Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's Time for a Poem

I liked this poem by James Lasdun when I found it a few months ago.

Woman Police Officer in Elevator

By James Lasdun

Not that I’d ever noticed
Either a taste or a distaste
For that supposedly arousing
Rebus of pain and desire, the uniformed woman,
Whether as Dietrich in epaulettes,
Or armored like Penthesileia, or in thigh boots
And cocked hat, straddling the Atlantic,
Fishing for campesinos
With live torpedoes,

But when the rattling, john-sized
Tenement elevator paused
Mid-fall to blink a female housing cop
Into its humid cranium, I felt her presence
Spooling through me like a Mobius strip,
Splicing her spilling curls, nightstick, the gun at her hip,
Chrome shield, the breast it emblazoned,
Seamlessly into the same
Restless continuum …

I caught – was it possible? –
The scent of some sweet-tinctured oil;
Troubling, alluring; and looked away
The glanced back obliquely: had I imagined it,
The sudden scimitar-glint of danger,
Or had some forbidden impulse – longing, lust, anger –
Tumid inside me like a hidden
In a schoolkid’s lunch pack,

Triggered the blue-lashed, tiny
Metal detector of her eye?
I backed against my corner, watching
The numerals slowly swallow their green gulp of light;
Interminable! And as we fell,
Our little locked cube of stale air seemed to bristle
With a strange menace … I thought of harms;
My own and not my own,
Contemplated or done;

Betrayals, infidelities,
Coercions, seductions, lies,
Ready to confess them all, and more,
As if in her firm indifference she’d regressed me
Inward down some atavistic line
To the original essence, the masculine
Criminal salt; a frieze of victims
Paneled in my own skull
Like a lit cathedral hell …

A shudder, and then stillness;
Avoidance of each other’s eyes
As in some bedroom fiasco’s wake,
The air too brimful with disclosure, till the door
Opened and we parted, the clamped rift
Between us widening like a continental drift
Of the sexes; she to the butcher, the breaker,
The ripper, the rapist,
I to my therapist.