Brenda Shaughnessy: I’m Brenda Shaughnessy. This poem is called The Impossible Lesbian Love Object.
It’s just an object, it’s not me.
I’m more than an object, we are not having tea.
I am not one, not two. I am a feminist three.
I am Dada—not Mama, never will be.
When no one can use me, I am most free.
I am not like other objects unaware
of themselves, those props subbing for desire:
the corner of the room thinks the room is one-cornered,
that cat sculpture staring as if with its eyes.
I too am a mammal stolen from my original sense of thirst.
Women know this disappearance from meaning.
Like all lesbian triptychs, I’ve stumbled.
Like all love objects, I am triangular, unstable.
I’m a lonely trio, a single setting, vexed
and passive, sexed and distracted.
A hot drink, a pot on the fire, the muscles
loosened, an inner stirring, a little spill,
the coat on the floor. The fur coat on the floor.
The curved fur floor atop another fur circle
to never catch a drop and a concave face
with convex back, swirling nothing.
None of it really happening.
I was once and always only ever an idea,
just a clever blip, a quip, a dare,
converted by coin and concept,
given body, shape, hair,
and an immortal uselessness
all art thinks it’s born with,
that women can’t get near.
I’m beloved for being art’s best worst idea.
Famous for being impossible,
that’s why I’m obscene.
Not because everybody wants to fuck the cup,
not even the spoon can get it up.
Full frontal frottage, sapphic saucer,
a curving inside-outness, hairy leather hole.
Liquid’s skill is soaking, then getting sucked.
Seed’s luck is spilling, then being tilled.
It turns out we are having tea,
but it’s all so heavy with life-cycles
that even when you go light, with art,
to get a little air, the room’s still a bit dark.
And I’m repulsed, which attracts, in fact
the promise of warm fur is ancient,
will outlast the ritual fire and water
of tea for three, not two.
You see there’s me, and you, and we.
Pelts melt into a new body, not old.
We’re not thirsty—we’re not cold.
I’m not just an object,
my surfaces servicing,
but I’m no more than myself.
I end at my edges, finish my points,
even if I bend your senses,
when I am this soft.
The spoon is small,
the cup, generous,
the saucer extra absorbent—
past story, beyond end,
like a certain kind
of woman I have been with,