Recently, I woke up to the long hours I was spending online gazing at one beautiful male body after another. Gorgeous frames, faces, pecs, penises. Each man different, each man the same. Each one leaving me wanting more.
That’s the nature of desire. It is never satisfied, always goes to bed hungry. Repeats itself ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
Poet Mark Doty jolted me awake to this fact with three words—longing’s repetitive texts—from his poem, “Homo Shall Not Inherit.” For two weeks I repeated this newfound mantra, then unplugged myself from the sources that (at my request) had been sending me daily doses of erotica.
“Enough is enough,” I said. I meant it.
“Enough is never enough,” Desire whispered.
But I was firm. I’ve heard it takes six weeks to change a behavior. In the following six weeks I was back online searching for erotica only twice. Had I changed?
Not a chance. I was waylaid at the local community theatre presentation by one of the actors. Tall trim body, chiseled features, large dark eyes, long brown hair that makes my heart ache. His character appeared on stage bound and bleeding. His expression mingled vulnerability and defiance. Long after the performance I replayed images of him, mental theatrics that featured his front and center.
Desire licked his lips and they were mine. Of course. Who am I trying to fool—escape Desire? This will happen only when I quit breathing, if then. So long as I am alive, Desire is joint tenant in my experience of life.
I want it to work like this: I give Desire room and board; he stays out of the control room. But he is part camel. Given an inch, he takes a mile. And I easily go unaware of my actions. Somehow Doty’s phrase woke me up to the camel in my tent.
I asked for a one-on-one with Desire. He sauntered into my dining room, pulled up a chair. I thanked him for his role in my life, for enlivening my days. I asked him what he wants and needs from me. I listened to his reply.
He wants sex, power, excitement and more of it. I pressed him about his underlying needs. He looked into middle distance, spoke slowly. Said he needs to feel loved, acceptable. We surprised ourselves, got teary. I asked to hold him. I assured him he is loved.
We compromised, agreed to a limited amount of visual stimulation. I reminded him that there is a place for him in my life, but it is not the driver’s seat. He nodded. We were back on track--for the moment.
Mindful of his camel nature and my own easy forgetfulness, I wanted to mark the moment, erect an ebenezer to remind me into awareness. But what, how? I turned again to Mark Doty’s poem:
in each body, however obscured or recast,
is the divine body--common, habitable—
the way in a field of sunflowers
you can see every bloom’s
the multiple expression
of a single shining idea,
which is the face hammered into joy.
Sunflowers, sexy men--all different, all the same--me, my husband, the actor, the men who posed for the photographs I ogled--we are all repetitive texts, a single shining idea writ many times over in muscle and manhood, flesh and bone. Sunflowers can serve as an apt reminder.
Hmm. Several sunflowers had sprouted beneath our bird feeder. I asked Desire to accompany me. Picturing the actor, we transplanted these fledglings to a small patch of earth along the garden path. There takes root my lust and longing for the sexy thespian. There grows a green and gold reminder to stay awake to the nature of longing, to see past it to my true heart’s desire, to give thanks even as my face, my life, all I love, is hammered into joy.
This essay appeared in The Letter, July 2008