Dirty Mondays: “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name” by James Kirkup

For Easter Monday, possibly the most controversial poem of recent decades: James Kirkup’s “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name”. When it was first published in Gay News in 1976, it caused a furore led by the British “moral campaigner” Mary Whitehouse, which led to the eventual prosecution and conviction for Blasphemy of the editor of Gay News, Denis Lemon.

Blasphemous libel was an offence under the common law of England and Wales until it was abolished on 8 July 2008 by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, having been replaced with the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, another piece of legislation which has been accused of poor phrasing, dubious intent, and of more likelihood to create tensions between communities than prevent them.

Poetry can be dangerous, and rarely more so than in Kirkup’s poem, which uses the same religious themes and setting employed by countless artists over centuries to throw light on current issues, and highlight in the story of Christ not the savagery of his execution, but the love he brought into the world.

The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name

As they took him from the cross
I, the centurion, took him in my arms—
the tough lean body
of a man no longer young,
beardless, breathless,
but well hung.

He was still warm.
While they prepared the tomb
I kept guard over him.
His mother and the Magdalen
had gone to fetch clean linen
to shroud his nakedness.

I was alone with him.
For the last time
I kissed his mouth. My tongue
found his, bitter with death.
I licked his wound—
the blood was harsh
For the last time
I laid my lips around the tip
of that great cock, the instrument
of our salvation, our eternal joy.
The shaft, still throbbed, anointed
with death’s final ejaculation

I knew he’d had it off with other men—
with Herod’s guards, with Pontius Pilate,
With John the Baptist, with Paul of Tarsus
with foxy Judas, a great kisser, with
the rest of the Twelve, together and apart.
He loved all men, body, soul and spirit. — even me.

So now I took off my uniform, and, naked,
lay together with him in his desolation,
caressing every shadow of his cooling flesh,
hugging him and trying to warm him back to life.
Slowly the fire in his thighs went out,
while I grew hotter with unearthly love.

It was the only way I knew to speak our love’s proud name,
to tell him of my long devotion, my desire, my dread—
something we had never talked about. My spear, wet with blood,
his dear, broken body all open wounds,
and in each wound his side, his back,
his mouth—I came and came and came

as if each coming was my last.
And then the miracle possessed us.
I felt him enter into me, and fiercely spend
his spirit’s final seed within my hole, my soul,
pulse upon pulse, unto the ends of the earth-
he crucified me with him into kingdom come.

This is the passionate and blissful crucifixion
same-sex lovers suffer, patiently and gladly.
They inflict these loving injuries of joy and grace
one upon the other, till they die of lust and pain
within the horny paradise of one anothers’ limbs,
with one voice cry to heaven in a last divine release.

Then lie long together, peacefully entwined, with hope
of resurrection, as we did, on that green hill far away.
But before we rose again, they came and took him from me.
They knew not what we had done, but felt
no shame or anger. Rather they were glad for us,
and blessed us, as would he, who loved all men.

And after three long, lonely days, like years,
in which I roamed the gardens of my grief
seeking for him, my one friend who had gone from me,
he rose from sleep, at dawn, and showed himself to me before
all others. And took me to him with
the love that now forever dares to speak its name.

James Kirkup (born April 23, 1918).

Image: Detail from Caravaggio’s Taking of Christ in the Garden.

Posted April 13, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name” by James Kirkup.
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Bookkake in the Kitchen: Baguette Magique

Those of you who remember Bookkake’s last adventure in the kitchen, where we cooked a monstrous egg in contraceptive sheaths, will know we have a taste for the outlandish.

We’ve recently started baking, and the physical pleasures of breadmaking are immediately obvious, even to the amateur: kneading the gooey dough until it becomes a springy, living mass, letting it rise quietly and joyfully for an hour or two, before cooking and the satisfied consumption. This week’s recipe is taken from Elizabeth’s David classic English Bread and Yeast Cookery, although the presentation is ours.

Even we are prepared to admit that this week’s escapades shade dangerously into juvenilia. But we have our justifications. It is, after all, Eastertide.

Bread has a central role in the Easter celebrations: the hot cross bun (which the early Protestants tried to ban as overly Papist), Italian cakes of anise and candied fruits, French plaits, Greek Tsoureki, and of course, the bread which represents the body of the risen Lord.

Easter’s pre-Christian origins in the festivals of Ēostre, Attis/Osiris and Adonis are filled with images of fertility and rebirth that have survived and been incorporated into our modern rituals: the hare and the egg, the fiery equinox, the risen dough. Fecundity and carnal pleasure.


Source: Only in France… at Metacafe

The French word “baguette” literally means stick or rod: “baguette magique” is the Magician’s wand, itself a stand-in for the phallus. Bread’s growth and engorgement is the ultimate foodie metaphor for arousal, and latterly, gestation: the bun in the oven which results.

In a twist worthy of Charlotte Roche’s Wetlands, Artist Toi Sennhauser completes the circle of fertility with her own particular breakfast loaf, ingredients: “flour, water, salt, baker’s yeast, vaginal yeast, current STD test (neg)”. Not even Lucian and Gray thought of that. I wonder whether it would work with brewing?

Posted April 10, 2009 | Comments Off on Bookkake in the Kitchen: Baguette Magique.
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