What is the code of how we come together? What alchemy or biology makes us fuse, sunder, reignite?
Bogi Takács’ “Gently chew to soften the ridges” is an open window to interspecies coupling, consensual and warm and so intimate you swear you can scent the tenderness. There’s pain here, but it’s sanctioned. In fact, in the hands of the lover administering and conduiting it, it feels welcome. Takács’ speaker is inhuman, and addresses their companion in the familiar ‘you’ of second-person present. ‘You’ are there, gripping your beloved’s protrusions, wiping the sweat on your trousers and swearing. ‘You’ are there, and you “rasp your tongue against my palate, push / fingers inside my mouth, reach inside, trigger / my gag reflex it is the most intimate please“.
These small, italicized pleases synapse through the poem, and they work like any faithful transmitters do, conveying urgency and heat, compulsion and fear. Absolutely, fear. I think fear might be the most astounding part of what Takács is doing here. Isn’t a naked, gnarled kind of terror at the door of us everytime we strip before the one(s) we’ve chosen? Sometimes it shrieks; sometimes it mutely scratches, but always it seasons the sweat we give, the come we leak, the wings we hide, then splay.
It’s the fear this poem doesn’t talk about that makes it so extraordinary. Fear at the wolves of orthodoxy at the door, perhaps — but a real, gripping fear that this ritual might not be completed is at the core of the work. Will these two reach their fluid-bond? Can the bones be telescoped, can those limbs be hung from the ceiling in the name of love? You should read the poem to find out, pulling yourself loose from your human moorings as you do. You should reach for the protrusions.
This is the fourth installment of Other Kinds of Men, a speculative poetry reader in honour of Ursula K. Le Guin. Speculative writing, which encompasses the major genres of mythology, fantasy and science fiction, has often given voice to the most relentless and ungovernable urgencies of this age, and any other. Le Guin understood this: that to write about dragons, ice worlds and other seeming oddities was, in fact, to write into the messy, riotous complexity of ourselves. Here’s to dragons, and here’s to Ursula.