“The Unintended Lecture on Desire” by Lynne Knight

Lynne Knight


Hard labor was good for you, he said,
and by now sweat splotched his shirt,
his face had runnels of sweat, like the four
of us, two couples ripping rotted shingles
from the house, mid-July, humid, windless,
already my arms ached and the sweat stung
my eyes, but it would be good for me, I knew,
not just in the way he said but because I wanted
to rid my body of desire for him, forbidden
desire, since he was my best friend’s husband,
so I slid my hammer to get purchase and pulled
until a shingle loosened, again, again, he said
maybe we should stop for a beer but I wanted
to keep going, I wiped my eyes with the bandana
my own husband handed me, and my best friend
said she didn’t want a beer, she wanted a long
hot soak, and I saw the two of them making love
in the hot tub, and I wished we were shingling
the house instead of unshingling it, so I could
hammer, hammer, hammer desire away, 
and then he said he’d been reading a book
about perspective, it got a little too technical
in parts but was worth the slog because of
the reminder that no one could see what someone
else saw, think about it, even this, he said,
even the four of us out here in this fucking heat
ripping shingles I should’ve ripped five years ago,
not one of us can see what the others see.
I’m here, you’re there, he said, and that’s all
there is to it: we’re alone, we’re in this alone.

from Rattle #42, Winter 2013


Lynne Knight: “In my hippie days, I read Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, and came upon the passage that claims we’re in this alone. At the time, I was naïve enough (I was a hippie, after all) to think I would soon find my other half and never feel alone again. Fast-forward many decades to this poem. Nothing happened the way the poem claims it did. But writing it was a way of coming to terms with an idea I’ve always wanted to resist.”

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