“What is it men in women do require?
“The lineaments of gratified desire.
“What is it women do in men require?
“The lineaments of gratified desire.
–¬ William Blake
“’She wa’n’t known for the strength
“Of ‘er knicker-elastic,” the old man said,
“Took ‘em down for all comers
“Your girl-friend did; then she busted hearts.
“Best known for an eye for virgin boys…”
He smiled then stared, gimlet-eyed.
I now recalled her stock invitation
To callow youths, “Wanna to grow up quick, boy?”
And feverishly enflamed they’d fall for her like skittles.
Ralston Craggs was the old man’s name.
His rustic accent and his colourful speech
Made him sound like a character from Hardy.
Ralston Craggs. A hero of my youth
Who lived in penury
In a house that was half pigsty
In a run-down scrag-end
Of an Oxfordshire village –
He was rich as Croesus in philosophy
And salty language
Yet without a pot to piss in.
“No,” he was saying now, decades later
In the Farmers’ Arms on Sheep Street –
(Still an agricultural pub by the skin of its teeth
But now called The Three Horseshoes) –
“She wa’n’t known for that…
“But were she strong in other aspects?
“Oh by God, she was, wasn’t she,
“Tough as nails, she was, and, as they say,
“She’d heard the chimes of midnight…
“She rang your bell, didn’t she?
“Admit it. She rang it hard…”
He sneaked a surreptitious twinkle
Into his darkly whispered confidence,
Much like a jeweler carefully
Re-setting a precious stone
To maximize the sparkle.
Ralston was too polite to include
The name of whom it was
That he was so forthrightly
And fondly slandering…
Wishing to protect her 24-carat notoriety.
But nonetheless he’d cheekily nudge me
With a gently teasing elbow in the ribs
Into reliving that first love;
Into basking once more in the erotic glow;
The luminescent glory; the spiky radiance
Of that village adventuress who was adored
And as soon as, rheumy eyed, he’d evoked her –
Summoned her with his country magic –
Then back she came, bounding into my mind’s eye
Almost bursting its blood vessels
And disrupting the torpid tranquility
Of a deserted rural watering-hole
On a wintry Sunday in November.
She hurtled into my mind
Like a flesh-eating thunderbolt
From another world, long overgrown.
But now I was seeing her again: that tempestuous spirit
Steaming with the life-force,
I was seeing her stomping along a Thames-side tow-path
In a mud-spattered, flower-embroidered muslin dress,
Or wearing a scary combo of black leather jacket,
Scarlet T-shirt, black beret and Tartan trews.
Her battered Doc Martin boots are hand-painted
With names and improper slogans;
One boot is threaded with a shiny licorice-string
For her to bend down and nip off a portion
To chew whenever she’s peckish.
She wears fluorescent socks of evil colours
That can bruise the retina
And which she’ll heedlessly incinerate
When they prove too overpowering.
With an incongruous daisy chain around her head,
She deftly jumps along the narrow-boat roofs
In an early morning river haze
And now she’s back inside my brain;
Smoldering under my skin,
Making her rainbow colors flash inside my head
Like the embers from a pheromonal fire
That still burn like napalm, a lifetime later.
Thanks to Ralston, these cellular memories,
Decades old, are being stirred.
She’s rampaging still through a field of butterflies;
She’s chasing past the Chalkhill Blues and Grizzled Skippers,
The Red Admirals and the Cabbage Whites on Pixie Mead.
She’s catching crayfish by dangling wool into the canal,
Tied around some gruesome scraps of dusty, gristly steak
Scrounged from a Wheatley butcher to whom she’s given the eye
She adds weights made with pendant clutches of hollow pebbles.
I can hear her proclaiming, with a tantalizing grin, that all shellfish
Have aphrodisiac powers – and that she’ll field-test them –
And if the ones she’ll presently be catching don’t work,
Why then she’ll “fling the buggers back into the canal”–
As martyrs to her sensual superstition.
She’ll even eat them raw, she’ll crunch through their armor –
A country giantess eating mini-dinosaurs with abandon
Then she leaps, and jumps and dances across Pixie Mead
Trumpeting licentious cuss-words
Of devastating rudeness with her angel-demon voice.
I remembered her fire hydrants of filthy laughter
As she pollinated the misty air with puckish thought–
Spraying half the meadow with a throaty, pagan power
Rejoicing in her being a Queen of the May;
A Queen of green hedgerows and all the lush tussocks
And Empress of every meadowsweet, milkwort, eyebright
And any wild plant she’d cast her eye upon and pluck.
I could hear her voice again, “Watch yourself boy!
“Stealing heaven from the lips of a goddess…
“Stealing heaven from her fucking flaps…
“Like it? You better had…!”
Now here she was again, back in the Farmer’s Arms,
Back from the dead, thanks to Ralston’s sharp elbow
And a nip of rum from his grey army greatcoat
To nudge the memory even more…
Here she was again, dancing before my eyes,
Dancing into my reptile brain for a reprise performance
Of all her hazardous countryside rides –
Laughing still but now more distantly,
Laughing from the lofty pinnacles
Of her unholy heaven.
And now I squirmed, embarrassed as I remembered
My reciting favorite poem after poem to her
While her eyelids drooped and narrowed
And her impetuous hungry eyes glazed over.
