I thought I’d read a lot of Auden when his name came up in a conversation with Hitch long ago. But Christopher – suddenly animated – asked if there was one poem I had read, because, he felt, it might be salient. He jumped to his vast library and dashed around it, until the tiny slim, one-poem volume fell out. He had a samizdat copy and he gave it to me. I have it still.
We talked a lot about sex, actually, a lot of the time. It took a while for me to persuade him that homosexuality wasn’t only about sex, but love, and I almost regretted it because it made our discussions less salty. I could sit there and listen to his reminiscences of the great gay wits of the past for ever – Tom Driberg was one of his favorites. One of my favorite out-of-the-blue email headers from him was a contination of the theme: “A PS On Handjobs”.
Anyway, in memory of his great defense of life and love and passion and blasphemy, here’s the poem. It was published in 1965 by the Fuck You Press, an imprint that would, I suspect, have appealed to Christopher. May it offend you all:
The Platonic Blow (A Day For A Lay)
by W.H. Auden
It was a spring day, a day, a day for a lay when the air
Smelled like a locker-room, a day to blow or get blown.
Returning from lunch I turned my corner and there
On a near-by stoop I saw him standing alone.
I glanced as I advanced. The clean white T-shirt outlined
A forceful torso, the light-blue denims divulged
Much. I observed the snug curves where they hugged the behind,
I watched the crotch where the cloth intriguingly bulged.
Our eyes met, I felt sick. My knees turned weak.
I couldn’t move. I didn’t know what to say.
In a blur I heard words myself like a stranger speak.
“Will you come to my room?” Then a husky voice, “O.K.”
I produced some beer and we talked. Like a little boy
He told me his story. Present address next door.
Half Polish half Irish The youngest. From Illinois.
Profession mechanic. Name Bud. Age twenty-four.
He put down his glass and stretched his bare arms along
The back of my sofa. The afternoon sunlight struck
The blond hairs on the wrist near my head. His chin was strong,
His mouth sucky. I could hardly believe my luck.
And here he was sitting beside me, legs apart.
I could bear it no longer. I touched the inside of his thigh.
His reply was to move closer. I trembled. My heart
Thumped and jumped as my fingers went to his fly.
I opened a gap in the flap. I went in there.
I sought for a slit in the gripper shorts that had charge
Of the basket I asked for. I came to warm flesh then to hair,
I went on. I found what I hoped. I groped. It was large.
He responded to my fondling in a charming, disarming way:
Without a word he unbuckled his belt while I felt
And lolled back, stretching his legs. His pants fell away.
Carefully drawing it out, I beheld what I held.
Continued fantastically here.