[encore] 719: Museum of Sex

[encore] 719: Museum of Sex

[encore] 719: Museum of Sex

This episode was originally released on July 15, 2022.


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I have said this before, but perhaps not here on the podcast: Too many bad exes get poems written about them, too many toxic lovers get whole books dedicated to them, whole novels, whole songs, whole albums. It’s absurd. Artists write more about bad relationships and broken hearts than about good relationships, friends, and family. I keep thinking that if writers could turn their energy toward writing poetry about their friends, channel it away from their ex-lover who doesn’t even read poetry, we’d be better off.

I love a heartbreak poem, or a poem that explores the intricacies of hurt, but I want poems of praise, too, poems that can appreciate what it is to be in communion with others, to be at ease. I once told a group of students, you know what I think the hardest poem is to write? A poem of contentedness. What is it to look around at your life and just for a second say, “You know what? I’m doing okay today.” That’s a real intense exercise. I’m not even saying it has to be a happy poem, or joyful poem, but just a poem that says, “I’m okay today.”

I was recently listening to Poetry Off the Shelf, a podcast hosted by Helena deGroot. (It’s a wonderful show and if you want to listen to poets being interviewed about their lives and their craft, you should check it out.) The fabulous poet Victoria Chang was speaking about how she was drawn to the sadder poems, the heavier poems. I am too! I love it when a poem makes me cry. But I also love making room for the praise poem, the poem that invites their friends in and says, “Here, take a seat, I made this space for you.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about my friends and wanting to write about them. Especially the women in my life who show up when I need them, who have come over in the dead of night to brighten my spirits. The friends that have helped me move, driven me to readings at far corners of the world, held my hand when my vertigo was so bad I could barely stand. Damn it, I love my friends. I could get teary just talking about it.

Today’s poem is a celebration of the friendship between women and how sometimes finding pleasure is about being grateful for what it is that’s right in front of you.

Museum of Sex
by Ellen Hagan

with all the women I love.
Rajeeyah & Lisa pose luminous
in front of neon lights. Glow 
& strike. Lean. Renée & I light
up with laughter & we cackle
high & low. Nanya-Akuki
searches for the best dosas
spiced potatoes & chutney.
We study want & desire.
Decide on dinner while
searching the punk scene
& the start of stag films.
Tokumbo meets us after
& we trail toward Pongal.
Talk race & class & Beyoncé
& Toni Morrison & chakra
cards we read one by one
by one by one by one by one.
This sisterhood. Call us
all our names. Say love. See
us. Say trust & hope & laugh
& joy & much & miracle.
Yes. Say miracle. & see this.
These women. Surrounding
a table full of nourishment.
All of it. Such abundance yes.
Such luck to love this much.

"Museum of Sex" copyright © 2021 by Ellen Hagan. Published 2021 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.