Today in Gay History: WH Auden's Blowjob Poem

2.21.2014

By Andrew Belonsky

'And here he was sitting beside me, legs apart...'

Brit-turned-American writer WH Auden was a man of many letters. Born in this day in 1907, Auden’s literary contributions are vast and myriad.

In the 1930s he penned plays about hero worship and the meaning of love, as well as the left-leaning anti-imperialist play The Ascent of F6, written with his friend, mentor and sometimes lover Christopher Isherwood.

In the 1940s, Auden brought readers The Double Man, a collection that was something of a rebirth for him as a writer and as a spiritual being. Later in that decade Auden wrote a poetic commentary on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as well as the industrial critique The Age of Anxiety. He released The Enchaf├Ęd Flood: or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea, a collection of essays on Romanticism, a few years later, leading to other prose collections including 1962’s The Dyer’s Hand, a compilation mostly of Auden’s Oxford lectures.

Through it all, through every subject and in every media, whether it be poems on nature or oratories on religion or meditations on citizenship, Auden cultivated a reputation as one of the most skilled and nimble writers of the 20th Century. But of all the poems, plays, essays, commentaries, reviews, riddles, and limericks Auden penned, there remains one that stands above the others: "A Day for a Lay," also known as “The Platonic Blow, by Miss Oral” and “The Gobble Poem,” or, in short hand, “the blowjob poem.”

First unveiled at a party in 1965, the poem, reportedly written in 1948, remained off the public radar for years but was fiercely debated in literary circles, especially after Auden’s 1973 death, when his legacy was being shaped. Eventually naysayers were drowned out, though, and most experts call “Platonic Blow” the real deal. Edward Mendelson, a Columbia University English professor who is also literary executor of Auden’s estate, writes in the 1999 biography Later Auden,

“In December 1948, a few months after he had celebrated the maternal aspects of the flesh in "In Praise of Limestone," Auden celebrated the male flesh in a less sacramental style. "Deciding that there ought to be one in the Auden corpus" -- his choice of the noun is deliberate -- "I am writing a purely pornographic poem, The Platonic Blow," he told [friend and collaborator Charles] Kallman. He borrowed the nameless syncopated metre ("It was a Spring day, a day for a lay, when the air / Smelled like a locker-room") invented by Charles Williams for the poems of his highly sacramental Taliessin through Logres, but the word "Platonic" in Auden's title was an ironic spoof. The sexual act described by the poem in microscopic physiological detail is "Platonic" only in the popular sense that it is perfect of its kind…

It’s since become common consensus that, yes, the openly gay writer did use his skills to whip up an erotic meditation on Afternoon Delight. So, in honor of Auden’s birthday, a slice of his poetic blowjob fantasy. This bit picks up after he’s picked up a young stud on the street:

And here he was sitting beside me, legs apart.
I could bear it no longer. I touched the inside of his thigh.
His reply was to move closer. I trembled. My heart
Thumped and jumped as my fingers went to his fly.

I opened a gap in the flap. I went in there.
I sought for a slit in the gripper shorts that had charge
Of the basket I asked for. I came to warm flesh then to hair,
I went on. I found what I hoped. I groped. It was large.

He responded to my fondling in a charming, disarming way:
Without a word he unbuckled his belt while I felt
And lolled back, stretching his legs. His pants fell away.
Carefully drawing it out, I beheld what I held.

The circumcised head was a work of mastercraft,
With perfectly beveled rim of unusual weight
And the friendliest red. Even relaxed, the shaft
Was of noble dimensions with the wrinkles that indicate

Singular powers of extension. For a second or two,
It lay there inert then suddenly stirred in my hand,
Then paused as if frightened or doubtful of what to do,
And then with a violent jerk began to expand.

Okay, here’s a bit more.

I inspected his erection. I surveyed his parts with a stare
From scrotum level. Sighting along the underside
Of his cock, I looked through the forest of pubic hair
To the range of the chest beyond rising lofty and wide.

I admired the texture, the delicate wrinkles and the neat
Sutures of the capacious bag. I adored the grace
Of the male genitalia. I raised the delicious meat
Up to my mouth, brought the face of its hard-on to my face.

Slipping my lips round the Byzantine dome of the head,
With the tip of my tongue I caressed the sensitive groove.
He thrilled to the trill. "That's lovely!" he hoarsely said.
"Go on! Go on!" Very slowly I started to move.

Gently, intently, I slid to the massive base
Of his tower of power, paused there a moment down
In the warm moist thicket, then began to retrace
Inch by inch the smooth way to the throbbing crown.

Thank you, Auden, for reminding us that even in the age of endless internet porn, words can still be hot.

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