“A Lesson in Metaphor” by River Adams

River Adams


Another name for a penis is a microphone.
No one told me this. The radio had to pull me aside.
It’s a metaphor, of course. Anything a woman loves
can be made sexual. In this instance, singing
refers to giving pleasure. The voice is not involved.
Even in the safety of a simile, our voices are not our own.
A famous poet, a man, said for a metaphor
to be successful, the object has to bear
some resemblance to the new image.
For example, I am wearing a sweater the color
of wind chimes. A shade of reddish-brown
named by the designer. This metaphor fails.
My body, if cut down to be shaped
into a thing that makes music for someone else,
would not make a sound when it falls.
It does not make a sound as it leaves the room.

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


River Adams: “I started thinking more deeply about the crafting of metaphors after Ocean Vuong shared a lesson on his Instagram story. In the time since, I’ve heard three songs use this particular euphemism. Do I like the songs? Yes, but maybe we can put this phrase into retirement, or at least come up with an equivalent metaphor for vaginas.” (web)

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