One by Andrew MarveI that I chose ran,
“The grave’s a fine and private place,
“But none I think do there embrace…”
“Of course they fucking do embrace!”
She’d retort scornfully since lovemaking
Made her feel immortal, so she said
And so she pursued it with a missionary zeal.
“Heaven’s a fucking field day of fucking
“You wait and see, there’s footloose fucking
“In the streets of heaven
“Non-stop, night and day,
“But I’m havin’ my after-life right here, now…
“So, come here, you.”
She judged all poetry to be “soft”:
“Why do you bother with soppy stuff like that
“When the real thing’s right here?”
Then she’d lash out and kick at the back of your knees,
Unhinging them so that you’d collapse
As she’d fall on top of you then she’d undo you,
And then she’d do you, legs akimbo…
Heaving paroxysms of flailing limbs,
And gasps and sighs and lusty exclamations
As she’d crush your ribcage and squeeze out your breath.
She smelled of a rampaging, visceral, goodness –
And the glistening blades of grass beside your head
Poked at your eyes like fairy swords, nature’s acupuncture,
And you felt blessed, regaled by her giggles and solar-powered smiles.
“You like my smell don’t you?
“It’s the smell of new mown pubes.”
In a symphony of wild yelping
She’d hastily find out how both bodies best fitted
As she lured the ‘beast with four backs’ from its lair.
And I was seventeen and it was overwhelming
To be gathered up in a whirlwind of euphoria;
To be overcome by this primal porno Eve and to be terrified
By the seeming enormity of what was happening:
I was about to merge, to be merged, with another person
About whom I knew next to nothing
Except that she lived in the eye
Of an hormonal tornado, and that her steely pupils
Penetrated you like the hawk that I’d once had upon my arm
To take rabbiting in Wytham Woods.
I’d have to turn away from
That hypnotically voracious face
But faced by my shyness
She’d shriek with laughter
And pinch my cheeks hard to make me blush,
Even more than I already was.
I’d roll my head from side to side, wide-eyed and panic-stricken,
Studying dense thickets of dried hay stalks
Just beside my head, and scrutinizing them in desperation
As the meadow’s ants and earwigs, and beetles
Darted across their miniature glades of dappled sunlight,
Perilously balanced on narrow aerial walkways –
All feverishly hunting for food to fuel
That culminating moment
Of beetle bliss, that same charged hiatus
That defines their identity,
Their existence and their raison d’etre.
All of them seemed more assured than me.
Moving without hesitation
With their insect love gods
Still in tact, unlike ours.
Eros, Apollo, and Pan
Have abandoned us
Through our becoming desacralized.
So we improvise and pretend that we know
The secret of life although our rituals
Have long withered on the vine…
There are no Eleusinian Mysteries,
No schools of orgiastic education,
No tribal consummations.
Now she kicks in with her wondrous rudeness,
And her crude reality, “Look what I got.”
“Better get you to put one on, hadn’t we.”
There’s a peal of earthy laughter,
She produces a packet of three.
“Shall we set sail? Love buccaneers in a rubber dingy!
“You can get musical ones now can’t you?
“There’s ones with Japanese robots in ‘em
“What serenades you while you’re on the job.”
She undoes the packet. She’s adept at fitting one,
“Oh Little Master Killjoy – he do insist on visiting
Nowadays but he’s soon forgot about.”
She cackles at her climax as she cries out both our names
Adding, “the fucking, fucking, fucking love buccaneers!”
When it’s over –
An erogenous explosion that’s to die for –
She rips off the floppy, filled-up condom
And she slowly spills its contents,
Dribbling the silver gouts onto her breasts
then slaps and massages the drops into her skin
Making a glistening, lustrous sheen of moisture.
“Love juice. Good for spots…” she says, matter of factly.
“From that old slithery, slippery spunk bag
“What you topped up. Wicked boy. With your come.”
‘Come’ was the rudest word I’d ever heard.
It came from the diabolic depths of rudeness.
Ralston cleared his throat,
“I thought she preferred it,” Ralston said, poker-faced,
“If people didn’t wear galoshes.”
He paused, “All part of her general chuckin’ caution to the wind, I thought.”
“Liked to feel your full essence.”
“The love buccaneer “That’s what she called herself.
“Didn’t she?” then he added sagely,
“Liked to see she’d done you four square
“Liked to pump you dry. As I heard,” he added wryly.
I wondered how he knew so much, but didn’t probe.
I just detected that there must be some hidden oasis
in his psyche where the sun also shone…
And beat down on him with a fierce memory
burnt into his soul – a memory
Which he’d found little to match ever since.
“Old joys, eh? all gone now. The source of them
“All gone. Gone to the place
“She liked best of all, the graveyard.
“Liked to do boys there, I heard. Sometimes she sang
“The Hallelujah chorus while she came.
“I heard.” He winked, “Remember that?”
“Yes”, I said. “I remember that.” I did.
“Hallelujah,” he said;
“Hallelujah!” I echoed in response,
And then he added sagely, “A woman like that can throw you
“Far, far further than dynamite can blow you.”
I acknowledged his folk-wisdom
But I too was remembering…
Re-living that rampant co-mingling
With a punk and lawless spirit,
Still so vividly alive in two of the people
That she’d so briefly loved.
Pic Elena Caldera