until one day, love


So I slept with my lovers, I slept with my friends,
my lovers’ friends and my friends’ lovers,
friends of friends and so on.
I slept with my dealer and my dealer’s dealer, just to be sure.
I slept with some men I barely knew
to prove I was open minded, or to avoid an argument,
and I slept with some men I didn’t like
just to be nice, or, well, to avoid an argument.
You might say I had an open-door policy.

I took it three-ways, I took it sideways:
“thousands of men and a few hundred women.”
Hum jobs, tie me up, half-and half, and fuck the dog.
I took it in the ass, in my mouth, between my thighs and way up inside from any angle.
Yet what I loved most was dancing to loud music: that beat through the floor,
and bodies swaying, sweating, the tension building,
and getting just to the edge of it, in a room,
in a woods, down a hallway
wedged inside a bathroom stall,
falling down fast, or leaning back,
brace yourself on the wall,
diving into it like stepping on a mine-
just blowing yourself up, all the while holding on to some sweating panting guy
also blowing himself up-
just kick the door hard, mindless sex-
I wanted it as much as the next guy,
the next high priestess of come,
and it was ours and all new and fine, and would never end,
until one day, love comes
roiling up like a swamp gas fermented for years
in the collective unconscious of old songs and bad movies,
a distant memory wakening.
His thumbs in his belt loops, his crooked smile
and dark moods,
and you think this one is a god or an avatar of destiny, and you are nothing unless he loves you too, and now everything is changed
and you let your life go, like a bad gene or a slow virus.
You’ve bought the gypsy’s curse, the heroine’s undoing,
that fatal weakness inscribed in a thousand novels you read as a girl
in your sweet gabled bedroom while you were waiting for your life to happen.

Cynthia Huntington
from Shot Up in the Sexual Revolution (2005)

Huntington is Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Dartmouth College and Adjunct Professor at Vermont College. She has published 3 books of poems, the award-winning We Have Gone to the Beach, The Radiant, and The Fish-Wife, as well as a prose work, The Salt House.

Cynthia Huntington’s poems in The Radiant flow brutally from a scarred heart, from “what grows hard, and cannot be repaired.”

What is most tragic can, and often does, become beautiful. “What is memory? Who stays to mourn? It seems we feel so much and then we die. The marsh hawk veers over the grass, listening.”

But in the end these are prayers of thankfulness, prayers that transcend desire: “. . . we belong here, where no one is refused, in the room we come to at last–immortal, irreparable, beyond hope.”

Her poems are never drowned in the rhetoric of complaint, but seized by language that is intense yet seeks the equilibrium of its own level ” His loneliness is cold water that makes rocks shine. Great stillness where he is. Then, slowly, birds.”

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