Friday

Mar. 11, 2005

The Discovery of Sex

by Debra Spencer

FRIDAY, 11 MARCH, 2005
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Discovery of Sex" by Debra Spencer, from Pomegranate. © Hummingbird Press. Reprinted with permission.

The Discovery of Sex

We try to be discreet standing in the dark
hallway by the front door. He gets his hands
up inside the front of my shirt and I put mine
down inside the back of his jeans. We are crazy
for skin, each other's skin, warm silky skin.
Our tongues are in each other's mouths,
where they belong, home at last. At first

we hope my mother won't see us, but later we don't care,
we forget her. Suddenly she makes a noise
like a game show alarm and says Hey! Stop that!
and we put our hands out where she can see them.
Our mouths stay pressed together, though, and
when she isn't looking anymore our hands go
back inside each other's clothes. We could

go where no one can see us, but we are
good kids, from good families, trying to have
as much discreet sex as possible with my mother and father
four feet away watching strangers kiss on TV,
my mother and father who once did as we are doing,
something we can't imagine because we know

that before we put our mouths together, before
the back seat of his parents' car where our skins
finally become one-before us, these things
were unknown! Our parents look on in disbelief
as we pioneer delights they thought only they knew
before those delights gave them us.

Years later, still we try to be discreet, standing
in the kitchen now where we think she can't see us. I
slip my hands down inside the back of his jeans
and he gets up under the front of my shirt.
We open our mouths to kiss and suddenly Hey! Hey!
says our daughter glaring from the kitchen doorway.
Get a room! she says, as we put our hands
out where she can see them.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1888 that the Blizzard of 1888, known as the "Great White Hurricane," began to pound the East Coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine. The days leading up to the blizzard were mild, and temperatures reached as high as the 50's. Then the heavy rains began, followed by a sharp drop in the temperatures. About 3:00 a.m. on this day in 1888, the rain turned to snow and fell for thirty-six hours without pause. The combination of low temperatures and snow accumulation made it one of the worst winter storms on record in American history.

By the time the snow stopped, 50 inches had fallen on Connecticut and Massachusetts, and 40 inches blanketed New York and New Jersey. Telephone and telegraph wires from Philadelphia to Boston snapped, and millions of people were isolated for many days. Firefighters couldn't leave their stations, and so fires raged in the cities, causing millions of dollars in property damage. Ships all along the East Coast were grounded. More than 400 people died in the blizzard. The transportation crisis following the storm resulted, eventually, in the creation of the New York subway.


It was on this day in 1959 that Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway. According to the New York Times, it is "the play that changed American theater forever." The play is named after a line in a poem by Langston Hughes, and it featured a cast made entirely of African-Americans, including a young Sidney Poitier.

Hansberry wanted to write a play where African-American characters were treated with as much realism as white characters. She said, "The intimacy of knowledge which the Negro may culturally have of white Americans does not exist in the reverse." And so Hansberry wrote a play that drew upon her own childhood in Chicago. A Raisin in the Sun follows the lives of the Youngers, a family living in cramped quarters in south Chicago. The family gets a $10,000 check, and they consider moving into a larger home in white suburb.

The New York Drama Critics Circle named A Raisin in the Sun the best play of 1959. It ran on Broadway for nearly two years, and has seen countless performances since.


It's the birthday of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, born Keith Rupert Murdoch, in Melbourne, Australia (1931). He is known for launching the Fox television channel and a media empire that spans the globe.


It's the birthday of the man who gave us A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, born in Cambridge, England (1952).

In 1979, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy premiered as a twelve-part series on BBC Radio. Eventually Adams wrote it as two novels, or a "trilogy in five parts," as he put it. After 20 years, the movie version of the book will premiere in May 2005.


Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »