What Can I Say, I’m Not a Landscape
I was an American girl. I learned good love
is me on the bottom, facing up; good sex
is me on the bottom, facing down. I can overthink
anything, even now, lying sideways between sheets,
inches from you, wearing naked
like antelope in a rented tux, mermaid trying on shoes.
I’m telling you I think I forget how. Your face I love
is now so weirdly strange I have to ask
Have we met before? And here’s where you hold still
while I climb down from the thought-tree,
its branches of fog. Your palm on my flank doesn’t move
while you wait for me to remember, hand
over hand, what hands and skin are for.
I thought I’d never write a sex poem
because I’m not a landscape, and you’re
no conquistador. You don’t map my blue rivers
or trace with your tongue every hillock and hollow.
Also because I can’t be serious about your penis––
eager tail wagging its own good self,
taut rod dowsing for my pleasure. Also because
what that pleasure urges me to speak is not sexy
but trades porn’s slick ejaculations for lists
of dessert toppings––Butterscotch! Brickle! Hot caramel!––
or orchestra sections––Yes, yes, the strings and the brass!
This, after we’ve emerged doe-shy from thickets
to mingle our warm breath
while the green song rises around us.
But what else can I say? I like my sex
even and gentle. I burned my bedroll,
hung up my spurs long ago. When my body arrives
from far fields, I like to let it amble
toward a heated stable, plunge its muzzle in dark water, hay racks
full and sweet. Later we’ll nicker and lean into each other,
dreaming wild herds of words that startle and roam,
darken a far ridge, then disappear.
Morgan le Fay Explains Her Decision to Teach the Round Table Boys a Small Lesson
King’s pet, every cheerleader’s wet dream, Gawain
makes play-offs again. Come spring he’s the white
kid blasting Bob Marley down hallways, swain
peach-fuzzed with sin and plumb as an alibi.
In board shorts and plastic shades, he’s all slick
praise for a pair of snowy hills. Shhh! His weird
approaches. Wide-assed and wimpled, I wield
a lord hardy and pricked as holly: Bertilak.
My burly pinch-hitter will bring wildness to bear
on that frat neck begging for severance
from its scrum-a-dumb head. Sap-blooded, wick-
eyed, my green knight knows no prey easy as ignorance.
He’ll girdle an unblemished blade with fear,
leave a nick at the nape for a souvenir.
You have to guess what it is,
I said, and got to watch
your curiosity flare and settle
like a pilot light
as you put your hand in my sweatshirt pocket
and touched cold curve,
dry, firm, finely pebbled.
You smiled, then
held the egg between us on your palm.
Familiar again, but magicked
with that brief strangeness.
Bewilderment, stay. Keep
us. Not yet resolved. Not yet afraid.
Take a big breath and hold us,
for with and within bodies
we meet this world. Whippy cords
of weeds, grit sweated to skin,
smell of roses and gasoline. I know
wildness could feed me, though
I’ve learned to flinch from it, retreat
to matched socks and a stocked
pantry. Husband, for now
you tuck the boiled egg into your pack.
You’ll stay out all night telling the stars,
tapping on that endlessness they crack.
Erin Redfern’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Fire & Rain: Ecopoetry of California (Scarlet Tanager), New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust (New Voices Project), New Ohio Review, Massachusetts Review, Porter House Review, and North American Review, where it was runner-up for the James Hearst Prize. Her chapbook is Spellbreaking and Other Life Skills (Blue Lyra Press). She earned her PhD at Northwestern University, where she was also a Fellow at the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence. She has served as poetry judge for the San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Festival and a reader for Poetry Center San Jose’s Caesura and DMQ Review. She teaches poetry classes and workshops online. www.erinredfern.net.