DeWitt Henry

On Lust
April 18, 2021 Henry DeWitt



I’ve outlived lust, or think I have.
Schongauer’s “Temptation of St. Anthony”:
stings and nettles, swarms, talons,
clubs, and tugs. Demons like mutant
bugs and reptiles: bat wings, spines, scales,
snouts, whiskers, fangs, trying to
drag the levitating aesthete
back to earth.
Odysseus lashed to his mast,
shipmates drawn to ruin.
Circe’s bestiary.
Immanuel Roth, Professor,
transformed to crowing rooster
by Lola Lola, The Blue Angel.
Walt Whitman ached with amorous love.
It’s different from desire,
though I’m unsure how.
Impersonal, if not involuntary.
All appetite, blind.
Itch builds, heat spreads
Cravings, fever
I’m not myself:
The more intense, less choosy.
Paired butterflies, they hurt me
A deadly sin, least of seven.
Jimmy Carter: “I’ve looked
on a lot of women with lust.
I’ve committed adultery
in my heart many times.”
Bill Clinton’s sophistry:
No intercourse, no adultery.
Frosted blue dresses.
In Anderson’s Winesburg,
preacher Hartman peeps on teacher
Kate Swift’s window
from his bell tower:
“Then upon the bed…a naked woman
threw herself. Lying face down
she wept and beat with her fists
upon the pillow. With a final outburst
of weeping she half arose,
and in the presence of the man
who had waited to look and think thoughts
the woman of sin began to pray.”
Sublimate, masturbate or procreate.
Misogyny, pornography.
The beast with two backs.
Noses, ears, and lips.
Goats and monkeys!
Yond simpering dame.
Fry lechery, fry.
Incontinent varlets.
Sex as the new frontier.
Summer of Love,
Woodstock, hippy carnivals,
pill-safe, pill-high,
before STDs. Rites of Spring
break in Ft. Lauderdale.
Mardian, the eunuch:
“I can do nothing
But what indeed is honest to be done;
Yet I have fierce affections and think
What Venus did with Mars.”
Not often, but often enough
in fifty years of marriage—
despite divides of yours, and mine;
of rival needs, of blaming
setbacks on each other—
we knew the most passionate
love-making of my life:
whole-souled. Healing.
Together and graced.
Our own truest gods.
The young affects are now
defunct. The heyday
in the blood is tame.
Yeats and Freud were among
the first to be rejuvenated
by tissue transplants
from monkey glands.
Now Viagra promises, along with
“marital aids,” to stir the coals.
We try too hard. Mistake the prize.
The graphic sex scenes bore me
with their posturing stars,
younger than our children.
Suck face, my love. Come,
hold me and be held.
Your breath and heartbeat echo mine.
The pride and dazzle of remembering
the triumphs of one flesh.

DeWitt Henry’s chapbook, FOUNDLINGS: FOUND POEMS FROM PROSE (Life Before Man/ Gazebo Books), and his first collection, RESTLESS FOR WORDS: POEMS (Finishing Line Press) are available this fall, 2022.  His memoir, ENDINGS & BEGINNINGS: FAMILY ESSAYS (Mad Hat, 2021), was long listed for the PEN Award for the Art of the Essay, 2022.  He was the founding editor of Ploughshares and is Prof. Emeritus at Emerson College. Details at .