In Praise Of

We’re discussing syntax in Wharton and James and my writer friend
is dropping the word pleasure like quarters into a parking meter, saying pleasure
with this casual satisfaction, this ordinary ease: a certain deft functionality
I associate with him. So yes, I am listening, and I am also having trouble
keeping an even rhythm in my wrists and chest, feeling as though I should be turning around
to fend off the starched Puritans ever at my back, ever ready to defend
such savage attacks on what they believe to be their rightful territory: namely everything,
namely the full reach of my mind and all that it may draw itself towards, the word pleasure
flitting around like so many loose dandelion fronds
after one blows the head off the weed with a wish, no more remarkable
than finding a warm ten in the pocket of a pair of jeans after you’ve pulled them from the dryer
pleasure: the word outmoded, grown musty
for lack of contemporary use—offers then a particular illicit trill of sensation,
suggests to memory the most fat-tongued of feelings. The grass
licking the sides of your ankles as you skirt the high reeds
making your way—easy, slow—towards the water
after months spent crapped and sweating in boots. Warm bread, butter melting on it,
reading D.H. Lawrence for an intro course in college, marveling, blushing even, yes,
admit it—that such a thicket of words could produce such—but then,
pleasure is reserved for that which brings satisfaction,
not wild glee or ecstasy but that which first makes your mouth open and round
and the skin tighten across your cheekbones and raises your ears, the infinitely small moments
before you bare your teeth in a smile. Sensation
without specific intent and desire without
motive or discretion. Such as the aromatic sheen of gin
on the olive at the bottom of an empty drink, the salt and perfume
and indehiscent bite a lovely, final coda to the time of leisure you spent slowly
taking one swallow after another, savoring, paying careful attention
to each word.


Jennifer Funk is California born and Yankee bred. Told by her mother she came out yowling, she has led an emphatically articulated life all the years since. She has received a BA from Bennington College, an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and was a recent recipient of a work-study scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. She would say, perhaps, that her poems are an exploration of the sinuous possibilities of the sentence and an endeavor to manifest the ineffable, sensorial wonder of living inside a human body.

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