POEM: Know Your Strangeness

know your strangeness

otherwise, it’s like a tattoo on the back of your neck

the world can enjoy it, but you never will

sure, it means tearing down a house

one that you built brick by brick,

the house of you,

but

no structure outlasts the mortar that binds it

BOOK REVIEW: Blue ed. by Ameena Hussein

Blue: The Tranquebar book of Erotic Fiction for Sri LankaBlue: The Tranquebar book of Erotic Fiction for Sri Lanka by Ameena Hussein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

 

This is an anthology or erotically-themed short fiction and poetry of Sri Lanka.

Readers who are interested in cultural idiosyncrasies, particularly related to sexuality, will find the works included offer fascinating insights. That said, readers whose primary experience with erotic fiction is, for example, French erotica will probably find the stories tentative and occasionally creepy in a desperation-derived way (e.g. the hotel employee who sneaks into an admired guest’s room and – among other things — sniffs clothing.) For readers outside South Asia, one must read these works with a recognition that it is a culture that is less open about sexuality, in which the sexes don’t co-mingle as freely in youth, and where people have to take love when and where they can get it to a greater extent than readers from elsewhere may be used to. That said, the characters in these stories tend to be from a more open and progressive segment of society, but they are still operating within the constraints of the society. Some readers will find the tentativeness endearing and nostalgic, others may find it slow or tame.

Before describing each work in brief, the reader may wish to be made aware that – unlike many works of erotica – this book does not target a particular sex or sexual orientation. By that I mean, it bounces around between straight, lesbian, and gay male relationships in its stories.

– The Proposal: The first-person narrator has a friend who is on the outs with his girlfriend, and said narrator has an opportunity to bed said girlfriend. There isn’t much deliberation about whether a “bro” should be put first here

– Sex in the Hood: A poem about art and life in challenging environs.

– Undercover: A middle-aged woman whose marriage has gone lukewarm, gets groped at a movie theater, and returns the next day.

– Me and Ms. J: An ex-pat in Brussels looks back on a youthful lesbian dalliance with an older woman.

– The Lava Lamp: When girlfriends end up staying together overnight, the lava lamp becomes a representation of the couple’s flow with each other. A short piece.

– Bus Stop: A young man works up the courage to advance a relationship with a pretty girl he’s been seeing (wordlessly) at the bus stop for months. This is one of the longer and more developed pieces.

– A Courtyard: An imagery-intensive poem not only about a courtyard, but what is glimpsed across it. Probably my favorite of the poetry.

– Veysee: If you thought my mention of a hotel employee who sneaks into a guest’s room and sniffs her clothes was creepy, this story about a porn-addicted thirty-something carrying out a covert relationship with an under-aged girl takes creepiness to a new level. (Though there are hints of recognition on the part of the character of the error of his ways.)

– No: This is less erotic than a commentary on things that go unsaid in sexual relationships because the individuals involved don’t know how to broach the subject, or because they are operating on fundamentally different wave-lengths. I should say that it’s not that it lacks the sensuality of erotica, but it deals heavily with consent being mowed down.

– I’d Like to Hold Your Hand: A poem describing how the author would like to proceed from holding hands to ecstasy.

– Bi-Cycle: This is a very brief dreamy piece about the author’s personal dilemma.

– Bookworm: A bookish young man gets ushered into sexuality by the shopkeeper of his favorite bookstore.

– What Reminds Me of You: A sensual poem of nostalgia for a past love.

– Room 1716: A lobby manager at a hotel in Colombo develops a secret crush on Alicia, a tourist from an undesignated Western country. When Alicia makes a short overnight trip, the manager arranges for her to keep her room without charge. Said manager then sneaks into the room to investigate clues about her girl-crush.

– 76, Park Avenue: A Russian (or other undesignated Slavic) man has a relationship with a Sri Lankan woman.

– Flower Offering: A sensual poem about flowers – literal and symbolic.

– Hot Date: A guy ends up in drama through pursuit of the most sexually willing girl.

I found this book to be interesting. As I said, to relate to many of its characters and their motivations one has to be aware of setting and cultural norms. It has a mix of more and less developed stories and characters. (Though there are no isolated sex scenes, as sometimes occur in erotic works.) There’s a lot of power-dynamics playing out, but not at all in the explicitly sadomasochistic dominant / submissive way. There are many characters and actions that a reader might find unsavory (e.g. the grown man who acts like he’s fresh out of puberty and has no self control is a recurring theme) but loathsome characters can be as readable as likable ones. (Only indifferent characters are unreadable.)

I’d recommend this book for those who are interested in taking a world tour of erotica.

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POEM: Mentally Rodential

my mind jumps about
it scurries
it scampers
it lurches
it cowers

like a foraging rodent,
one at risk of starving
because it keeps dropping its acorn
at the sight of one that seems
more bulbous
more coppery
more glossy

Buddhists talk of hungry ghosts,
creatures with insatiable appetites
but mouths no good for eating

i crave knowledge and understanding,
but have a mind undisciplined
for chewing and digesting
that hardy substance

POEM: Sunrise Beach

people stagger down to sunrise beach,
like a zombie horde,
bed creases still fading

Sunworshipers —
in the literal sense —
not the kind seeking some shade of bronze

and what better to honor?
should the sun fail to shine
we’re eight minutes from our midnight
should it disappear altogether
we would hurl away,
an ice block
to be slung about by gravitational fields
or to simply careen into some other
unsuspecting block of ice or iron

except for vents from our molten core
all energy begins in that solar furnace
all green leaves
all creatures who eat the green leaves
all the creatures who eat the creatures who eat the green leaves
all fired by that grand fusion

POEM: Relativity [a sonnet]

in the space of a blossom’s drift to earth
i feel the gravity give way below
i’ve all the time for terror, shock, and mirth
as tics and tocks go viscous in their flow

each emotion will be given its due
stretched out as if by hands that squeeze and pull
and i can feel, better than see the view
as the planet hangs in a peculiar lull

by the time i start to see the humor
i’m bouncing off the pavement on my back
has my mind been rewired by a tumor?
or has my train of mind slipped its track?

then a blaring horn fills the silent void
and return the kindly and the annoyed

POEM: Mythic Moonlight

faces glow in mythic moonlight
a world away from here
you may ask what makes it mythic?
the stories that one hears

a young son regales his mother,
who hangs on every word,
with a tale of lunchtime mayhem
and food covertly hurled

two lovers chat about a dream
that one of them just had
about a few stolen moments,
in an alien crash pad

and an old man tells a young one,
he’s not afraid to die
how he left his fear in a field
with a piece of his thigh

so many people share one moon
focal point of their stares
souls unload a bit of burden
from the heft of their cares