old
Spanish Main;
pirate gold shining
in the palm;
the odor of roses
to the lover's nose. . .

There is no more poetry
to be written
of these things.
The rainbow's sudden revelation--
behold!
The cliché is true!
What can one say
but that?

So too
with you, little heart,
little miracle,

but you are
no less miracle
for being ordinary.

Erica Jong

Letter to My Lover After Seven Years

You gave me the child
that seamed my belly
& stitched up my life.

You gave me: one book of love poems,
five years of peace
& two of pain.

You gave me darkness, light, laughter
& the certain knowledge
that we someday die.

You gave me seven years
during which the cells of my body
died & were reborn.

Now we have died
into the limbo of lost loves,
that wreckage of memories
tarnishing with time,
that litany of losses
which grows longer with the years,
as more of our friends
descend underground
& the list of our loved dead
outstrips the list of the living.

Knowing as we do
our certain doom,
knowing as we do
the rarity of the gifts we gave
& received,
can we redeem
our love from the limbo,
dust it off like a fine sea trunk
found in an attic
& now more valuable
for its age & rarity
than a shining new one?

Probably not.
This page is spattered
with tears that streak the words
lose, losses, limbo.

I stand on a ledge in hell
still howling for our love

Erica Jong

Autobiographical

The lover in these poems
is me;
the doctor,
Love.
He appears
as husband, lover
analyst & muse,
as father, son
& maybe even God
& surely death.

All this is true.

The man you turn to
in the dark
is many men.

This is an open secret
women share
& yet agree to hide
as if
they might then
hide it from themselves.

I will not hide.

I write in the nude.
I name names.
I am I.
The doctor's name is Love.

Erica Jong

Flying at Forty

You call me
courageous,
I who grew up
gnawing on books,
as some kids
gnaw
on bubble gum,

who married disastrously
not once
but three times,
yet have a lovely daughter
I would not undo
for all the dope
in California.

Fear was my element,
fear my contagion.
I swam in it
till I became
immune.
The plane takes off
& I laugh aloud.
Call me courageous.

I am still alive.

Erica Jong

Middle Aged Lovers, II

You open to me
a little,
then grow afraid
and close again,
a small boy
fearing to be hurt,
a toe stubbed
in the dark,
a finger cut
on paper.

I think I am free
of fears,
enraptured, abandoned
to the call
of the Bacchae,
my own siren,
tied to my own
mast,
both Circe
and her swine.

But I too
am afraid:
I know where
life leads.

The impulse
to join,
to confess all,
is followed
by the impulse
to renounce,

and love--
imperishable love--
must die,
in order
to be reborn.

We come
to each other
tentatively,
veterans of other
wars,
divorce warrants
in our hands
which we would beat
into blossoms.

But blossoms
will not withstand
our beatings.

We come
to each other
with hope
in our hands--
the very thing
Pandora kept
in her casket
when all the ills
and woes of the world
escaped.

Erica Jong

The Artist as an Old Man

If you ask him he will talk for hours--
how at fourteen he hammered signs, fingers
raw with cold, and later painted bowers
in ladies' boudoirs; how he played checkers
for two weeks in jail, and lived on dark bread;
how he fled the border to a country
which disappeared wars ago; unfriended
crossed a continent while this century
began. He seldom speaks of painting now.
Young men have time and theories; old men work.
He has painted countless portraits. Sallow
nameless faces, made glistening in oil, smirk
above anonymous mantelpieces.
The turpentine has a familiar smell,
but his hand trembles with odd, new palsies.
Perched on the maulstick, it nears the easel.

He has come to like his resignation.
In his sketch books, ink-dark cossacks hear
the snorts of horses in the crunch of snow.
His pen alone recalls that years ago,
one horseman set his teeth and aimed his spear
which, poised, seemed pointed straight to pierce the sun.

Erica Jong

The Poet Fears Failure

The poet fears failure
& so she says
"Hold on pen--
what if the critics
hate me?"
& with that question
she blots out more lines
than any critic could.

The critic is only doing his job:
keeping the poet lonely.
He barks
like a dog at the door
when the master comes home.

It's in his doggy nature.
If he didn't know the poet
for the boss,
he wouldn't bark so loud.

& the poet?
It's in her nature
to fear failure
but not to let that fear
blot out

her lines.

Erica Jong

To Whom It May Concern

In Autumn,
as in Spring,
the sap flows,
the sap wishes to race
against heartbeats
before the winter,
before the winter
buries us
in her usual shroud of ice.

I turn to you
knowing that
unrequited love
is good
for poetry,
knowing that pain
will nudge the muse
as well as anything,
knowing that you
are afraid, fettered
to a life
you do not love,
& so unfree
that freedom seems
more fearful even
than the familiar
business
of being
a grumbling slave.

I lived
that way
once,
& I know
that freedom
is its own reward,
that it propagates
itself
by means
of runners,

that nobody
gives it to you,
not even me
to you,

but that you
must seize it
with your own
two quaking hands
& pluck
the strawberry
it bears
in the green
ungrumbling

Spring.

Erica Jong

Perhaps all artists were, in a sense, housewives: tenders of the earth household.

Erica Jong

Men have always detested women's gossip because they suspect the truth: their measurements are being taken and compared.

Erica Jong

It is the city of mirrors, the city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.

Erica Jong

No one ever found wisdom without also being a fool. Writers, alas, have to be fools in public, while the rest of the human race can cover its tracks.

Erica Jong

In a bad marriage, friends are the invisible glue. If we have enough friends, we may go on for years, intending to leave, talking about leaving - instead of actually getting up and leaving.

Erica Jong
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