Jack’s Naughty Bits: Anne Sexton, “Knee Song”

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Jack's Naughty Bits
Thirty-two years I’ve been alive, half of them spent looking for love. My reading this week has brought me to a new clarity, a honing in on what I’m really after. As it turns out, I think I’m only asking for one thing; perhaps it’s not too much. Love as delicacy, the gentleness of one who knows, who loves you not like flame raging through newsprint, nor like an axe, butt end or blade, but as the tap of sea ripples against the side of a woodhull: a steady sound we hear around us, bumping, sustaining, syncopating — beneath, against and everywhere.


I am older now, and I’d like to think I have learned enough to trade passion for permanence, ravage for rest. There have been times when I’ve asked love with its hot hand to take me away from life, to consume and devour, to rid me of all senses save the sense of heat itself; now I ask love not to replace being but just to be, to take over, to be the air breathed in and out, so that we are always, invariably, aswim.


It is quieter, this kind of love; we all know that. It seems less sexy, perhaps, till you know it, till you feel that sexy can be the snag and tangle of here unskeined by the nimble fingers of now. Your hands, darling, on my brow: that is all I ask.


And so, this week, delicacy itself: a love poem by Anne Sexton.


“Knee Song” by Anne Sexton

Being kissed on the back
of the knee is a moth
at the windowscreen and
yes my darling a dot
on the fathometer is
tinkerbelle with her cough
and twice I will give up my
honor and stars will stick
like tacks in the night
yes oh yes yes yes two
little snails at the back
of the knee building bon-
fires something like eye-
lashes something two zippos
striking yes yes yes small
and me maker.

last week next week

Jack Murnighan‘s stories appeared in the Best American Erotica editions of 1999, 2000 and 2001. His weekly column for Nerve, Jack’s Naughty Bits, was collected and released as two books. He was the editor-in-chief of Nerve from 1999 to 2001, before retiring to write full time and take seriously the quest for love.

Introduction ©2000 Jack Murnighan and, Inc.