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Best Famous Erica Jong Poems

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by Erica Jong | |

Narcissus Photographer

 ".
.
.
a frozen memory, like any photo, where nothing is missing, not even, and especially, nothingness.
.
.
" -- Julio Cortázar, "Blow Up" Mirror-mad, he photographed reflections: sunstorms in puddles, cities in canals, double portraits framed in sunglasses, the fat phantoms who dance on the flanks of cars.
Nothing caught his eye unless it bent or glistered over something else.
He trapped clouds in bottles the way kids trap grasshoppers.
Then one misty day he was stopped by the windshield.
Behind him, an avenue of trees, before him, the mirror of that scene.
He seemed to enter what, in fact, he left.


by Erica Jong | |

Autobiographical

 The lover in these poems
is me;
the doctor,
Love.
He appears as husband, lover analyst & muse, as father, son & maybe even God & surely death.
All this is true.
The man you turn to in the dark is many men.
This is an open secret women share & yet agree to hide as if they might then hide it from themselves.
I will not hide.
I write in the nude.
I name names.
I am I.
The doctor's name is Love.


by Erica Jong | |

The End Of The World

 Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot
The armless ambidextrian was lighting
A match between his great and second toe,
And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting
The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough
In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb---
Quite unexpectedly the top blew off:

And there, there overhead, there, there hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
There in the sudden blackness the black pall
Of nothing, nothing, nothing --- nothing at all.


More great poems below...

by Erica Jong | |

Ordinary Miracles

 Spring, rainbows,
ordinary miracles
about which
nothing new can be said.
The stars on a clear night of a New England winter; the soft air of the islands along the old Spanish Main; pirate gold shining in the palm; the odor of roses to the lover's nose.
.
.
There is no more poetry to be written of these things.
The rainbow's sudden revelation-- behold! The cliché is true! What can one say but that? So too with you, little heart, little miracle, but you are no less miracle for being ordinary.


by Erica Jong | |

The Poet Fears Failure

 The poet fears failure
& so she says
"Hold on pen--
what if the critics
hate me?"
& with that question
she blots out more lines
than any critic could.
The critic is only doing his job: keeping the poet lonely.
He barks like a dog at the door when the master comes home.
It's in his doggy nature.
If he didn't know the poet for the boss, he wouldn't bark so loud.
& the poet? It's in her nature to fear failure but not to let that fear blot out her lines.


by Erica Jong | |

Nursing You

 On the first night
of the full moon,
the primeval sack of ocean
broke,
& I gave birth to you
little woman,
little carrot top,
little turned-up nose,
pushing you out of myself
as my mother
pushed
me out of herself,
as her mother did,
& her mother's mother before her,
all of us born
of woman.
I am the second daughter of a second daughter of a second daughter, but you shall be the first.
You shall see the phrase "second sex" only in puzzlement, wondering how anyone, except a madman, could call you "second" when you are so splendidly first, conferring even on your mother firstness, vastness, fullness as the moon at its fullest lights up the sky.
Now the moon is full again & you are four weeks old.
Little lion, lioness, yowling for my breasts, rowling at the moon, how I love your lustiness, your red face demanding, your hungry mouth howling, your screams, your cries which all spell life in large letters the color of blood.
You are born a woman for the sheer glory of it, little redhead, beautiful screamer.
You are no second sex, but the first of the first; & when the moon's phases fill out the cycle of your life, you will crow for the joy of being a woman, telling the pallid moon to go drown herself in the blue ocean, & glorying, glorying, glorying in the rosy wonder of your sunshining wondrous self.


by Erica Jong | |

Middle Aged Lovers II

 You open to me
a little,
then grow afraid
and close again,
a small boy
fearing to be hurt,
a toe stubbed
in the dark,
a finger cut
on paper.
I think I am free of fears, enraptured, abandoned to the call of the Bacchae, my own siren, tied to my own mast, both Circe and her swine.
But I too am afraid: I know where life leads.
The impulse to join, to confess all, is followed by the impulse to renounce, and love-- imperishable love-- must die, in order to be reborn.
We come to each other tentatively, veterans of other wars, divorce warrants in our hands which we would beat into blossoms.
But blossoms will not withstand our beatings.
We come to each other with hope in our hands-- the very thing Pandora kept in her casket when all the ills and woes of the world escaped.


