Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SEX, by HAYDEN CARRUTH

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

SEX, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: On the first few nights of the new year, a week
Last Line: In the night. The cat rubs against the man's legs
Subject(s): Sex; Aging; Impotence

On the first few nights of the new year, a week
ago, we had a full moon or near it in central
New York and the air was cold, the snow frozen,
metallic, and bright. On the steep field
reflected moonlight ran down from the crest
of the hill to the little house. A frozen stream,
he thought -- the man I am always writing about.
But when he looked more closely he saw, or
thought he saw, the molecules of light flowing
both ways in scarcely discernible swiftness,
down to him, up to the moon, minute glints
in a flux of passionate intensity in a pure
and simple world, his peaceful valley. He was
thinking about sex. He was thinking especially
of last night when he had been in bed with the
young woman he called conventionally, as people
do, his, and he had been saddened. Aging men
suffer two kinds of impotence, the ordinary
kind that everyone makes jokes about, and then
the deeper psychic failure when they are full
of eros but it is hidden, too remote
to evoke the wonder of lust in their partners.
So it had been, and then afterward they lay
looking out at the moontrack on the snow.
Now he is alone in his house with his gray
neutered cat Pokey. In former times women
who would not heat up were made into slaves,
and when too many slaves encumbered the
polity these women were lowered into
wells until they drowned. Nor was this some
stewpot of Asian hillbillies in the National
Geographic, but in Europe, a nation I do not care
to name. Pokey, on the table next to the Christmas
cactus, was looking out the glass door, staring
at the moontrack with his yellow eyes immense,
unmoving, until the spell was broken and he
glided down like a shadow and went to the kitchen
where he fizzed the litter in his box. Is it
that aging people live in an assortment
of remnants, impulses too worn, desires
too threadbare to function any more? The man
felt all his love gathering outside him, a power
with no bodily counterpart, out there in the
deathly cold, the ghostly light, as if
the beautiful young woman in her nakedness
were a circumstance of the night, seen
in a time of unseeing. For many moments
he looked out at the moon and the moonflow,
at the dark woods on either side, at the frozen
snow, until finally he too went into the shabby
kitchen and opened the door of an upper cabinet
and took down a jar of peanut butter. Death
may come in many forms, they say, but truly
it comes in only one, which is the end of love.
The old clock on the bookcase struck two o'clock.
A chunk of ice fell thunderously from the eaves.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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