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Sex Without Love -- Sharon Olds

Guest poem submitted by Ravi Mundoli:
(Poem #812) Sex Without Love
 How do they do it, the ones who make love
 without love? Beautiful as dancers,
 Gliding over each other like ice-skaters
 over the ice, fingers hooked
 inside each other's bodies, faces
 red as steak, wine, wet as the
 children at birth, whose mothers are going to
 give them away. How do they come to the
 come to the come to the God come to the
 still waters, and not love
 the one who came there with them, light
 rising slowly as steam off their joined
 skin? These are the true religious,
 the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
 accept a false Messiah, love the
 priest instead of the God. They do not
 mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
 they are like great runners: they know they are alone
 with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
 the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio
 vascular health--just factors, like the partner
 in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
 single body alone in the universe
 against its own best time.
-- Sharon Olds

A poem that is not easily forgettable? I think Olds tries to answer a
question that we have all asked at some point or the other in some form or
the other. One of the nice things about the poem is that there is this nice
balance between the view on the one hand that making love is the wonderful,
sharing/caring type thing it is:

  ... How do they come to the
 come to the come to the God come to the
 still waters, and not love
 the one who came there with them, light
 rising slowly as steam off their joined
 skin? ...

On the other hand, there is this superb analogy with long distance running.
And as a wannabe long distance runner and admirer of long distance running
(in a vaguely "Chariots of Fire"-y sense!), that is a particularly powerful
image, of the marathoner-hedonist. In the end though, there doesn't seem to
be an answer the "coming to the still waters" bit is as weighty as the long
distance runner bit. More questions!


There is a page on the poet at [broken link]
Googling will lead you to several other links.


[thomas adds]

See also the third of Peter Porter's "Japanese Jokes":

     Love without sex is
 still the most efficient form
     of hell known to man.

(The remaining ten haiku in this sequence can be read at poem #198)

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Anonymous said...

I think it is a profound discription of sex without love as an emotionless, robotic action, an ativity designed to medicate lonliness, with no more meaning than watching a movie together or going to the zoo.

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