by Erica Jong | |

Parable Of The Four-Poster

 Because she wants to touch him, 
she moves away.
Because she wants to talk to him, she keeps silent.
Because she wants to kiss him, she turns away & kisses a man she does not want to kiss.
He watches thinking she does not want him.
He listens hearing her silence.
He turns away thinking her distant & kisses a girl he does not want to kiss.
They marry each other - A four-way mistake.
He goes to bed with his wife thinking of her.
Sher goes to bed with her husband thinking of him.
-& all this in a real old-fashioned four-poster bed.
Do they live unhappily ever after? Of course.
Do they undo their mistakes? Never.
Who is the victim here? Love is the victim.
Who is the villian? Love that never dies.


by Erica Jong | |

People Who Live

 People who live by the sea
understand eternity.
They copy the curves of the waves, their hearts beat with the tides, & the saltiness of their blood corresponds with the sea.
They know that the house of flesh is only a sandcastle built on the shore, that skin breaks under the waves like sand under the soles of the first walker on the beach when the tide recedes.
Each of us walks there once, watching the bubbles rise up through the sand like ascending souls, tracing the line of the foam, drawing our index fingers along the horizon pointing home.


by Erica Jong | |

Smoke

 Smoke, it is all smoke
in the throat of eternity.
.
.
.
For centuries, the air was full of witches Whistling up chimneys on their spiky brooms cackling or singing more sweetly than Circe, as they flew over rooftops blessing & cursing their kind.
We banished & burned them making them smoke in the throat of god; we declared ourselves "enlightened.
" "The dark age of horrors is past," said my mother to me in 1952, seven years after our people went up in smoke, leaving a few teeth, a pile of bones.
The smoke curls and beckons.
It is blue & lavender & green as the undersea world.
It will take us, too.
O let us not go sheepishly clinging to our nakedness.
But let us go like witches sucked heavenward by the Goddess' powerful breath & whistling, whistling, whistling on our beautiful brooms.


by Erica Jong | |

Sunday Afternoons

 I sit at home
at my desk alone
as I used to do
on many sunday afternoons
when you came back to me,
your arms ached for me,
and your arms would close me in
though they smelled of other women.
I think of you on Sunday afternoons.
Your sweet head would bow, like a child somehow, down to me - and your hair and your eyes were wild.
We would embrace on the floor- You see my back´s still sore.
You knew how easily I bruised, It´s a soreness I would never lose.
I think of you on Sunday afternoons.


by Erica Jong | |

The Artist as an Old Man

 If you ask him he will talk for hours--
how at fourteen he hammered signs, fingers
raw with cold, and later painted bowers
in ladies' boudoirs; how he played checkers
for two weeks in jail, and lived on dark bread;
how he fled the border to a country
which disappeared wars ago; unfriended
crossed a continent while this century
began.
He seldom speaks of painting now.
Young men have time and theories; old men work.
He has painted countless portraits.
Sallow nameless faces, made glistening in oil, smirk above anonymous mantelpieces.
The turpentine has a familiar smell, but his hand trembles with odd, new palsies.
Perched on the maulstick, it nears the easel.
He has come to like his resignation.
In his sketch books, ink-dark cossacks hear the snorts of horses in the crunch of snow.
His pen alone recalls that years ago, one horseman set his teeth and aimed his spear which, poised, seemed pointed straight to pierce the sun.


by Erica Jong | |

The End of the World

 Here, at the end of the world,
the flowers bleed
as if they were hearts,
the hearts ooze a darkness
like india ink,
& poets dip their pens in
& they write.
"Here, at the end of the world," they write, not knowing what it means.
"Here, where the sky nurses on black milk, where the smokestack feed the sky, where the trees tremble in terror & people come to resemble them.
.
.
.
" Here, at the end of the world, the poets are bleeding.
Writing & bleeding are thought to be the same; singing & bleeding are thought to be the same.
Write us a letter! Send us a parcel of food! Comfort us with proverbs or candied fruit, with talk of one God.
Distract us with theories of art no one can prove.
Here at the end of the world our heads are empty, & the wind walks through them like ghosts through a haunted house.


