Choice Poems: Zach Wells and Naomi Guttman
The TRB team is pleased to announce Choice Poems, a semi-regular series of poems on Chirograph curated by the TRB’s Poetry Editor, Moez Surani. For this, the first Choice Poems post, we’re climbing under the covers and into a lover’s heart with a pairing of poems on love and temptation. Zach Wells shows how a lover struggles to match the image that the beloved craves. Naomi Guttmann portrays a lover who, bound to his beloved, will no longer conquer foreign distances. With this sensuality and vexation, we wish you and your summer flings well.
The prairie vole’s a faithful mate,
the Montane vole a man-whore.
But jigger with the latter’s genes
just so, so vasopressin
secreted during sex hits
receptors in the neural
sweet spot, and the egregious slut
becomes a prairie home
companion, never more
to heed his pecker’s wanton
will. Vasopressin is an anti-
diuretic. A scrip will help
keep their duvets dry
at night. I have a soft spot
for certain diuretics that tickle
my brain’s pleasure domes and make me
prone to indiscretions. I get
no buzz from steady love.
Perhaps a hormone dose, or some
slick shuffle of my chromosomes
would fix me up and keep me
out of trouble. Maybe then
I’d be the man you always wanted.
On the way to see the dentist Donny listens to the radio:
they say the Milky Way would taste like raspberries,
a fact which both delights and saddens him. His interstellar pastures
are behind him – he’ll never taste the raspberries of space.
In the waiting room he riffles through a women’s magazine, which he does
from time to time, if only to affirm that everything’s recycled: recipes
for chocolate cake and how to drive your man wild. When did she
stop trying? They return to him – the mineral explosions of his lust
for Ari, how he craved her taste – her underarms, her cunt, he licked
her everywhere—all freckles, folds, all the lonely fabric of her flesh.
Zachariah Wells (www.zachariahwells.com) is a writer, editor and train rider in Halifax. He had this to say about “VASOPRESSIN”:
I read a lot of books about neuroscience. It’s a field that anyone writing poetry concerned with individual subjective experience—and wishing that poetry to be something other than self-absorbed rehashings of Romanticism—should really delve into. This poem was spurred in part by something I read in David Eagleman’s book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. Eagleman’s a prominent figure in “neurolaw” research. He’s trying to shift our crime and punishment focus away from judgment and towards harm reduction. The matter of sexual fidelity is tangentially related to this, insofar as it is most often judged as a moral issue, but current research indicates that an individual’s predilection towards adultery might not be a matter of weakness of character so much as a function of neuro-chemistry. Which is not an excuse for anyone’s behaviour, but it should be something that mitigates the general impulse to judge and condemn—both on the part of others and for the adulterer who is ashamed of himself. Understanding underlying physiological causes can help individuals regulate their actions, either by overriding impulses that they now know to expect and can deal with in a rational manner or, more speculatively, by undergoing some kind of hormonal therapy that boosts their vasopressin uptake. Anyway, I imagined a speaker who has learned that his behaviour is influenced by unconscious factors he can’t control and has suffered the consequences of his actions. Which ain’t so newfangled as all that.
Naomi Guttman was born and raised in Montreal, where she attended Concordia University. She has published two poetry collections: Reasons for Winter, which won the A.M. Klein Award for Poetry, and Wet Apples, White Blood. She teaches English and creative writing at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and had this to say about “Sour Teeth”:
“Sour Teeth” comes from a collection in progress titled The Banquet of Donny and Ari. One inspiration for this novel-in-verse about a marriage is the struggle between the Dionysian dream for recklessness and wildness, and the Apollonian desire for order and serenity. Donny is hedonistic, indulgent, spontaneous. By contrast, whatever carefree attitudes Ari had when she was younger have now been replaced by anxieties stemming from personal loss and a despair about the social and political ills of the world. While Donny’s lust leads him astray (not unlike the Montane vole), I hope this poem, catching him as it does in a moment of rare self-awareness and reflection, offers a more nuanced understanding of his behavior.