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Note to the reader: The following poem has, on occasion, been mistaken for coyness, whereas it is, among other things, a parody of coyness. It made more sense when I wrote it, because at that time many things were harder to talk about (in public, in mixed company) than they are today. For a broader perspective on the long poem below (All About It...), I offer first the following shorter work, originally the last section of the longer poem, but now it seems to me to serve best as prologue:

Becoming

Once we weren't interested in these unmentionable body parts.
We must have damaged some and begun to feel sorry for them.
But that's long ago. In recent millennia, we've been told that we must have them, practically ARE them, then, when we've reached for them, had our knuckles rapped -- CAN'T have! NAUGHTY! But when we've tried to forbid or avoid them, they've been thrust in our faces:
Must have
Must NOT have
Must have....
Musty layers of must and must-not accumulate on our bodies like deposits of fossil sediment in alternating coats of fascination and disgust, tingling and deadening.
If all these layers (which survive, perhaps, even the body, naked spirits shivering with the shame) were stripped away, one by one, what would be left?


All About It -- THE It, Not MY It

It is not something one speaks of.
One can have one. In fact,
it's rather unspeakable if one doesn't.
But one doesn't speak of it.

Exceptions: You can mention it
in a poem, but only if it's
that kind of poem. You can be
endlessly scholarly or flippant about it,
but only about a general one,
not your own or anyone's one might
know.

A controversial movement is afoot
to talk about it in school, not mine
or yours or theirs, but THE it, though
the purpose is to educate children
about theirs. This is scary, since
talk about THE it could become talk
IN PUBLIC about their own,
which is almost talk about one's own!

Talking about one's own is even worse
than exposing it to others,
for when exposed, it must be referred to
professionally, very casually, or not at all,
lest one appear too interested in it
(one's own or another's) -- unless
one IS and the other
is too, which is not always easy
to ascertain: often people talk about it
for hours or years before they discover
that it IS what one or both of them
have been talking about, and if one
has been while the other has not,
one finds one is not the sort of person
one associates with.

While it is preferable
to expose it to those of the same
sort in semi-public groups, it is best
to expose it to those of the other kind
in a private setting.

Some people show theirs to all and any,
which is popular because it is
not permitted, which makes it of
great interest to many, who generally
find it boring.

Generally, one shows one one's own only if
the one shown shows one his or her own,
but with few or no words, as if to conceal
an exchange of contraband.

The danger of speaking about one's own
is that others say, "What makes him
or her think we want to know about it,
anyway!" They say this because they
DO want to know, and that is
shameful.

Filthy-minded children are often
obsessed with the shape and dimensions
of it, but mature adults know
that it (everybody's) is average,
one hopes.

All men have it. Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates... -- but one must not
talk about Socrates having one, which,
though we don't mention it, we assume
looked exactly like our own, though his face
looked nothing like our faces.

I won't insist that I have one or that
you do, but just supposing we each do,
the distance between mine and yours
can be measured in the same sort of
inches that measure the length of your
arm or your shoes or the distance
between your lips and your hamburger.

It's even worse to talk about
not having one, because that makes one
think of one's own, which is almost
like talking about it, which is almost
like showing it off, which is almost
like touching or tasting each other's,
which might be fascinating and/or disgusting
at first, but would soon become like
wearing clothes, except more time-
consuming and less hygienic.

It used to be you just didn't mention it.
Now you're supposed to, a little,
to show you're not old-fashioned.

While you mustn't mention anyone's
HAVING one (though everyone has), it is
informally acceptable to say that someone
IS one (though no one is).

Love was invented to solve this complexity
and, as often happens with solutions,
has become as complicated as the problem.
In fact, in some circles it is easier
to speak about IT.

People who are in love with each other
get excited about each other's, and,
when not mutually displaying and
touching them, even talk about them.
This talk becomes a mutual secret
that secludes them in a world of their own,
with a secret that no one else
wants to know.

You do not need to be in love with
yourself to touch your own. Also,
you don't need to mention it.

One's parents, above all, cannot
be spoken of as having -- indeed, can scarcely
be imagined to have -- any; though none
on the planet are more certain to have
had them. Especially it is not to be
mentioned or thought of the parent
who has the other kind from one's own.
Can you recall when last you enjoyed
a conversation about your father's
or your mother's?

Parents, on the other hand (even
parents can have hands), often speak
to other parents about those of their
very young children, though with
slightly naughty simpers. They can
be exposed publicly and even mentioned,
but only in prescribed rituals of cooing,
and not, DEFINITELY NOT too much.
These children are given dolls
that have none at all. Odd, since
each child has just squeezed
out of one, as if one should struggle
to emerge from a cave, reach the light,
and be told that there is no cave.

