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Short poem

Albert Frank Moritz (1947-)

The Erotic Civilization

              1The infinite erotic civilization we created
              2is declining now. Breast and penis wag in public
              3as in primitive times, when nothing was erotic but the gods,

              4and they wave placards and besiege the legislature,
              5demanding their right to go naked, unmolested,
              6unnoticed like anyone else through the pubic airwaves.

              7There are still heroes of eroticism,
              8those we call The Antediluvians, who appear in g-strings
              9behind aquarium glass, as if anyone were watching,

            10and there are still those who watch them
            11in the tired chrome and neon of the Erotomania Club
            12or on a last streetcorner of transvestite whores.

            13We still sometimes enjoy the very significant old bromide
            14whereby the decolleté is made to seem momentarily
            15the sacred cleft of the buttocks. Yet now

            16it all has the shuttered umbrella-folding sad
            17end-of-the-season feel that any religion will exude
            18as it survives stubbornly into the new age.

            19And the new age: how few steps are left to take
            20for the ever-developing machine of the body
            21before we get there. The distances are very big

            22but crossable, given merely a life that could be counted out
            23in simplest arithmetic, though it would have to last
            24longer than the universe, they say, is going to.

            25And it would be -- will be -- a boring journey,
            26like a bus trip across the Australian desert, sixty hours,
            27with the two drivers taking ten-hour shifts, each sleeping

            28while the other jounces and rots and the passengers look out
            29on the unvarying succession of pebbles, no two alike
            30and no two distinguishable: as if a mite should crawl

            31across one of those paintings of North African stone and sand
            32in which Jean Dubuffet submerges into the pure ‘thingness’
            33and dignity of earth’s basic material. Yes,

            34though we bury our penises in the sand, we have to see
            35the erotic age is now dead and in the world coming to be
            36will be infinitely pitied by our sexless shadows.

            37For the time being, however, we remain: brittle
            38elders, almost insensible, almost impotent, yet alive
            39by the sufferance of our young, who could easily grab us

            40and wring our necks, if they ever should desire to.
            41But they don’t desire. Who can understand them? They care
            42nothing at all for the mating song and dance

            43except that its necessary management provides some jobs.
            44They say right out loud that pleasure is a patina,
            45something to ease the bitter with the sweet,

            46and that the abyssal wealth of nature, custom,
            47and personality was all illusion, a mistake.
            48Nor can anything we do seduce or divert their resentment,

            49now that our most alluring female is only an old
            50half-bursting vacuum cleaner bag, whose penis envy
            51is about to vanish forever into white oblivion.

            52Still, we possess the last great strength of the erotic
            53era: intoxicated terror. Let them do as they please,
            54their advances can’t help moving us to the passion

            55of agony and sorrow while we die… The final
            56penetration, the thrust home, is coming, and they will be
            57the deliverer, whatever they do or don’t desire.

            58Around the last salons and saloons the human wave
            59mounts and howls willy-nilly with an electronic chuckling,
            60we can hear a click-click-click of commercial stiletto

            61heels: an undreamt body is stalking to be sold naked,
            62to be chained by the wrists to a white pillar
            63in the flap-snap-flop of the laundry of the future

            64strung out the windows of tropical highrise slums.


8] The Antediluvians: those who lived before Noah’s Flood (as described in Genesis). g-string: thin strip of cloth covering the genitalia and buttocks and forming a shape on the body like a G.

13] bromide: tired saying, proverbial wisdom.

14] decolleté: low cutting of a woman’s bodice to reveal “cleavage”.

32] Jean Dubuffet: “1901-1985, French painter and sculptor, made an impressive series of paintings as described here in the period after the Second Word War. It was Dubuffet who, in order to group primitive art, naïve art, and the art of the insane together as a phenomenon, coined the term art brut, which he preferred to the arts culturelles” (poet’s note; p. 51).

Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Albert Frank Moritz or the Watershed Books permissions department.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The End of the Age (Toronto: Watershed Books, 2002): 12-14. PS 8576 .074 E52 Robarts Library
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2004
Recent editing: 1:2004/7/22

Other poems by Albert Frank Moritz