Of sex and strawberries…

It just sounds far more poetic than “food and sexuality” – sheesh.

I was surprised today when an online friend quoted me their favorite poem, “Strawberries” by Edwin Morgan.

Aside from being swept away by the gently erotic imagery of the words, which alone were enough to take my breath away, I suffered a momentary pang of … well, I’m not sure what as memories I’d rather not have came flooding in.

It seems ages ago that I first saw that very same poem, a beautiful and subtly sultry tale of enjoying summertime berries with your lover, and thought it would be nice to share with a certain someone in my life… Namely the man I then called “husband.” A friend had given me a book of Morgan’s poetry, and I had fallen head over heels for his way with words – the simple, stunning images he created, the life that seemed to flow within his poems. When something moves your very heart and soul, it’s natural to want to share it with the one you love.

Unfortunately, I had neglected to take into consideration a few certain facts. One, this particular poem was, in its way, overtly sexual. Two, it’s not clear whether this is a lover, spouse, or what. Three, it’s not a piece of “Christian” poetry – ie, giving thanks unto god for that holy union. Four, apparently, Mr. Morgan had recently “come out of the closet” as it were.

Now, the overt sexuality would not have been a problem had this been, oh… say… The Song of Solomon. That somewhat suggestive piece being held in high regard as the epitome of love in a godly marriage (are we forgetting that our friend Solomon was rumored to have had umpteen wives and concubines?) it would not have caused a raised eyebrow. It was that it was overtly sexual without being openly directed at a spouse (huh. And the Song was?) and of course, fails to give thanks, grace and praise to the god who created it all. The final nail in the coffin of this little poem was that its author was an open homosexual (that should be read: HO-mo-SECK-shu-al). Eek.

Yeah, so I was married to the religious right. We already knew this.

Let’s not even delve into the issues that created. Suffice to say, the book was sadly passed on to another friend and my love of Morgan’s words went unrequited, though I would sometimes surreptitiously find his work online and drink in the words, savoring them as a fine wine.

Poetry, however, is a language of passion. And passion, like food, is best when shared. Reading such evocative words solo is akin to sitting alone with a plate of perfectly ripe strawberries. Sure, you could enjoy them all yourself, but wouldn’t the experience be all the sweeter if shared? All sensual pleasures are.

The years passed, the divorce happened, and slowly, ever so slowly, bits and pieces of the life that was have returned. The friends who housed me the night I first left laughed when, after sitting up all night reading the Clive Barker novel, “Galilee” I said, “I couldn’t put it down. It’s been so long since I could read whatever I wanted.” That statement, according to them, was more than worth the price of admission. Some things come back painlessly, others come with a pang of nostalgia, some even a stab.

And then there were strawberries… This one came with a flood. Emotion, passion, longing, wistfulness and more all wrapped up together in a mess long buried and released by reading those simple lines.

Oh – and if  you’ve never had the pleasure – Google it. Edwin Morgan Strawberries. Just, well… be prepared.