20+ Best Erica Jong Poems

Erica Jong is an American novelist, satirist, and poet, known particularly for her 1973 novel Fear of Flying. The book became famously controversial for its attitudes towards female sexuality and figured prominently in the development of second-wave feminism.

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Famous Erica Jong Poems

On The Avenue

Male?
Female?
God doesn’t care
about sex
& the long tree-shaded avenue
toward death.

God says
the worm is as beautiful
as the apple it eats
& the apple as lovely
as the thick trunk
of the tree,
& the trunk of the tree
no more beautiful
than the air
surrounding it.

God doesn’t care
about the battle
between the sexes
with which we amuse ourselves
on our way toward death.

God says:
there are no sexes;
& still we amuse ourselves
arguing about whether or not
She is male
or He

female.

Statue

Cement up to the neck
& my head packed
with unsaid words.
A gullet full of pebbles,
a mouth
of cast concrete-
I am stuck
in a lovelessness so thick,
it seems my natural element.
My mouth closes
on stones.

Hand frozen to my chin,
my back a question mark,
my heart soldered
to its arteries,
my feet planted
in grass that cannot grow,
The Thinker ponders
ten more years of this:
a woman
living the life
of a statue.

Break free!
Melt the metal
in love’s cauldron,
open doors, eyes, heart,
those frozen ventricles,
those stuck tongues,
those stuttering dependencies.

When the statue walks,
will the world dissolve?
When she shakes her shoulders,
will the sky shrug
& skitter off in space?

Or will the clouds cluster
to cover her,
& the blue wind gather
at her shoulders
& the men streak by
like jet trails in the air,
utterly ephemeral?

She Leaps

She leaps into the alien heart
of the passerby, the drunk,
the girl who spouts Freudian talk
over Szechuan food.

She is part herself,
part everyone.
‘Thank you for writing the story of my life,’
her mash notes read.
& ‘Can you tell me how to leave my husband?’
& ‘Can you tell me how to find a husband?’
& ‘Can you tell me how to write,
or how to feel,
or how to save my life?’

She knows nothing
but how to leap.
She has no answers for herself
or anyone.

One foot after another,
she flies through the air. . . .

She leaps over cracks
& breaks
her father’s back.

Sailing Home

In the redwood house sailing off
into the ocean,
I sleep with you-
our dreams mingling,
our breath coming & going
like gusts of wind
trifling with the breakers,
our arms touching
& our legs & our hair
reaching out like tendrils
to intertwine.

The first time
I slept in your arms,
I knew I had come home.
Your body was a ship
& I rocked in it,
utterly safe in the breakers,
utterly sure of this love.
I fit into your arms
as a ship fits into water,
as a cactus roots in sand,
as the sun nestles into the blazing horizon.

The house sails all night.
Our dreams are the flags
of little ships,
your penis the mast
of one of the breeziest sailboats,
& my breasts floating,
half in & half out
of the water,
are like messages in bottles.

There is no point to this poem.
What the sea loses
always turns up again;
it is only a question of shores.

Poem To Kabir

Kabir says
the breath inside the breath
is God

& I say to Kabir
you are the breath inside that breath
which is not to say
that the poet is God-

but only that God
uses the poet
as the wind
uses
a sail.

Playing With The Boys

All the boring tedious young men
with dead eyes & dirty hair . . .
all the mad young men who hate their mothers,
all the squalling baby boys . . .

have grown up
& now write book reviews
or novels about the life
of the knife-fighter,
or movies in which grown men
torture each other-

all the squalling boring baby boys!

I am not part of their game.
I have no penis.
I have a pen, two eyes
& I bleed monthly.

When the moon shines on the sea
I see the babies
riding on the moonwaves
asking to be born.

Does everything else in nature hate
its mother?
Does the chick fling
bits of eggshell at the hen?
Does the pear spit
its seeds against the pear tree?

Who made all these squalling baby boys?

