portion of the artwork for Alison Eastley's poetry

My Beautiful Sleeping Hermaphrodite:
By Day and By Night

Alison Eastley

Looking through the window, even when it’s dark

The smell of sleeplessness lingers next to nothing
naked and numb in everyday
underwear I’ve studied 10 signs

you’re going to dump me, and I wait
and I pace, pretending
to be half-hearted

missing that fantasy I never need
to listen to the wind
in the trees shiver. Your fingers

whisper longer than this wisp I know
isn’t the shiver in the winter
of inexplicable dreams.

In the winter of inexplicable dreams

My fetishist hides
a stash to defy any category although if you flick
through the Ezi-Buy
catalogue you’ll find something especially soft,

sensuous to the eye, then check
to make sure
it comes in a large enough size like those shoes
pole dancers wear,

the giveaway signs, big feet, the inability
to dance
to any beat. Your make-up is sublime
in the winter

of inexplicable dreams
you feed my fantasy
with your fuchsia
pink stilettoes stuck in the sheets

of the bed I don’t notice
this waltz has you on your back
and me on my feet
(… then my knees.)

(… then my knees.)

Anthropologists say that whatever lies
between two familiar opposites
is usually declared either sacred or taboo.

It must be true because I read the blurb
on the back of a book. On page 56:
the sex of angels is also mutable.

The word to take notice of isn’t sex
or angels. It is also. If it’s not anthropologists
writing field notes it’s the non-apologetic

medical term, interstitial, commonly
known to mean “in-between
ness” so it can describe any work

of art falling between rather
than within familiar boundaries
of accepted genre or media.

This is like drawing outside
the lines or being unable to define
sexuality or gender, perhaps the result

last night I was learning to fuck
like a woman pretending to be a man
in the spaces between fantasy and need.

In the spaces before Venus

Before Venus
spins across the sun, my longing is like a Leonard Cohen song
making it easy to understand
why I cry in the spaces between fantasy

we meet this confession, this unholy
truth an ache
for beauty
no man can possess and so I rest against the fog-steamed window,

my Salvation Army blanket
blurring this transit is a wonderful and rare sight when you consider
 the vastness

of the sky, the depth of obsession for a different kind

of love you
said it was all right as long as I didn’t leave like a woman
to be a man when the roll of my hips
always gives me away.

Sleeping Hermaphrodite

Between the natural and the supernatural, the crossroads. At the crossroads, a threshold. A threshold is not a place. There is no door. There is nothing to define. Your arms fold as if constrained by a straightjacket. Your expression doesn’t change (except if I look closely. There is a slight flicker under your left eye). You have that faraway-I’m looking-out-the-window-and-am-concentrating-trying-to-find-the-right-word sort of look. Perhaps the flicker under your left eye is a sign. I watch the contours of your face in the margins between day and night. My hands trace your neck, your jaw, and your cheeks. I smooth your eyes, your eyelids, your brows. You are asleep. You said it doesn’t matter. Awake or asleep, I can touch you.
Threshold: what it means for two lovers to be wearing down, imperceptibly, the ancient threshold of their door.
Threshold: married to any luminal state … the quality of ritual. Is this the same as Hermes moving by night, the time of love, dreams and theft? Hermes has magical powers in the margins between. I want to tell you about Hermes.
Hermes is not concerned with right and wrong. Hermes likes a good time. He doesn’t mind timelessness either. He has an eye for beauty. He once fucked the goddess of sluts. I think you are a slut when you glam it up, when you swish and sway, make-up smashed on your face.
Threshold: when I fuck like a woman pretending to be a man but the roll of my hips gives me away.
Threshold: when you lie on the bed, your hips raised on a pillow, your dress hiked past your thighs, my arms spreading your legs wider, wider, wider …
You are my sleeping hermaphrodite, your foot caught in the bottom of the sheet, the sheet at the bottom on the bed, your body partially covered, mostly exposed. A beautiful girl sleeping on and on. Her softly scented hair spreads over the pillow like a secret shared.
In the diaphanous glow somewhere between myth and morning I love you. There is no door. There is nothing to define. Your arms fold as if constrained by a straightjacket and then, you smile. You say I love you too but you’re worried I want to move in.
Threshold: when you fuck like a man pretending to be a woman tied to the bed of submission but you’re not quite ready to hand me the key and the door is already open.

In “(… then my knees.),” the book and “on page 56“ referred to in the poem is John Irving’s In One Person.
The material in italics in “In the spaces before Venus” is from “Stargazers enjoy transit of Venus,” The Australian, June 06, 2012.

Alison Eastley’s Comments

I chose to interrelate these poems by using the last line of a poem to introduce the beginning of the next, working my way towards looking at a relationship from different angles. I wanted the poems to form a circle much like the imagined romantic relationship, and within that circle, to also explore a type of sexuality that usually remains hidden (especially from the women’s point of view).

The poems come from a place of generosity and understanding. But the poems are also about being with someone turning away from the relationship. The last poem’s last line, “you’re not quite ready to hand me the key and the door is already open” is, perhaps, a poetic way of saying I know you’re going to throw me off, and for that, well, the “I despise you” poems will come later.

Return to Archive

FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 38 | Fall 2012