Ann Pedone ~ In Bed With Susan Sontag

Antigone in NYC

I hate writ­ing about myself
I leak, I bruise eas­i­ly, I’ve never
Known how to pose for the camera
And I’ve been told that
My horni­ness would make me
A ter­ri­ble sub­ject for a book

But this is where we’re at
The begin­ning of the twenty
First century
In a stu­dio apart­ment at
110 Morningside Drive

I left San Francisco when I was 17
I came to New York to dis­cov­er all
Of the beau­ti­ful things

Because I have the sexual
Stamina of Grace Kelly
I was accept­ed as grad
Student in the English dept
At Columbia University

For six years I stud­ied Barthes and Lacan,
Butler and Foucault

When dur­ing a talk on Antigone
My dis­ser­ta­tion advi­sor pen­e­trat­ed me with his
Left index finger
The next day I became a poet

There are many beau­ti­ful women
In New York and
Like Whitman, I want­ed to
Make a new life for myself
So I went down to St. Mark’s
And bought a copy of the
Susan Sontag journals

And what hap­pens is
Every time I fin­ish a page
I take out my phone and pho­to­graph it

At night I get into bed
And scroll through the photos
And what it feels like
It feels like that night last summer
When we pulled over on the Taconic and
You took it out and asked me to blow you

I read some­where once
That a jour­nal is theater
Or in oth­er words
If all this works out
Would you come over here tonight and
Kiss me with your mouth all the way open


Key Bank

Because I was haunt­ed by the impossible
Ratios of poet­ry to sex
For nine months
I walked the streets of upper Manhattan

I was eager, I had no mon­ey, I was ambi­tious, I was vague

At night my apart­ment was full of men from the
Mexican con­sulate, young run-aways, women with breasts

Incomprehension is the high­est form of erotism
I have start­ed to read French

The night we first met
I had wok­en up in my wide bed
Picked up the first vol­ume of the journals
And walked down Morningside Dr

I had not had a sat­is­fy­ing orgasm since I quit grad
School and I saw you
Standing alone in front of Key Bank

Against all odds of soci­ol­o­gy, I gave you my number

The next morn­ing I woke up in your apartment
Walked into the kitchen, made a pot of cof­fee, and
Abandoned, once and for all, the cult of the sign

The light com­ing in through the kitchen window
Was very bright and so I took my t‑shirt off, threw it
Into the sink and shout­ed to you down the hall­way that
Gertrude Stein was right all along
Poetry is a machine
That con­verts horni­ness into language



No one in New York lives in the present
So I decid­ed to take a week­end and go up to Bard

I was sit­ting on a bench in Grand
Central hav­ing a cof­fee and
Counted thir­teen women and four men
Who walked passed without
Seeming to know my name

I didn’t feel the need
To for­give them and so I
Turned my bag upside down
And emp­tied it out onto the floor

When an old­er woman
Grabbed the conductor
By the shoul­der and said,
It’s true, the pas­toral as a poet­ic form
Is impos­si­ble in New York

Without hav­ing to ask, I opened to
Journals, page 57

[Undated, most likely
late February 1950.

Ubi—where, when
Quibis auxiliis—by the
aid of what
Quo modo—in what

Sontag loved lists
But didn’t always shower
Every day and she never
Knew her father

Latin is such a sex­u­at­ed language

Reading the jour­nals I’m filled
With a con­stant discomfort
Like find­ing yourself
In a hotel room you know you
Shouldn’t be

And yet you stay
Even though it goes against
All good sense
And discretion

Because this is exact­ly the kind of stupidity
That will make me a good writer


Jan. 20. 2008

Since I’ve been in New York
I’ve had to beg for it many times
But you are so good at call­ing a cab and
Let’s agree that metaphor is use­less and never
Think about what’s
On the oth­er side of the Brooklyn Bridge
Without regret I’ll hold your hand and
Whisper in your ear that
Poetry is bet­ter than any porn ever could be
Because when you write it all down, every last thing
You are no longer a sign and you are no longer a woman

Ann Pedone is the author of The Medea Notebooks, and The Italian Professor’s Wife, as well as sev­er­al chap­books includ­ing The Bird Happened, and per­haps there is a sky we don’t know a re-imag­in­ing of sappho.