NATURE’S GAME: AMMONS V. LAUX

 

About a quarter of the participants in the 2011 APR March Madness run by Scarriet also vied for the Best American Poetry title in Scarriet’s 2010 tourney. 

Billy Collins won the BAP championship in 2010, but he’s nowhere to be seen in the 25% APR overlap in 2011

The highest finisher in the 2010 BAP tournament who is also in APR is William Kulik. (Take note, future anthologists.)

Our next contestants, 6th seed A.R. “Archie” Ammons and 11th seed Dorianne “D-low” Laux, were both in the 2010 BAP March Madness.

Dorianne Laux’s “The Shipfitter’s Wife” was in last year’s BAP March Madness and that poem alone is sure to guarantee her immortality. Laux belongs to the Sharon Olds school of unabashed love and sexuality.

The Lovers

She is about to come. This time,
they are sitting up, joined below the belly,
feet cupped like sleek hands praying
at the base of each other’s spines.
And when something lifts within her
toward a light she’s sure, once again,
she can’t bear, she opens her eyes
and sees his face is turned away,
one arm behind him, hands splayed
palm down on the mattress, to brace himself
so he can lever his hips, touch
with the bright tip the innermost spot.
And she finds she can’t bear it—
not his beautiful neck, stretched and corded,
not his hair fallen to one side like beach grass,
not the curved wing of his ear, washed thin
with daylight, deep pink of the inner body—
what she can’t bear is that she can’t see his face,
not that she thinks this exactly—she is rocking
and breathing—it’s more her body’s though,
opening, as it is, into its own sheer truth.
So that when her hand lifts of its own violation
and slaps him, twice on the chest,
on that pad of muscled flesh just above the nipple,
slaps him twice, fast, like a nursing child
trying to get a mother’s attention,
she’s startled by the sound,
though when he turns his face to hers—
which is what her body wants, his eyes
pulled open, as if she had bitten—
she does reach out and bite him, on the shoulder,
not hard, but with the power infants have
over those who have borne them, tied as they are
to the body, and so, tied to the pleasure,
the exquisite pain of this world.
And when she lifts her face he sees
where she’s gone, knows she can’t speak,
is traveling toward something essential,
toward the core of her need, so he simply
watches, steadily, with an animal calm
as she arches and screams, watches the face that,
if she could see it, she would never let him see.

–Dorianne Laux

MARLA MUSE: Wow.

Ammons, on the other handis our modern Wordsworth.

Widespread Implications

How sweetly now like a boy I dawdle by ditches,
broken rocky brooks that clear streams through

the golden leaves: the light so bright from
the leaves still up, scarlet screaming vines

lining old growths high or rounding domes of
sumac: how like a sail set out from harbor

hitting the winds I flounder this way and that
for the steady dealing in the variable time:

old boys are young boys again, peeing arcs
the pleasantest use of their innocence, up

against trees or into boles, rock hollows or
into already running water! returned from

the differentiation of manhood almost back to
the woman: attached but hinge-loose, flappy,

uncalled for and uncalled, the careless way
off into nothingness: where, though, but in

nothingness can the brilliance more brightly
abide, the ripple in a brook-warp as gorgeously

blank as a galaxy: I dropped the mouse,
elegantly supersmall, from the trap out by the

back sage bush, and all day his precious little
tooth shone white, his nose barely dipped in

blood:  he lay belly up snow white in the
golden October morn, but this morning, the

next, whatever prowls the night has taken him
away, a dear morsel that meant to winter

here with us

Here is the classic battle, Marla, humans v. nature.

MARLA MUSE: I prefer humans. Because there you get nature, too.

But you automatically get the human in any poem about nature…

MARLA MUSE: Tut, tut. No you don’t.

Let’s stop philosophizing; we have millions of simple—I mean, TV viewers…

MARLA MUSE: Millions who are turning away in embarrassment from Laux’s poem…

But the human…

MARLA MUSE: Ammons has made the mouse human, which is far more charming than Laux’s rather blatant camera-work…

But isn’t Ammons being sentimental with that mouse—

MARLA MUSE: Dead mouse…

And I don’t quite see how we get from the boys peeing in the first part of the Ammons poem to the mouse in the latter part of the Ammons poem, although it is a beautiful poem…

MARLA MUSE: “The Lovers” has more unity, true, though I find it trying too hard to be profound. Anyway, that’s not how I make love…

It’s not your opinion that decides, Marla…it’s the game…the game…

Look…the sweat coming off the players…

Laux 84, Ammons 80!    Dorianne Laux advances!

2 Comments

  1. Poem support said,

    March 23, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    The Lovers

    She is about to come. This time,
    they are sitting up, joined below the belly,
    feet cupped like sleek hands praying
    at the base of each other’s spines.
    And when something lifts within her
    toward a light she’s sure, once again,
    she can’t bear, she opens her eyes
    and sees his face is turned away,
    one arm behind him, hand splayed
    palm down on the mattress, to brace himself
    so he can lever his hips, touch
    with the bright tip the innermost spot.
    And she finds she can’t bear it—
    not his beautiful neck, stretched and corded,
    not his hair fallen to one side like beach grass,
    not the curved wing of his ear, washed thin
    with daylight, deep pink of the inner body—
    what she can’t bear is that she can’t see his face,
    not that she thinks this exactly—she is rocking
    and breathing—it’s more her body’s thought,
    opening, as it is, into its own sheer truth.
    So that when her hand lifts of its own volition
    and slaps him, twice on the chest,
    on that pad of muscled flesh just above the nipple,
    slaps him twice, fast, like a nursing child
    trying to get a mother’s attention,
    she’s startled by the sound,
    though when he turns his face to hers—
    which is what her body wants, his eyes
    pulled open, as if she had bitten—
    she does reach out and bite him, on the shoulder,
    not hard, but with the power infants have
    over those who have borne them, tied as they are
    to the body, and so, tied to the pleasure,
    the exquisite pain of this world.
    And when she lifts her face he sees
    where she’s gone, knows she can’t speak,
    is traveling toward something essential,
    toward the core of her need, so he simply
    watches, steadily, with an animal calm
    as she arches and screams, watches the face that,
    if she could see it, she would never let him see.

    Dorianne Laux

  2. Poem support said,

    March 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Widespread Implications

    How sweetly now like a boy I dawdle by ditches,
    broken rocky brooks that clear streams through

    the golden leaves: the light so bright from
    the leaves still up, scarlet screaming vines

    lining old growths high or rounding domes of
    sumac: how like a sail set out from harbor

    hitting the winds I flounder this way and that
    for the steady dealing in the variable time:

    old boys are young boys again, peeing arcs
    the pleasantest use of their innocence, up

    against trees or into boles, rock hollows or
    into already running water! returned from

    the differentiation of manhood almost back to
    the woman: attached but hinge-loose, flappy,

    uncalled for and uncalled, the careless way
    off into nothingness: where, though, but in

    nothingness can the brilliance more brightly
    abide, the ripple in a brook-warp as gorgeously

    blank as a galaxy: I dropped the mouse,
    elegantly supersmall, from the trap out by the

    back sage bush, and all day his precious little
    tooth shone white, his nose barely dipped in

    blood: he lay belly up snow white in the
    golden October morn, but this morning, the

    next, whatever prowls the night has taken him
    away, a dear morsel that meant to winter

    here with us

    A.R. Ammons


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: