“How to Write an Erotic Letter” by Anthony Farrington

Anthony Farrington


You must empty yourself first. Erase
everything you’ve written. If you’re naked,
revise all your clothes back on. Anyway,
they’re all you have. What matters
is the taking them off. Begin with a title
“Concerning insatiable carnal urges.”
Attach a handwritten note that says,
Keep your hair down and If you come here,
I’ll tell you something awful about someone perfect. Scathing
and lovely to hear. Remember,

each time, each letter is an entire love affair, say
‘A’ is for almost. ‘B’
is the emptiness that follows. The letter ‘O’
is what the body believes.

If she writes in a letter,
Sometimes our bodies are too much for us,
quote her. How she turns you on
turns her on. You can
quote me on that.

I am remembering the sweep of your hair, the light
on your breasts, your beautiful eyes expanding;
I am remembering the slickness inside you—
how wet, how deliciously warm. I think
of your uncontrollable breath; I think
of your nipples kissing my chest; I think
of your mouth on my neck and the sweet taste
of your tongue in my mouth.

Set aside nothing for later. Call this,
I was kissing and sucking and wanting so badly
to fuck you silly, silly. And erase it. But enjoy it first.

Feel free to write a pretend letter to her father.
Quote from it: “Dear her father, Sir, we are sorry to inform you, sir,
of the mysterious demise of your daughter. It seems she was somehow—
sorry to say this indelicately—fucked to death…obviously
a scandalous affair. Ropes and long-necked bottles and,
oh, we mustn’t go on. A man was dead too, sir—exhaustion it seems
or dementia. With sincere regrets,
I am yours.”

If she uses the word fuck in her letters
you use the word fuck
but at the end of the letter only. This
is not prudery, it is teasing
and she will appreciate it.

I want my face in your hair,
your perfume in my breath,
my finger tips softly
touching the sides of your ribs, your waist,
your thighs, your breast, your face—what is important here,
in this letter, your hand must touch her, in this letter,
so she wants, over and over, what is not there.

If you’re foolish enough to write Oh God prematurely,
you deserve what you don’t get. As a cautionary measure,
delete all references to god: Jesus it feels so good and Holy shit.
Consider keeping: God, you are so slick; so goddamn delicious.
But you’ve already used slick once. Now three times. There is nothing wrong
with I want to hear your voice coming and coming
but admit, it’s a one-shot phrase.

Damp cotton will open caves in your mind.
Promise her: I need you
electric in my mouth. Write: Concerning the art of seduction
and leave it at that. Tease her: Truth or dare? End
before you’ve said everything. Realize

everything you are, in this letter, precedes you—
which is the loneliness of writing. What you want
is never now. That’s the essence of desire. What she reads is always past;

that’s despair. Think about how—
if she could—she would swallow the world
(pillow and all) take it all inside—
all of you—so it could come shattering out
again. But don’t fool yourself,

this letter needs to be filled with sorrow. Write:
Sometimes I wish I could be in your body
so I could feel what you feel. Sometimes,
I wish you could be in my body—your own name amazingly
on the tip of your new tongue, the smell of you
(I mean me) in your fresh mind,
seeing your old body arch away from your new body,
hearing seeing feeling what was once you
hold her breath; hearing her becoming, coming

apart all around you. And then your own foreign release
beyond your whole body. The cracking—
it feels so open—this desire, almost to weep. Then
weep. In the space of a letter you once were.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008


Anthony Farrington: “I’ve a friend who says that every poem is ars poetica. This poem certainly felt like it—the conflation of writing and pleasure. I enjoyed stealing and rewriting lines from old letters, re-reading a not-so-distant past. By its very nature, a love letter is always written out of longing; it is a solitary act; it entrusts us with a kind of silence and loneliness. In this way, I think the love letter is the saddest of all letters.”

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