I am a reasonable, hardworking woman.
I sit at my desk & write
from eight to three.
When I emerge I do not ask your blessing.
What have I done but bleed
to get your curse?

Morning Madness

Exploring each other’s
depths,
that surge of connection
which makes the world
seem sane,
that exchange of spirit
in the guise of flesh,
that morning hallelujah,
that hook
to eternity. . . .

All day I bear you
between my legs,
& in my heart.
Powered by your love,
there is no hill
too high to climb,
no paragraph
I cannot write,
no hosanna
I cannot howl. . . .

Shall we wear it down
with habit?
Shall that combustible connection
become, in time, homier
than fresh bread,
nourishing but unsurprising?

O my lover
meet me in the hollow
of a red thigh,
by mountains
which resemble
spouting cocks. . . .
We will keep
the madness fresh-
the red madness
that keeps us

sane.

Mute Marriages

Mute marriages:
the ten-ton block of ice
obstructing the throat, the heart,
the red filter of the liver,
the clogged life.

It is a glacier
in which frozen children swim
ground round with boulders,
pebbles, bits of stone
from other ice ages.

Here a lapis glitters,
here a shard of bottle glass-
valuables & junk:
the history of a house
told in its garbage cans,
the history of a life
in its nightmares.

Speak the dream.
Follow the red thread
of the images.
Defrost the glacier
with the live heat
of your breath,
propelled by the heart’s
explosion.

The Keys

Broken ivories
playing
the blue piano
of the sea.

We have come
from the bitter city
to heal ourselves.
We have come
looking for a patch of beach
not yet built into a fortress
of real-estate greed,
a coral reef
not yet picked clean
of buried treasure,
not yet bare of birds.

The first night in the Keys,
I dreamed I was a bird
soaring over a hilly city,
soaring & dipping
like a gull or egret.
& I thought:
‘Ah- this is a flying dream!
Enjoy it.’

But I really think
that my soul
has been transported
for a night
into the body of
a bird
& I was flying.

I woke up
exhausted,
arms weary,
eyes red.
The beach was dazzling
with its white sand,
the sun blinding,
& I seemed to know the palm trees
from above
as well as below.

They root in the sand
with elephant feet,
yet they also root
their delicate fronds
in air.
& these are a comfort
as you fly
half bird, half human
through a dream of sky.

Everything was new
to a spirit
so divided
between two kingdoms.
The water was alive
with fish,
the air with birds
& palm fronds,
clouds, thunderous presences
of rain
gathering & parting,
& fiery sun playing through.

I knew
that I stood
on a patch of earth
connected to the sky,
that my heart beat
with the sea,
that my arms moved
with the clouds,
that my flesh
was finally irrelevant
though it surrounded me
as the case of a piano
surrounds its strings,
while the fingers play
on the ivory keys
& the human music
rises to the sky.

Sleep With

I sleep with double pillows since you’re gone.
Is one of them for you-or is it you?
My bed is heaped with books of poetry.
I fall asleep on yellow legal pads.

Oh the orgies in stationery stores!
The love of printer’s ink & think new pads!
A poet has to fall in love to write.
Her bed is heaped with papers, or with men.

I keep your pillow pressed down with my books.
They leave an indentation like your head.
If I can’t have you here, I’ll take cold type-
& words: the warmest things there are-
but you.

His Silence

He still wears the glass skin of childhood.
Under his hands, the stones turn mirrors.
His eyes are knives.

Who froze the ground to his feet?
Who locked his mouth into an horizon?
Why does the sun set when we touch?

I look for the lines between the silences.
He looks only for the silences.

Cram this page under his tongue.
Open him as if for surgery.
Let the red knife love slide in

For Howard Moss

Already six years past your age!
The steps in Rome,
the house near Hampstead Heath,
& all your fears
that you might cease to be
before your pen had glean’d. . . .

