Friday, 15 April 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "A Story about the Orgasm" by Nin Andrews

I read this poem in the latest issue of jubilat and was delighted when Nin Andrews gave me permission to reprint it here. Read more about her and her work on her website here

A Story about the Orgasm

after Robert Hass

A young orgasm joined an artist colony, thinking he might want to be an author, but instead of writing, he watched a certain woman all summer long. She was Vietnamese, a poet, almost fifty, and the more he watched her, the more he wanted her. He wanted her like a seeker wants God, like the starving want bread with butter and a pot of warm tea. It was how she moved him with her thoughts that drew him, how, when she stared at the ceiling, clouds moved through her mind along with biscuits and summer rain and dreams. He wanted to ask her questions. He wanted to answer her with his own tongue, if only he could form words like hers. One night when the woman was preparing for bed, wearing nothing but a men’s large tee shirt, her pale legs bathed in moonlight, she felt his presence. She addressed him directly. I think you have been watching me, she said.  I think you want to have me, not just once, but night after night.  She was that kind of woman. She spoke her mind. She knew the difference between an orgasm who lusts and one who loves. But then she said, I’m sorry. I have lost my desire. It left with my lovers. I had three, but they abandoned me soon after I had a double mastectomy. Lifting her shirt, she showed him the space in her chest where her breasts once were. She expected him to look down or away, to apologize and leave as the others had. But instead the orgasm ran his fingers across her slender scars, tracing her pain with awe. For it is the scars of humans that attract the orgasm.  Such beautiful pain, the orgasm sighed before he stroked her neck, her lips, her thighs. All night he held her while she wept. The morning after, the woman felt as if she had bathed for the first time in years. A warm   glow filled her chest and belly and between her legs. She felt so calm then, poems flowed from her pen. Swallows came to her window and sang to her as if she were one of them.


Stephen Nelson said...

"For it is the scars of humans that attract the orgasm."

This poem literally made me gasp. Not just love, compassion, healing, but a deep insight into human woundedness and the simple complexity of our response to it. Wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes a piece overwhelms the reader cannot think of anything intelligent to write. This is one such piece. But as I reflect this a beautiful multi braided poem. One all good poets aspire to be able to write

MsJinnifer said...

Thank you for posting this, Carrie. I find it difficult. It's beautifully written, maybe even seductively so, but I find myself thinking, 'If only'. I'd be interested to know how women who have had a mastectomy would find it. In saying that, I'm not making the assumption that their response should carry a veto, so to speak, only that it would be interesting. I also want to dwell longer with it myself and see if my response changes.

Caitlin Gillespie said...

I too read this poem recently in jubilat, and was immediately captivated by the playful and provocative first line. The 'orgasm' is referred to as a living, breathing, somehow nymphic and immediately potent entity.

This poetic conceit was strikingly refreshing and beguiling, luring me into a narrative which then hits deep and hard. It touches on human sexuality, desire, illness, loss and healing in an achingly beautiful, sensual and at times surprisingly erotic way.

Its essence reminded me slightly of the recent film 'Cake' starting Jennifer Aniston, which evokes empathy towards a woman reconciling her severe bodily pain and pain killer addiction to her still present sexual desires, to the needs of the 'orgasm'.

I like how the poem makes me think about an aspect of illness that is so human but often surprising to read about. It is also for me, as a piece, somehow emblematic of the ability of poetry to convey the emotional nuance of both ecstasy and trauma, in this case the sexual experience a woman recovering from breast cancer might go through.

I also find it very moving to read as a woman, despite not having gone through such an ordeal myself and I applaud Andrews skill at eliciting this reader response. It is akin to how I felt after reading Rebecca Goss 'Her Birth' and feels brave and light bearing in its composition.

I feel the later part of the poem, which involves imagery of the woman finding creative inspiration performs as an effective metaphor for the creative process of writing poems, and the transformative power of sexuality and 'the orgasm'. Creativity and sexuality feel interlinked, electric and connected in this poem.

Some beautiful, heartbreaking and emotionally vivid moments. One of the lines that stood out for me ( alongside the one quoted above) being ' Such beautiful pain , the orgasm sighed, before he stroked her neck, her lips, her thighs.'

I would be interested to know more of the back story to the poem and how women who have suffered through this react to it too as part of a wider discourse.

However, right this moment I am content to have experienced the poem in its raw and imaginitive form, there is a real journey here, that ends on a liberating and thought provoking note, with the symbolic inclusion of the song of the swallows.

Thank you Carrie for sharing and encouraging me to revisit this enriching piece!