I’ve been reading and thoroughly enjoying a poet too few people read these days, J. V. Cunningham. One day, I will write about why I think he’s worth reading and learning from, even though the kind of poetry he wrote has been out of fashion for a very long time. Today, I’m interested in one of his epigrams. It’s #16 from Trivial, Vulgar, and Exalted:
And now you’re ready who while she was here
Hung like a flag in a calm. Friend, though you stand
Erect and eager, in your eye a tear,
I will not pity you, or lend a hand.
When I first read these lines, I smiled, as I imagine the poem makes most people with penises smile, but there is also in this poem a deep, deep sadness. Indeed, I don’t think I have ever read a more concise and powerful expression of the self-alienation and self-hatred inherent in seeing penile erection as something one “achieves,” as a kind of test one either passes or fails. The emotional and psychological experience of the speaker in this poem is one of the best and most persuasive reasons I know for leaving the traditional, patriarchal version of male heterosexuality behind.
Cross posted on my blog.