My dear dead friend,
you were the first to teach me
how the dust could sing.
I followed in your footsteps
up the Heath.
I listened hard
for Lethe’s nightingale.

& now at 31, I want to live.
Oblivion holds no adolescent charms.
& all the ‘souls of poets
dead & gone,’
& all the ‘Bards
of Passion & Mirth’
cannot make death-
its echo, its damp earth-
resemble birth.

You died in Rome-
in faltering sunlight-
Bernini’s watery boat still sinking
in the fountain in the square below.
When Severn came to say
the roses bloomed,
you did not ‘glut thy sorrow,’
but you wept-
you wept for them
& for your posthumous life.

& yet we all lead posthumous lives somehow.
The broken lyre,
the broken lung,
the broken love.
Our names are writ in newsprint
if not water.

‘Don’t breathe on me-‘ you cried,
‘it comes like ice.’

×

Last words.
(I can’t imagine mine.
Perhaps some muttered dream,
some poem, some curse.)

Three months past 25,
you lived on milk.
They reeled you backward
in the womb of love.

×

A tepid February Roman Spring.
Fruit trees in bloom
& Hampstead still in snow
& Fanny Brawne receives a hopeful note
when you are two weeks dead.

A poet’s life:
always awaiting mail.

×

For God’s sake
kick against the pricks!
There aren’t very many roses.
Your life was like an hourglass
with no sand.
The words slid through
& rested under glass;
the flesh decayed
to moist Italian clay.

×

At autopsy,
your lungs were wholly gone.
Was that from too much singing?
Too many rifts of ore?
You spent your life breath
breathing life in words.
But words return no breath
to those who write.

Letters, Life, & Literary Remains . . .

‘I find that I cannot exist without poetry. . . .’

‘O for a Life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts!’

‘What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth. . . .’

‘We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us. . . .’

‘Sancho will invent a Journey heavenwards as well as anybody. . . .’

‘Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul.’

‘Why should we kick against the Pricks when we can walk on
the Roses?’

‘Axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses. . . .’

‘Until we are sick, we understand not. . . .’

‘Sorrow is Wisdom. . . .’

‘Wisdom is folly. . . .’

×

Too wise
& yet not wise enough
at 25.
Sick, you understood
& understanding
were too weak to write.

Proved on the pulse: poetry.

If sorrow is wisdom
& wisdom is folly
then too much sorrow
is folly.

I find that I cannot exist without sorrow
& I find that sorrow
cannot exist without poetry. . . .

What the imagination seizes as beauty
must be poetry. . . .

What the imagination seizes must be. . . .

×

You claimed no lust for fame
& yet your burned.
‘The faint conceptions I have of poems to come brings
the blood frequently into my forehead.’

I burn like you
until it often seems
my blood will break
the boundaries of my brain
& issue forth in one tall fountain
from my skull.

×

A spume of blood from the forehead: poetry.

A plume of blood from the heart: poetry.

Blood from the lungs: alizarin crimson words.

×

‘I will not spoil my love of gloom
by writing an Ode to Darkness. . . .’

The blood turns dark;
it stiffens on the sheet.
At night the childhood walls
are streaked with blood-
until the darkness seems awash with red
& children sleep behind two blood-branched lids.

×

‘My imagination is a monastery
& I am its monk . . .’

At five & twenty,
very far from home,
death picked you up
& sorted to a pip.
& 15 decades later,
your words breathe:
syllables of blood.

A strange transfusion
for my feverish verse.

I suck your breath,
your rhythms & your blood,
& all my fiercest dreams are sighed away.

I send you love,
dear Keats,
I send you peace.
Since flesh can’t stay
we keep the breath aloft.

Since flesh can’t stay,
we pass the words along.

The Ecological Apocalypse

Because he dreams of seeding the world with words
his eyes bite
She looks He looks away
He is snow-blind
from staring at her breasts
They make love
This is marked by asterisks
those gaps
disguised as stars


He thinks the future is a mouth
She invites him
into her apple

The Cover Of The Book

The cover of the book
is astral violet,
& within it
are poems,
most of them
earthbound,
but for one
to the poet’s
daughter
which soars
into
the empyrean
on umbilical wings.

