Today we return to this issue of Irreatum with our LDS-eros hats on to discuss the sex in the poetry of Elizabeth Cranford Garcia and the sex in an essay by Shelah Mastny Miner.
Since Miner's essay comes first in the volume, let's start with it here as well.
What I liked most about it is its frankness. And while perhaps one might argue that she has been forced into frankness by her ten-year-old son who says, "I know [jumping on the bed]'s loud. . . . It's always hard for me to fall asleep when you and dad have sex" (21), her frankness is still most welcome.
How many Saints are willing to put in print that upon getting married "having sex became our favorite pastime. We soon realized that homework, making dinner, going to church, reading, picking up my mom at the airport, and watching NBA finals games could all wait half an hour, or even five minutes" (22)?
Of course, as has been discussed before in this series (for instance, for instance), maybe this experience is too rare among us. But if so, then her frankness is even more admirable for the example it offers all our newlywed virgins. (Who, of course, have Irreantum subscriptions.)
The other bit of taboo dealt with frankness is the one my wife appreciated most about the essay---the advice she gave her engaged younger sister three years ago: "'My best advice about how to keep the spark in your sex life can be boiled down to three words: Don't have kids'" (21).
(Her view will evolve over time but who's going to deny that young children get in the way of sex? Or that "motherhood and inhibition would arrive hand in hand" ?)
So we have two subjects weirdly taboo: the pleasures of marital congress and the imposition children place upon said congress.
For a culture so focused on sex (or, in other words, marriage and children---same thing), these are two important discoveries that should not be surprises.
The essay also discusses different ways to teach children about sex (from the frankly medical to the mysterious book appearing on a child's shelf), how sex couldn't have been such a sequestered secret in a one-room cabin, a Linda Sillitoe poem that suggests that in our culture "even gods engage in creation behind locked doors" (28), and how we can overload on touching with our children.
The essay ends with a terrible pun that nevertheless succeeded in keeping the essay fresh in my mind for days, as I would revisit the pun and thus revisit the essay.
I'm just happy with how healthy this essay sounds.
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Garcia's poems in brief:
Honeymoon at Thirty-Something
I read the poem as two virgins speaking (the virgin thing may be debatable---but certainly both get a stanza apiece to speak). I've not been a newlywed thirty-something virgin, but these characters read really old to me. But maybe (for instance) her slowness to arousal is more a result of conditioning than physiognomy?Fling
In a world where the forty-year-old virgin is a ready-made joke, these characters deserve a voice. I'm glad they found one here.
Another existant but often unheard Mormon couple, the kinda good Mormon girl with the not-that-good Mormon boy. She has to "pry / [his hands] out of my jeans. I had lines, you know" (7-8) even though she knows she's made little effort to reveal those lines to him. Perhaps it is his stated disinterest in celestial glory that brings her resolve back? Spiritual goals informing physical goals?Eve in the Garden
Nothing directly sexual in this one, but the provocative idea that Eve steals back into the garden "every afternoon" (7) would press similar boundaries even without phrases like "tongue another taste" and "sponge her belly / with epiphany" ((8, 9-10). Is she eating more fruit? Is she visiting the serpent? What does it mean to "gather green" (8)?
The poem closes with Eve walking past the cherubim and flaming sword "burning / like a moth, a hair for every visit / soaked in lightning, each white shaft / a thread of infinity" (12-15). You don't need to be Freudian to see the sexual layer to this imagery. The suggestion that a white shaft is Eve's thread to infinity is just as true if we're discussing how Adam assisting her in becoming the mother of all. Knowledge burns like sex burns like motherhood and how can we separate the three?
ps: have you seen sarah's new poem on the subject?