don’t call up phantoms.
They hang around,
drinking your beer,
sprawled on the couch in their underwear,
pretending to read the Economist.
I sent this poem to Stan. He e-mailed back:
“Wanking” is British. How about “jacking off”?
I defended “wanking” as “matter-of-fact.”
(To me, “jacking off” reeked
of adolescent puritanical shame & defiance.)
I went to the library. There, on the New Non-Fiction shelf
was Ginsberg’s Death & Fame. In a poem titled “Jacking Off,”
Ginsberg, 70, regales himself with phantoms:
“Who showed up?” Joe S., Huck, “Tom G.
big cocked passed through my dream bed, didn’t stay . . .
“Ah John got you . . . leather handcuffs & strap
binding hand & feet helpless,
Leather collar roped to the bedstead’s head . . .
Spank good & hard, slap his ass / let him writhe . . .
“So came on that unfamiliar fear
savage control over
Adonis body, willing
eager — bound to be true.”
The shame & defiance I feel
are my own, not language’s —
— and to be so dismissive,
nay, intolerant, of the phantoms —
helpless (yes!) half-beings
that one must oneself be
Vancouver, Dec. 1, 2004