Oh we poets
are so afraid
of making babies-
& yet
of all
the fleshly chains
that bind us,
our children
are the chains
that bind
most closely
to heaven.

How can that be?

Poetry
is an astral
affliction.

Poets are always
saving themselves
for their poems.
Yet in that saving
there is no grace,
while in the child
there is distraction,
chaos, disorder

& through that fleshly chaos

peace.

The Buddha In The Womb

Bobbing in the waters of the womb,
little godhead, ten toes, ten fingers
& infinite hope,
sails upside down through the world.

My bones, I know, are only a cage
for death.
Meditating, I can see my skull,
a death’s head,
lit from within
by candles
which are possibly the suns
of other galaxies.

I know that death
is a movement toward light,
a happy dream
from which you are loath to awaken,
a lover left
in a country
to which you have no visa,
& I know that the horses of the spirit
are galloping, galloping, galloping
out of time
& into the moment called NOW.

Why then do I care
for this upside-down Buddha
bobbling through the world,
his toes, his fingers
alive with blood
that will only sing & die.

There is a light in my skull
& a light in his.
We meditate on our bones only
to let them blow away
with fewer regrets.

Flesh is merely a lesson.
We learn it
& pass on.

The Book With Four Backs

I put our books face to face
so they could talk.
They whispered about us.

I put yours on top of mine.
They would not mate.

Like poor dumb pandas in the London Zoo,
they would not come together.

I put them back to back.
They would not sleep.

I put them right side up to upside down.
They would not lick each other’s wounds.

The night we met
you fed me fish eggs & dark beer.
We spoke of animals & Shakespeare.
You talked about acidic inks & papers.
You told me how our books digest themselves.

You laid the pages of your body over mine.
You printed my face with kisses.
The letters fell into a heap under our bed.
The sheets were dust.
The fish eggs swam our mouths.

You Operate

You operate on the afternoon
You perform open heart surgery
on the ghosts
of your suicidal friends

You divorce your parents
before you have time
to be born

You kick out your wife & child
You tell your girlfriend
to go screw herself

This is the solitude you wanted
The silence
is stitching you up
you write

The Woman Of It

Your slit so like mine:
the woman of it,
the warm womanwide of thigh,
& the comfort of it-
knowing your nipples like mine,
& the likeness of it,
watching the mirror make love,
& the lovematch;
the mirror of you
in me.

I have creamed my hands
in the cave;
I have known my mother.
Years to get past
the barrier reefs of words.
We were natural together
as two little girls in the bath.
We hoped to be women someday,
we hoped to grow up.

What You Need To Be A Writer

After the college
reading,
the eager
students gather.

They ask me
what you need
to be a writer

& I, feeling flippant,
jaunty
(because
I am wearing
an 18th century
dress
& think
myself in love
again),
answer:

‘Mazel,
dete rmination,
talent, & true
grit.’

I even
believe it-

looking
as I do
like an
advertisement
for easy
success-

designer dress,
sly smile
on my lips
& silver boots
from
Oz.

Suppose
they saw me
my eyes
swollen
like sponges,
my hand
shaking
with betrayal,

my fear
rampant
in the dark?

Suppose they saw
the fear
of never
writing,
the fear
of being
alone,
the money fear,
the fear fear,
the fear
of succumbing
to fear?

& then there’s all
I did
not say:

to be
a writer
what you need
is

something
to say:

something
that burns
like a hot coal
in your gut

something
that pounds
like a pump
in your groin

& the courage
to love
like a wound

that never
heals.

A Bespectacled Artist Called Lear

A bespectacled artist called Lear
First perfected this smile in a sneer.
He was clever and witty;
He gave life to this ditty –
That original author called Lear.

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