by Erica Jong | |

The Poem Cat

 Sometimes the poem
doesn't want to come;
it hides from the poet
like a playful cat
who has run
under the house
& lurks among slugs,
roots, spiders' eyes,
ledge so long out of the sun
that it is dank
with the breath of the Troll King.
Sometimes the poem darts away like a coy lover who is afraid of being possessed, of feeling too much, of losing his essential loneliness-which he calls freedom.
Sometimes the poem can't requite the poet's passion.
The poem is a dance between poet & poem, but sometimes the poem just won't dance and lurks on the sidelines tapping its feet- iambs, trochees- out of step with the music of your mariachi band.
If the poem won't come, I say: sneak up on it.
Pretend you don't care.
Sit in your chair reading Shakespeare, Neruda, immortal Emily and let yourself flow into their music.
Go to the kitchen and start peeling onions for homemade sugo.
Before you know it, the poem will be crying as your ripe tomatoes bubble away with inspiration.
When the whole house is filled with the tender tomato aroma, start kneading the pasta.
As you rock over the damp sensuous dough, making it bend to your will, as you make love to this manna of flour and water, the poem will get hungry and come just like a cat coming home when you least expect her.


by Erica Jong | |

To Whom It May Concern

 In Autumn,
as in Spring,
the sap flows,
the sap wishes to race
against heartbeats
before the winter,
before the winter
buries us
in her usual shroud of ice.
I turn to you knowing that unrequited love is good for poetry, knowing that pain will nudge the muse as well as anything, knowing that you are afraid, fettered to a life you do not love, & so unfree that freedom seems more fearful even than the familiar business of being a grumbling slave.
I lived that way once, & I know that freedom is its own reward, that it propagates itself by means of runners, that nobody gives it to you, not even me to you, but that you must seize it with your own two quaking hands & pluck the strawberry it bears in the green ungrumbling Spring.


by Erica Jong | |

After the Earthquake

 After the first astounding rush,
after the weeks at the lake,
the crystal, the clouds, the water lapping the rocks,
the snow breaking under our boots like skin,
& the long mornings in bed.
.
.
After the tangos in the kitchen, & our eyes fixed on each other at dinner, as if we would eat with our lids, as if we would swallow each other.
.
.
I find you still here beside me in bed, (while my pen scratches the pad & your skin glows as you read) & my whole life so mellowed & changed that at times I cannot remember the crimp in my heart that brought me to you, the pain of a marriage like an old ache, a husband like an arthritic knuckle.
Here, living with you, love is still the only subject that matters.
I open to you like a flowering wound, or a trough in the sea filled with dreaming fish, or a steaming chasm of earth split by a major quake.
You changed the topography.
Where valleys were, there are now mountains.
Where deserts were, there now are seas.
We rub each other, but we do not wear away.
The sand gets finer & our skins turn silk.


by Erica Jong | |

Autumn Perspective

 Now, moving in, cartons on the floor,
the radio playing to bare walls,
picture hooks left stranded
in the unsoiled squares where paintings were,
and something reminding us
this is like all other moving days;
finding the dirty ends of someone else's life,
hair fallen in the sink, a peach pit,
and burned-out matches in the corner;
things not preserved, yet never swept away
like fragments of disturbing dreams
we stumble on all day.
.
.
in ordering our lives, we will discard them, scrub clean the floorboards of this our home lest refuse from the lives we did not lead become, in some strange, frightening way, our own.
And we have plans that will not tolerate our fears-- a year laid out like rooms in a new house--the dusty wine glasses rinsed off, the vases filled, and bookshelves sagging with heavy winter books.
Seeing the room always as it will be, we are content to dust and wait.
We will return here from the dark and silent streets, arms full of books and food, anxious as we always are in winter, and looking for the Good Life we have made.
I see myself then: tense, solemn, in high-heeled shoes that pinch, not basking in the light of goals fulfilled, but looking back to now and seeing a lazy, sunburned, sandaled girl in a bare room, full of promise and feeling envious.
Now we plan, postponing, pushing our lives forward into the future--as if, when the room contains us and all our treasured junk we will have filled whatever gap it is that makes us wander, discontented from ourselves.
The room will not change: a rug, or armchair, or new coat of paint won't make much difference; our eyes are fickle but we remain the same beneath our suntans, pale, frightened, dreaming ourselves backward and forward in time, dreaming our dreaming selves.
I look forward and see myself looking back.


