A Hot Little Poem

Tamiko Beyer
June 29, 2010
Comments 3

It’s hot in New York. I mean, really, really hot. Do The Right Thing hot. Drag your mattress out on the fire escape to sleep hot. Crack open a fire hydrant hot.


It’s too hot to think clearly about much of anything except heat, so I decided to write a few words about this hot little poem, “Recreation,” by Audre Lorde, which my lovely friend S recited the other night to a roomful of other Asian American poets at the Kundiman Retreat.

And, because she tends to be psychic that way, S called just as I was about to start writing. I told her I was thinking about the Lorde poem and she said, “It’s not an ars poetica, exactly, but it’s a love song to a poem.”

Me with my dirty mind. I was reading it simply as a sexy poem by a poet to her lover!

It is, of course, both (as S said, a song of innocence and a song of experience in the same poem). Lorde herself writes in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power“:

And there is, for me, no difference between writing a good poem and moving into sunlight against the body of a woman I love.

In “Recreation” Lorde perfectly conveys the reciprocity and merging of pleasure and power that characterizes good queer sex for me (maybe good straight sex too?) – when you don’t know if you’re giving or receiving, when you’re doing both all at once, when the pleasure of giving is just as intense and powerful as the pleasure of receiving…

my body
writes into your flesh
the poem
you make of me.

I love you flesh into blossom
I made you
and take you made
into me.

The bodies in Lorde’s poem are indistinguishable between author-creator and poem-object. The lovers make and consume simultaneously.

In this passage, again from Lorde’s essay on the power of the erotic, I can substitute “the creative act” for “erotic” and find it rings just as true:

The erotic is a measure between our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.

I’m enjoying thinking about submitting to the poem the way I submit to the erotic. Letting it make and consume me just as I make and consume it. It’s a highly charged way to think about the creative act. Dangerous, because it means I submit to a certain loss of control, but exponentially more rewarding for the same reason.

What happens when I arrive at the page, fearless and open to being remade/recreated? What power in the language that comes? What surfaces when I let wrestling become dancing become poem?

I open my throat to moon fires.


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