The thought hits me in the middle of the day:
I am your glacier over the woods, so pale.
I am your third arm, the bird
that flutters against your window
drawn up without a distant moon.
Somehow with stars,
we drowse like white gardinias,
a field with daisies and violets
between throat and belly.
I put my mouth against your heart.
This love poem by Kate Kysar beautifully takes on the difficult task of capturing the essence of erotic love. In it the speaker tries on a series of metaphors to describe the relation between her and her lover, whom she is addressing in the poem.
The first line lets us know the speaker is thinking of her relation to the beloved after or before their lovemaking; “The thought hits me in the middle of the day:” the poem begins, and we realize that even from this vantage point the speaker is trying to find language that can match the intensity and tenderness they have shared. Her first attempt is “I am your glacier…so pale.” Here she succeeds finding a metaphor that gets at the color of their skin, but glaciers are cold. They move slowly. So she tries again: “I am your third arm/the bird that flutters against your window…” Here she reaches for a metaphor that speaks to their interconnection. She is so close to him that she is almost part of him, but lovers inhabit separate bodies, so that doesn't quite work, either. She thinks of a bird, alive and active outside thew window. The bird poses a problem, too, though, because it is outside the window, seeking a point of access.
The speaker tries again: “Somehow with stars” she begins, and we can see that she is giving up on the effort to find a metaphor that accurately captures the nature of the love she is trying to describe. The lovers have ended up with stars “somehow” and this sense of doubt in language (can it successfully capture the lovers?) continues as the speaker shifts from metaphor to simile. “We drowse like white gardinias” the speaker goes on, abandoning the metaphor (they are not flowers; they are like flowers).
Finally, after the most erotic line in the poem, when the bodies become covered in flowers or perhaps become the field on which the lovers lie, the speaker gives up. She commands her lover to “Listen” and then, instead of speaking, she presses her mouth to his body. In this gesture she concedes. The passion cannot be captured in words; it is only articulated through the body.
I think that move—from the command “listen” to the end of speaking and the beginning of lovemaking—is breathtaking. In the poem's struggle toward articulation, the experience it describes is only captured when language is allowed to fail. Pretty damned cool.
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