Last week we asked friends around the world to "Send us a paragraph or a poem or a photo or a drawing of absolutely anything sensual—food, love, beauty, dance—that you experience, observe, dream or imagine that takes you by surprise."
This week, from France, from Switzerland, from Vietnam, from Norway, from Washington, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio, from around the world, your responses. Thank you for playing with Paris Play. (All texts and images (c) 2013 by the various artists.)
Cassandra Lane: Excerpt from her manuscript, Seed of Strange Fruit
Our obsession with food eventually moved to Jay’s kitchen. A trained chef and winemaker, he sautéed scallops in the finest of butters and wrapped their plump bodies in caramelized onions. Placing his creations strategically on stylish plates, he drizzled a creamy red wine balsamic sauce across the scallops and the saucers—a dazzle of color. “Let there be light,” he joked. We placed each scallop whole into our mouths, where spices awakened my taste buds and my flesh.
Chilled glasses of white wine—always sweet, despite that Jay preferred red— refreshed our palates.
He drove me to wine country, fingered grapes while waxing poetically about their complexity, and introduced me to his winemaker friends, who offered me sip after sip of reds and whites. At a cottage restaurant, we shared a goat cheese soufflé and port-glazed figs, and I told Jay about my fascination with figs, rooted in the fig trees that grew in my childhood backyard. In its raw state, the purple-black skin is the sweetest part of the ripe fig. When you peel away the outer layer, you’re left with the milder, milk-white surface underneath. Not as sweet, but pliable and swollen, a lactating breast. One gentle nip releases its cool red ovaries, and here is where the fig’s sweetness returns, trailing the tongue.
I was drunk on our love. We were bound, Jay said, by a soul connection most people would go to their graves not knowing. We reeled each other in with our words—whispered words, written words. In emails and letters, Jay poured words into me that seemed as whole and fresh as the juice of a mango. I would read them out loud, holding the syllables in my mouth, believing them with my entire being. Somehow, I had forgotten that everything is skewed in the first stages of romance. Add to that an illicit love affair, and the sparks of distortion turn to flames. Reading astrological charts and Sabian symbols, I tried to confirm that this man was my soul mate, that we had not—could not have—destroyed our lives for naught.
At least, I could not have.
I doubt you'll find a more sensual or appetizing food photo than this -- Ohio State Forest deep in France...
Scott MacFarlane: Excerpt from novel-in-progress
Maybe my malaise went far deeper than this current contaminated mess. Hell, I didn’t understand my own chronic alienation, except that now, without a doubt, the old model was badly cracked. Even the morning wind through the firs sounded weary to my ears, and the late August sun burned dry from above the Cascade Range to the east––a deep red ball shining through a pallor of dark gray inversion. The remains of Vancouver and Seattle still smoldered. The murk settled over the Skagit Valley like an omnipresent reminder of collective doom.
“As fine she’s looked all year,” I heard Uncle Harley say in his smoker’s voice when he turned the Sheriff’s attention away from his barn and toward the river.
“Are you talking about Signe or the Skagit?” Bucky asked, with his eyes downhill.
“The river,” said Uncle Harley.
I continued unloading boxes while the two men in their 60s watched my mother on the sand bar step from her violet, silk kimono and into the cold, slow eddy in the small slough where it entered the outermost bend of the Skagit. All but my mother’s white bun of hair submerged as she followed her daily, ritual meditation. Hers was a cold water baptism that I had observed for decades whenever the river turned clear––summer, autumn, winter, or spring. It was August, so she remained in the river for minutes instead of seconds. I remembered how Derek and I, as naked lads, used to join her in the ritual.
“Do you think she minds us watching?” Bucky asked my uncle, shifting uneasily from foot-to-foot when Signe emerged from the river.
Droplets glistened on her long naked body like morning dew. She closed her eyes, slowly stretching and lifting her arms away from her side. She faced the sun and seemed to bow. I couldn’t tell if her expression was happy or sad, but she looked centered, almost serene, when a slight smile curled at the corners of her mouth.
When her eyes opened, I wondered if she only pretended not to notice the men who watched her bend, then slip so smoothly into her kimono. Thinking of my mom as still flirtatious bothered me more than her lithe and natural nakedness that had always been commonplace during our sporadic sunny days here in Fish Town.
Mary Duncan: Pillow Gifts
On her wedding night, a virgin bride found a beautifully wrapped small gift on her pillow. She gently took off the gold ribbon and unfolded the soft, silk gold cloth. She laid the box on her lap and let it nestle in the soft folds of her white embroidered gown.
