November/December 2011

Tennessee Williams on Art and Sex

A new poem

by Ansel Elkins

At the time I was writing “Battle of Angels” and—the crowded avenue of umbrellas and passersby hailing cabs in the rain makes it difficult to hear. What did you say? I ask. I said it was a period of loneliness, you shout.The subject is promiscuity. Men in gray suits and hats leap gracefully over a water-swollen grate. Through a fine curtain of rain, streets sing with gray light. What I love about this city is the pigeons, you say. The way things can be so fucking rotten, yet they sleep together under the eaves of cathedrals and brothels. They keep warm that way.

It’s unavoidable—a piercing, fleeting scent of other people’s bodies. Strange how the heat and sweat of skin mixes with rain. Beneath gray wide-open wings of a newspaper, a woman shields herself.You stop at a corner bodega to light a cigarette, lean against a crate of oranges. Tell me again about desire and writing. But you don’t hear me. From a third-floor apartment, a woman’s cry rings out. She’s having a heated telephone conversation in the tub. Rising wisps of steam escape the window where she hangs her bare legs. Then goodbye, Henry, she says. From the open window, her naked feet are like two strangers facing each other.

Ansel Elkins won the “Discovery”/Boston Review 2011 Poetry Contest. His poems have appeared in the American Scholar, Boston Review, Mississippi Review, and the Southern Review.

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