by Erica Jong | |

Beast Book Body

 I was sick of being a woman,
sick of the pain,
the irrelevant detail of sex,
my own concavity
uselessly hungering
and emptier whenever it was filled,
and filled finally
by its own emptiness,
seeking the garden of solitude
instead of men.
The white bed in the green garden-- I looked forward to sleeping alone the way some long for a lover.
Even when you arrived, I tried to beat you away with my sadness, my cynical seductions, and my trick of turning a slave into a master.
And all because you made my fingertips ache and my eyes cross in passion that did not know its own name.
Bear, beast, lover of the book of my body, you turned my pages and discovered what was there to be written on the other side.
And now I am blank for you, a tabula rasa ready to be printed with letters in an undiscovered language by the great press of our love.


by Erica Jong | |

Climbing You

 I want to understand the steep thing
that climbs ladders in your throat.
I can't make sense of you.
Everywhere I look you're there-- a vast landmark, a volcano poking its head through the clouds, Gulliver sprawled across Lilliput.
I climb into your eyes, looking.
The pupils are black painted stage flats.
They can be pulled down like window shades.
I switch on a light in your iris.
Your brain ticks like a bomb.
In your offhand, mocking way you've invited me into your chest.
Inside: the blur that poses as your heart.
I'm supposed to go in with a torch or maybe hot water bottles & defrost it by hand as one defrosts an old refrigerator.
It will shudder & sigh (the icebox to the insomniac).
Oh there's nothing like love between us.
You're the mountain, I am climbing you.
If I fall, you won't be all to blame, but you'll wait years maybe for the next doomed expedition.


by Erica Jong | |

Colder

 He was six foot four, and forty-six
and even colder than he thought he was
James Thurber, The Thirteen Clocks

Not that I cared about the other woman.
Those perfumed breasts with hearts of pure rock salt.
Lot's wives- all of them.
I didn't care if they fondled him at parties, eased him in at home between a husband & a child, sucked him dry with vacuum cleaner kisses.
It was the coldness that I minded, though he's warned me.
"I'm cold," He said- (as if that helped any).
But he was colder than he thought he was.
Cold sex.
A woman has to die & be exhumed four times a week to know the meaning of it.
His hips are razors his pelvic bones are knives, even his elbows could cut butter.
Cold flows from his mouth like a cloud of carbon dioxide.
Hie penis is pure dry ice which turns to smoke.
His face hands over my face- An ice carving.
One of these days he'll shatter or he'll melt.


by Erica Jong | |

Dear Colette

 Dear Colette,
I want to write to you
about being a woman
for that is what you write to me.
I want to tell you how your face enduring after thirty, forty, fifty.
.
.
hangs above my desk like my own muse.
I want to tell you how your hands reach out from your books & seize my heart.
I want to tell you how your hair electrifies my thoughts like my own halo.
I want to tell you how your eyes penetrate my fear & make it melt.
I want to tell you simply that I love you-- though you are "dead" & I am still "alive.
" Suicides & spinsters-- all our kind! Even decorous Jane Austen never marrying, & Sappho leaping, & Sylvia in the oven, & Anna Wickham, Tsvetaeva, Sara Teasdale, & pale Virginia floating like Ophelia, & Emily alone, alone, alone.
.
.
.
But you endure & marry, go on writing, lose a husband, gain a husband, go on writing, sing & tap dance & you go on writing, have a child & still you go on writing, love a woman, love a man & go on writing.
You endure your writing & your life.
Dear Colette, I only want to thank you: for your eyes ringed with bluest paint like bruises, for your hair gathering sparks like brush fire, for your hands which never willingly let go, for your years, your child, your lovers, all your books.
.
.
.
Dear Colette, you hold me to this life.


