There is a girl you like so you tell her
your penis is big, but that you cannot get yourself
to use it. It’s demands are ridiculous, you say,
even self-defeating, but to be honored somehow,
briefly, inconspicuously, in the dark.
When she closes her eyes in horror,
you take it all back. You tell her you’re almost
a girl yourself and can understand why she is shocked.
When she is about to walk away, you tell her
you have no penis, that you don’t
know what got into you. You get on your knees.
She suddenly bends down to kiss your shoulder and you know
you’re on the right track. You tell her you want
to bear children and that is why you seem confused.
You wrinkle your brow and curse the day you were born.
She tries to calm you, but you lose control.
You reach for her panties and beg forgiveness as you do.
She squirms and you howl like a wolf. Your craving
seems monumental. You know you will have her.
Taken by storm, she is the girl you will marry.
Strand, Mark. “Courtship.” New Selected Poems. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 64. Print.
I first heard Mark Strand read this at Stockton University back in 2008. He was a tall, old, and calm guy who spoke really slowly. He had one of those voices that is so relaxed you can hear like every little part of it.
I don’t know how old this poem is but it’s definitely a classic of his that demonstrates his sparse, provocative style. Actually just now I’ve learned that he died recently, in 2014, which is really sad. I find it really cool how easily he changes forms, in his wider work, and I really admire the framing that he provides his poems.
P.S. sorry about the Beluga Whale penis, it just kinda had to happen.
photo credit: beluga or white whale, Delphinapterus leucas courtship via photopin (license)