Written at the end of the first year in California, the poem work is one of several, some of which show up in other versions in the aggregated manuscript, “Whole,” which includes pieces from 1971-72. The tone has shifted in these works, and though they have a fair amount of Symbolist language and imagery, they are rooted in experience that is far from the Amy world and characters. This text shows influences from Baudelaire, fom Rimbaud, and the embrace of defilement, unique in these works, has a rawness to it, even with all its affectation. Language is still cloaking much of what might be but is not said explicitly, but the voice is infused with edge and eroticism.
This has to be a fair copy. The handwriting is too measured and careful for this to have been the original composition. The reference to the bunk, the white clean fingers of the lover, have no obvious connection to a specific event or experience. So conjuring these dark thoughts and perversities was an act of imagination, not recollection.
I had a lover in that year, one of the young men in the house I had moved into on Hillegass Avenue. Jamie was the oldest of
probably twenty-three or so to my nineteen. But I was extremely young, naive, and my experiences had
all been the occulted ones with Amy.
I had never been on a date, touched a man, or had one touch me, before I got involved with Jamie.
We kept the relationship secret for some
reason, partly because he did not want commitment of any kind or expectations of emotional connection.
The rest of the household knew, of
course, since creaking stairs and whispered voices could hardly be concealed. He was an aesthete,
and his cultivation of esoteric taste was
ever so slightly flamboyant. We read Dante’s Inferno in a copy illustrated by Gustave Doré and lay
in bed together wrapped in quilts. He liked
me to dress in lace and romantic clothing, and I obliged, within my budget and limitations.
The poem is not about Jamie, rather, about that period in my coming out of the long romance with Amy, exploring possibilities
sexuality, and textuality that had not been part of the connection with her. The sensuality in the
poem is evident, the stroking explorations,
smells, and filth are redolent with hints and traces of intimacy. Alienated as I was, I was relieved
to be out of that emprisoning isolation.