by Steve Burns, Guest Writer
WARNING: This post is risqué and groovy.
Suddenly her bra’s off and the boobs are out. Maybe some fella’s schlong dangles momentarily on-screen. Either way, it’s happened and both parties who are watching this raunchy scene don’t know how to react. Typically, postures shift or someone clears their throat. You’ve been there when wobbly-bits enter the room, and you’ve endured the post-sex cool-down. These are three minutes and forty-five seconds you’d care not to watch (publicly) again. This is film, however.
When a poet uses the words dick, pussy, cunt, or cock at a reading before an already intently listening audience — something else happens. Ears perk up; smiles crack. My experiences at readings have shown me that poets use these suggestive terms to call attention to something larger than the words themselves. I first heard Ian Davisson read his work at Milano’s Pizzeria as part of CA Conrad’s Milano’s Reading Series. Davisson read his poem, “May 4th, 2012,” which says, “ask the right questions/you’ll be my friend forever/it’s a secret/boner in everyone’s/cup of coffee.” Combined with Davisson’s blunt, quivering delivery, folks around me immediately nodded, smirked, or sent consenting murmurs towards the front of the room where he read. I thought: “Ian uses the word boner in a really interesting way.” Sexualized terms can be abrasive, hauntingly absurd, and, at times, quite charming — Davisson’s work revealed this to me.
“May 4th, 2012” comes from a manuscript titled Summa Cum (appropriate, no?) and, in its entirety, is a ruthlessly lonesome, gnawing piece that flows from one shattered line to the next. A broken sexuality and paranoid isolation is the poem’s driving force; the phallus is at its core. Davisson begins his poem in hiding: “there’s a part of sleep/where you forget/it’s wonderful.” Sleep seems to be Davisson’s only solace. Unfortunately Davisson “won’t sleep tonight” because “I is for ian or/I is for issues.” “Ian” and “issues” are practically interchangeable, equally (painfully) alive. “[S]omeone,” says Davisson, “sleeps/inside me/leaves before I wake up.” It’s this someone who’s “a ghost/on [his] back.”
Davisson’s agony is most evident, however, in his sexually charged lines. On a restless night Davisson writes, “held my dick so tight/must have busted/something/lonely/out.” Here “dick” is being abused, exclaiming loneliness; this is not pleasurable. Davisson’s not sure what’s been released; he’s only certain it feels like isolation. Even “lonely” and “out” sit singularly on the page, unaccompanied in the line. “I’m paralyzed,” says Davisson. The issues Davisson faces have likely been assuaged by “Dr. Verdi” in the past, but in “May 4th, 2012” Davisson “can’t make it this week.” It’s safe to assume that Dr. Verdi is a counselor or therapist—“ask the right questions”—yet Davisson’s difficulties are not so confidential. “[I]t’s a secret/boner in everyone’s/cup of coffee,” writes Davisson. A boner, usually a private phenomenon, is poking obtrusively through everyone’s everyday beverage; it’s not a secret because it’s prodding everyone outright. “I love her,” says Davisson, “I’m sorry/there’s no reason for it/but I do/tell my relatives/I’m ok.” These fragmented lines, which illustrate Davisson’s attempts to calm concerned relatives, struggle to remain cohesive on the page. The “boner” renders assurances useless.
Davisson concludes that he “love[s]/knowing the stuff/that eats [him] alive.” After all, were it not for that stuff, we might not have this wonderfully compelling poem.
Check out more of Ian Davisson’s work here.
Steve Burns works and writes for Philly-based APIARY Magazine. He’s currently enrolled in Rutgers-Camden’s MFA program. His poems are weird. Also, he’s pretty tall.