by Erica Jong | |

Flying at Forty

 You call me
courageous, 
I who grew up
gnawing on books,
as some kids
gnaw
on bubble gum,

who married disastrously
not once
but three times,
yet have a lovely daughter
I would not undo
for all the dope
in California.
Fear was my element, fear my contagion.
I swam in it till I became immune.
The plane takes off & I laugh aloud.
Call me courageous.
I am still alive.


by Erica Jong | |

For an Earth-Landing

 the sky sinks its blue teeth
into the mountains.
Rising on pure will (the lurch & lift-off, the sudden swing into wide, white snow), I encourage the cable.
Past the wind & crossed tips of my skis & the mauve shadows of pines & the spoor of bears & deer, I speak to my fear, rising, riding, finding myself the only thing between snow & sky, the link that holds it all together.
Halfway up the wire, we stop, slide back a little (a whirr of pulleys).
Astronauts circle above us today in the television blue of space.
But the thin withers of alps are waiting to take us too, & this might be the moon! We move! Friends, this is a toy merely for reaching mountains merely for skiing down.
& now we're dangling like charms on the same bracelet or upsidedown tightrope people (a colossal circus!) or absurd winged walkers, angels in animal fur, with mittened hands waving & fear turning & the mountain like a fisherman, reeling us all in.
So we land on the windy peak, touch skis to snow, are married to our purple shadows, & ski back down to the unimaginable valley leaving no footprints.


by Erica Jong | |

Henry James in the Heart of the City

 We have a small sculpture of Henry James on our terrace in New York City.
Nothing would surprise him.
The beast in the jungle was what he saw-- Edith Wharton's obfuscating older brother.
.
.
He fled the demons of Manhattan for fear they would devour his inner ones (the ones who wrote the books) & silence the stifled screams of his protagonists.
To Europe like a wandering Jew-- WASP that he was-- but with the Jew's outsider's hunger.
.
.
face pressed up to the glass of sex refusing every passion but the passion to write the words grew more & more complex & convoluted until they utterly imprisoned him in their fairytale brambles.
Language for me is meant to be a transparency, clear water gleaming under a covered bridge.
.
.
I love his spiritual sister because she snatched clarity from her murky history.
Tormented New Yorkers both, but she journeyed to the heart of light-- did he? She took her friends on one last voyage, through the isles of Greece on a yacht chartered with her royalties-- a rich girl proud to be making her own money.
The light of the Middle Sea was what she sought.
All denizens of this demonic city caught between pitch and black long for the light.
But she found it in a few of her books.
.
.
while Henry James discovered what he had probably started with: that beast, that jungle, that solipsistic scream.
He did not join her on that final cruise.
(He was on his own final cruise).
Did he want to? I would wager yes.
I look back with love and sorrow at them both-- dear teachers-- but she shines like Miss Liberty to Emma Lazarus' hordes, while he gazes within, always, at his own impenetrable jungle.


by Erica Jong | |

Letter to My Lover After Seven Years

 You gave me the child
that seamed my belly
& stitched up my life.
You gave me: one book of love poems, five years of peace & two of pain.
You gave me darkness, light, laughter & the certain knowledge that we someday die.
You gave me seven years during which the cells of my body died & were reborn.
Now we have died into the limbo of lost loves, that wreckage of memories tarnishing with time, that litany of losses which grows longer with the years, as more of our friends descend underground & the list of our loved dead outstrips the list of the living.
Knowing as we do our certain doom, knowing as we do the rarity of the gifts we gave & received, can we redeem our love from the limbo, dust it off like a fine sea trunk found in an attic & now more valuable for its age & rarity than a shining new one? Probably not.
This page is spattered with tears that streak the words lose, losses, limbo.
I stand on a ledge in hell still howling for our love