It all started with The Cinnamon Peeler. I was pointed in its direction during a conversation about Michael Ondaatje, and have been thinking about it since- about the poem itself, and about poetry’s ability to *ahem* inspire without being explicit (or while being explicit, I mean hey, whatever blows your skirt up). What makes a poem sexy will of course depend on individual taste (heh), but my favorites involve high tension and sly metaphors, with the main action (usually) hidden behind a smart verbal wink. Let’s, as they say, get to it:
1. “The Cinnamon Peeler” by Michael Ondaatje
If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
And leave the yellow bark dust
On your pillow.
Your breasts and shoulders would reek
You could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.
2. “Hum for the Bolt” by Jamaal May (the sexiest poem about lightning you’re evah gonna read)
It could of course be silk. Fifty yards or so
of the next closest thing to water to the touch,
or it could just as easily be a shaft of wood
crumpling a man struck between spaulder and helm.
But now, with the rain making a noisy erasure
of this town, it is the flash that arrives
3. “Come Slowly- Eden!” by Emily Dickinson
Come slowly – Eden!
Lips unused to Thee –
Bashful – sip thy Jessamines –
As the fainting Bee –
4. “Warming Her Pearls” by Carol Ann Duffy
Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I’ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,
resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.
5. “Naming of Parts” by Henry Reed
To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.
This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.
6. “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes” by Billy Collins
First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.
And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.
7. “The Hush of the Very Good” by Todd Boss
You can tell by how he lists
to let her
kiss him, that the getting, as he gets it,
It’s good in the sweetly salty,
deeply thirsty was that a sea-fogged
rain is good after a summer-long bout
of inland drought.
8. Agricultural metaphors run amok. “Putting In the Seed” by Robert Frost
You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
9. “He is more than a hero” by Sappho
He is more than a hero
he is a god in my eyes–
the man who is allowed
to sit beside you — he
who listens intimately
to the sweet murmur of
your voice, the enticing
10. An oldie-but-goodie: “They Flee From Me” by Sir Thomas Wyatt (is it about Anne, IS IT?)
They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.
And a bonus! A fun, profane, probably-ok-definitely-NSFW Def Jam selection called “Dirty Talk” by Rives:[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYGm1dTDa9M[/youtube]