Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pornographic Literature

artwork: ralph murre

Pornographic Literature
by John Lehman

Appleton, WisconsinI drive here
to read from a new collection of
poems. Inside the store a poster
and pyramid of books make me feel
good until it’s ten minutes after seven
and nobody has come. I sign copies
as if a public cared, feign interest in
the contents of a nearby shelf and
twenty minutes later grab my poster
and quietly disappear.

On the long ride home I stop at an
adult bookstore in a metal shack
along a frontage road. Here the
patrons take literature seriously,
groping video boxes and plastic
bags of nude bodies copulating
on covers of magazines. Who
ever caressed a book of poetry
with such urgency or quivered
from thoughts of what might wait
inside? A pudgy, post-pubescent
clerk with an eight ball tattooed
on his arm surveys the shadows
as if to say, “Buy something,
people, it ain’t art for art’s sake,
and don’t even think of pilfering
the fucking merchandise.”

You, standing in Barnes & Noble
wondering about this jumble of
abandoned, autographed books,
have you ever stolen a collection
of poetry, slipped it in your belt
so its corners poke the inside of
your legs? No arched back or
joyous spasms here, but a thrill
of rushing toward the night with
this forbidden shape pressed
tight against your groin.

And afterwards, when you’re free
of sex, you can read a poem or
two, they’re at least as good as
something else and, unlike porn- ography, a book of poems can
be placed upon your coffee table
so if friends you want to impress
ask, “Do you get off on poetry?”
you can reply, “Yes, I put my arms about it, yes and draw it down
to me, yes, I say yes, I will yes.”

 ~ previously published in Dogs Dream of Running (Salmon Run Press)