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19 Apr 2004

Deep Bare Vacuums Between the Stars.

Written by sally @ 11:23 am — Section: sally

I taught this poem my first semester teaching. Well, by “teaching” I mean I “assigned it” and the kids were supposed to “figure it out” “themselves” in a “5-paragraph essay.”

I was shocked and delighted when one boy (who wore Jesus-related t-shirts) came up during the in-class writing day and asked if a word he wanted to use was offensive. I asked what the word was. He was too embarrassed to say, so he just pointed at it. You have to scroll to the end to see what it was.

Variations On The Word Love
Margaret Atwood

This is a word we use to plug
holes with. It’s the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing
like real hearts. Add lace
and you can sell
it. We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn’t what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.

Then there’s the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It’s not love we don’t wish
to fall into, but that fear.
This word is not enough but it will
have to do. It’s a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.

Ok, so about the lines about the weed-seedlings nosing their ways through the lettuces, he said that this was a reference to cunnilingus. That was in a freshman paper. I was totally, totally impressed. I told him that it was a legitimate word, and that no, it wasn’t offensive. Then he said, “I didn’t know what it was called. I asked my roommate what the opposite of a blow job was.”

3 Responses to “Deep Bare Vacuums Between the Stars.”

  1. vendela said:

    me and sally ran into this student a few months back outside moe’s. and even though they hadn’t spoken in years, this was their topic of conversation. when else does the universe give you an excuse to talk cunnilingus with an almost stranger you haven’t seen in years???

  2. gorjus said:

    Actually, the opposite of a blow job is “my life.” I do suppose the grand c is a complement to a blow job.

  3. Sally said:

    Awww, poor gorjus!

    Perhaps you’re just wookin’ pa nub in all the wrong places.