Netsukes can be the perfect gift for a lover, male or female. Surprise the special person in your life with a gift on their pillow. Hopefully, you’ll both be pleased with the results.
Suki Edwards: Yang of Sensuality
Gayle Brandeis: Flora
I've always liked the term
"lily-livered." I know it means
cowardly, but this is how
I see it: the liver, sleek
and wine-colored, bursts forth
with lilies; petals drift
and ride the streams of blood.
Think of it: the body
opens into flower, turns orchid-
spleened, jasmine-lunged, breath
tropical, humid with scent.
Poppies bloom between the legs,
wisteria vines wind
up the spine, each bone filled
with pollen and sweet nectar. The heart
is a rose, of course, plushly
blossomed, and inside the skull,
with each new thought,
a tulip unfurls
in the brain.
Jane Kitchell: Red Bird Woman
Eric Schafer: Excerpt from his short story "Married," from his collection The Wind Took It Away: Stories of Viet Nam
I have always loved Miền Tây, the Mekong Delta, one of the loveliest places on Earth. Blue rivers, sometimes mocha with rich silt brought all the way from Tibet; gold-green rice fields; high, clear skies that are almost green with the intense reflection of the rice fields at the start of the day and turn reddish cream at sunset; golden brown rice drying on the roads and green-pink thanh long fruit growing everywhere; hundreds of thousands of coconut trees; red-dusty roads, women wearing nón lá and plaid shirts, gracefully pedaling bicycles; schoolgirls in white áo dài with black trousers, little children running, laughing, shouting back and forth along the side of the road; the scent of fresh air and sweet fruit; the red clay earth running into the rough green grass...
Ren Powell: Sensual Surprise (Dissonant Seduction)
We are taxiing on the runway now. I’m flying to Oslo to swear that I no longer want to be an American citizen.
For it to be real, I have to say it out loud. And someone has to hear.
There is nothing supernatural about oaths and prayers and curses. They are waves in the physical world. They move us, just as the sea moves the shore: imperceptibly and absolutely. Events as solid, as physical, as the moment of held breath before a kiss.
There is a beauty in physical ease: dance, the smooth gesture of a master carpenter’s hand, the whispered words of a lover that ride the breath - measured carefully and given over. With ease.
Language is the core of identity. The physical world clings to itself.
The juxtaposition of diphthongs and fricatives reveal everything. It is an unavoidable intimacy of push, of pulse.
And I will never pass as Norwegian, regardless of my appearance or papers. The second generation Somalian, whose broad vowel æ resonates without an edge, proves that the visual is trumped by the sensual. Appearances deceive, but the breath can not.
There are so many vowels I cannot sing. Cannot measure.
And though these sounds I make are not beautiful in themselves, they gesture toward something - toward the kind of beauty that is evident in a dissonant chord: the charm of an accent. A necessary contrast, a drama –
May the waves of my breath, and the surrounding silence, penetrate your chest cavity and finger the hollowness there. May I make you aware of the disruption of molecules – which is heat, after all.
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore: Cobalt Blue
Cobalt blue! Whose
very name alone would
make me a believer, but whose
color in transparent glass
against light from a window
lifts the mind to a fantasy of
deep darkness, of
sea-depths, undersides of
sunken hulls, treasure,
deepsea tropical caverns,
night with a holy radiance,
bottles on high walls overlooking
the brighter blue sea --
cobalt blue glass!
During the day:
Nice Art One
Diane Sherry Case
The first spot of sunlight after my sister's death fell on the peach tree outside my front door. I had not perceived life in color for months. And suddenly there was my favorite fruit, abundant, as many peaches as I could eat. My favorite hues of sunset and the texture of velvet. I sat on my porch and let the sticky juice run down my chin and mingle with tears of grief. I made primal sounds like a famished baby and devoured one luscious peach after another, amazed, simply amazed that life goes on, life goes on.
Nice Art Two
Bruce Moody: With Elephants
With elephants everything
A cascade of cliff,
on four limber pillars.
A fog of stone
A strolling Niagara.
Wearing a wardrobe
of loose-fitting determination,
her great sweet
You have felt their stone-tough,
It snouts around like the foot of a snail.
until it clamps the morsel of crackerjack,
like an undersea thing,
into its heart-shaped maw.
Bad for the tusks?
Well, elephant dentists and nutritionists say
Elephants must eat
for their health and satisfaction,
So who am I to lecture an elephant –
vegan as she is –
to diet on whole savannahs.
And toss their mighty heads about,
making gales with their ears
and, with their Cyrano noses,
Nice Art Three
Nissa speaks in kisses.
Nice Art Four