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On Not Using the Word “Cunt” in a Poem

ISSUE:  Winter 2006

Certainly there’s pressure to perform
in such a way what doesn’t sound so stately
and isn’t safe: Let it be shorn,

the poem’s lush holiness. Let locks be trimmed.
Cut to the chase. How unchaste can you be?

Can I proffer a different kind of tongue,

one that licks nether regions? Can I start
offering words that aren’t courtly or cute
and don’t contain such blanket recanting

of words I use when I am in a wreck
or mad at somebody or being fucked
—those anti-canticles I chant when hurt,

the kind of words I punt when breaking glass
or bumping ceilings? Can I be curt,
not hunt for language so gosh-darned appealing

but pick what’s more intransigent
and less ornate? Or is that just a judgment
ignorance can make—that stealing

the spotlight, showing one can “rough it up”
is really more mere decorativeness,
like the performance of a burlesque romp

by someone who would rather keep her dress?
Is that all poems can do to snatch attention,
use such dim tents of tricks? Let’s nick

this baby in the bud: am I too mendicant
to fluid cadence? Do I serve lip
by thinking a poem is holy, not a hole

to thrust things in, for the very sake of thrusting?
Or do I suit myself for an audience
by shirking my naked voice, or the cliché

of what a woman’s naked utterance
would be, as if just honest women cussed?
Should I be someone who docks elegance

because it’s penal territory,
someone who takes the name of poetry
in vain—who kicks the ass of beauty?

I know we’re all voyeurs, but can’t
you come for me a different way this time
and listen, for one minute, to a poem

that’s not revealing crotch and pay attention?
Is it impossible for me to strut
my stuff without the madonna/whore

dichotomy? Without the flash of tit
-illation, would you give my poem a date?
Or must I count my kind of cunning out?


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