Most fear that those who talk about it
may want to touch each other's or even
one's own, or, worse, since talking
implicates the tongue, which is a disturbingly
slimy and snaky organ whose physical
properties no one wants to contemplate
being so closely tied to one's cultural
pretensions (and which, when cooked, one
cringes to bite) -- and implicates the lips,
whose blatant mushily mobile sensitivity
is daily exposed to the world and doesn't
bear close scrutiny; and the tongue and
lips (not to mention the cutting teeth)
should not be associated in any way
with IT.

Others argue that those who have
their attention fixated on that
which can't be talked about
will not be able to talk about
anything else. It is, indeed,
generally the case that people
can't talk about much at all, which,
for some, is a great relief, since
any talk at all is liable to reveal
something private about oneself,
which others might use to touch one.
Thus, it is important to preserve
the taboos against talking about it,
lest one have to talk about anything
that concerns what one is, feels, loves,
all of which has little to do with IT, except
that it keeps one's attention on itself
and out of dangerous areas, like the fact
that everyone one knows, including oneself,
is attached to a body that is rapidly
becoming a piece of dead meat, and how
does this relate to one's positively
HAVING to have a cup of coffee and
go to a distant room where one sits
at a desk and writes notes on pieces
of paper for a specified number of
the exact same sort of hours that one's
body turns into something one doesn't
like to contemplate after the passage of
an unspecified, but severely limited number of.

People feel safest talking about the weather,
because no one has ever accused them
of having any of their own.

Artists can portray it, especially
attached to idealized people, most
acceptably as the symbol of another thing
or as a thing symbolized by another thing,
or wrapped in an aura of significance,
associated with swirling, throbbing suns
of white fire, molten lava, mountains,
rivers, oceans, forests, birds, bananas,
etc., nothing like anything that touches us
even as we speak.

Even the books and movies that dare to
claim to be about it in the wickedest
way are not about mine or yours. It,
as they reveal it, never knows lint,
tight underwear, itch, chafe; never
embarrasses teenagers on buses;
never hangs around unnoticed and dull
like a guest at a boring party; never
flinches at the sound of a zipper;
never bleeds, never burns, never wants
to be left alone; never wears a comic
mustache or a lampshade, never gets
a Ph.D., never tastes funny, seldom
is used for the main thing one uses
it for (which, also, is not to be
spoken of, though it is not the first
use one thinks of when one thinks
of not speaking of it), and never
ever overcomes great obstacles and the
jeers of mocking bystanders by dedicating
itself to a noble purpose and becoming
a great athletic or inventor or artist.

Though the people in these books
and films are interested in nothing
other than it, even they can't talk
about it, except to say that, oooh!,
it's big, and, oooh!, it's nice, and,
oooh!, they want it, but usually, just
oooh! They even avoid mentioning it.
For example, they'll say "Oooh, put it
into me!", meaning "put it into MINE".

You can't put ANYTHING into you or me
because we aren't any of these things...
but excuse me, I almost began to speak
of the one thing that it is even more
forbidden to speak of than IT:
who and what we are, which, though we
all know or have suspected that we are
not any it at all (I will not use
the "S" word), yet, if we say so,
we can be committed to an institution
and drugged, shocked, and educated
as punishment for trying to disturb
the peace by telling others things
that may make them harder to control
for their own good; and the mention of which
condemns a poet to being considered
outside the mainstream of Western thought
and decidedly not an authoritative
new bold unique original important voice.

It is not dangerous (much smaller, softer,
and less likely to injure someone than is
a gun, a lawyer, or a psychiatrist), but
talking about it is. If I were to describe
mine to you and ask you how yours is doing today,
and if this sort of thing got out of
hand (figuratively speaking), soon adults
would be molesting children publicly,
families would be hotbeds of incest, and
even the N.Y. Stock Exchange would resemble
a Cecil B. DeMille orgy scene, because,
secretly, all of us, authorities claim,
are prevented from touching and rubbing
our own against, around, between and/or into
as many others as we can as often and as
much as we can, whether of the same or
other sort (thus leaving beds unmade,
fields untilled, dishes unwashed, newspapers
unread -- the implications are mind-boggling)
-- prevented only by our failure to realize
that everyone else secretly wants to do
the same thing, all of which would be
revealed if we began to talk about it.
So I won't say a word about mine or yours.
Your secret desire to rub yours against
mine and everyone else's all the time
is safe with me. I won't plunge my
planet into chaos.

Ah, brothers and sisters! What a
secret, what a vast burden
of responsibility we carry between our
lips.

copyright © 2005 by Dean Blehert

Last updated: May 7, 2005