Keeping in Touch: Revising “Home Run”

Around the holidays, I generally don’t do much; I do the family thing. I watch re-runs of television shows. I experiment with how long I can go without taking a shower. But then I usually wonder why the end of the holiday season rolls around and I’ve written or revised nothing.

Today, in the hour or two I had before having to go do the family thing, I revised some poems. Tillinghast calls this “keeping in touch.” I’m keeping in touch with my poetry by even just revising the poems.

At the first of the month, I wrote a sex poem called “Home Run.” The first year and a half in my MFA program, my workshop peers brought in a lot of sex poems: sex with octopuses, sex with Hitler. I would read the poems for workshop and sigh and then call someone and complain, “All they do is write sex poems! MY GOD!” But, earlier this month, I was going to sleep when the line, “They’re doing it and it’s something” came into my head.” The poem really isn’t so much about the sex as it is what the two people are thinking about during it. The man is thinking about baseball cards, and one in particular he cried over because it got ruined:

“the color bled, Stan’s teeth cardinal red.
The man says, So wet.
The woman thinks about her mother
bent over the sink, saying, I wet myself.”

Sex poems can be playful. I had fun incorporating specifically sex things into the poem and then riffing off them to something else. The sex isn’t graphic, but I enjoyed bringing in the awareness of what’s going on in the background. In my first draft, the man’s imaginings are more interesting than the woman’s. He is thinking about these specific cards and that specific moment when one gets ruined, while she thinks about insulation and, another time, about the mortality of her mother. In workshop, it was suggested to me that the woman be thinking about baseball players to get to a result that the husband is thinking of the baseball cards to postpone. I’m having trouble with making that happen at the moment. Right now, there’s a vulnerability in both of the characters that I really like: losing that card as a boy, realizing the mortality of the woman’s mother that I would want to stay.

Do you write sex poems or sex scenes in your fiction? How do you tackle it?

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