but not afraid
to let her touch me,
passing the sacrament …"
FitP Poet Highlight 26/82: Will Bishop, “When I Do Go On My Honeymoon”
Will captures the thrill—and the anxiety—of embarking on such a (pro)creative journey in this poem. He begins by engaging a paradox experienced by unsuspecting virgins when they sexually collide atop the marriage bed, a realization that, even though they may intuitively understand the holiness of sex (as the poet understands it here, at least intellectually), there’s more to making married love than turning “No! No! No!” into “Go! Go! Go!” and oiling the mechanics of procreation. Beyond knowing that God ordained sex for our pleasure and for the peopling of the earth; beyond the semantic conversion I mention and the understanding that Tab A goes into Slot B, this entails an interdependent willingness to embrace the fear of vulnerability. The poet engages this paradox here with wonderfully spare lines that mirror the sparseness of emotional vulnerability: “Afraid / but not afraid / to let her touch me,” he says, “we’ll undress / slowly like / passing the sacrament.” His reference here to passing, not simply partaking of, the emblems of the Lord’s Supper suggests, first, that the pair is acting with God’s sanction and, second, that each party’s movements are deliberate, meant to prepare the other for the moment of consummation. Such an unselfish and careful approach (literally one full of care) to another’s body, even if unconscious, underscores the holiness of the act of marriage. Indeed, it emphasizes the very nature of the body as a gift from God, as part and parcel of the soul, which, in terms of the LDS cosmology, is the union of “body and spirit.” And, as Bishop reminds us in his closing lines, such a union is a beautiful, pleasurable, ennobling thing: “when I see her body, / bare and beautiful / and not ashamed,” he concludes, “I’ll kiss her mouth as if / she were the only woman / who ever existed.”
I’m certain such affection will be returned many-fold.