Sex, Catechism, and Nature

Library box books

Did He smile to make me?
The Tyger knows the answer
but waits behind the tree
while the smithy pounds
the fire to awoke cold eyes.

Did He make me to eat,
be eaten, or both, the blacksmith
beating, the heart now bleating,
dressed in cute bows,
the smithy now a ceremony?

Nature prefers wildernesses,
yet sticks to codes where one is tamed
to another, where one seems made
to ask questions, while the other
stares in doubt.


I’m in the habit of walking daily, not as committed to it as Thoreau, who said he walked eight miles through the woods daily, but most days I at least get around the block to have a peak into the neighborhood library box and see what new old stuff folks have tossed in, and this week I pull out three books, at first a delightful find, then, as I sit down back at the house to have a closer look, somewhat chilling.

I was raised on the Baltimore Catechism, and somehow I remember the first question as, “Why did God make me?” But this newer catechism reads, “Why did God make us?” A substantive change, I thought, so I looked up the Baltimore and read, “Why did God make you?” In any case, it was the answers I found somewhat chilling. Small wonder so many of us grew to question authority.

Disappointed in the catechism, I turned to Anne Hooper’s “Sexology 101,” also, I began to think, a kind of catechism in that its underlying purpose seems to be to ask and answer questions of a sexual nature, its focus though more on how we have sex rather than why we have it, and how we might disguise or diagnose or misunderstand or not even recognize our intentions from or with others. It seems humans have taken sex off nature’s grid, where there is no Q & A Following. We got to a point where no one talked about sex, but then studies were conducted, questions asked, and the rest is now academically stereotyped.

Dropping “Sexology 101,” at random I opened Michael Pollan’s “Second Nature” to page 67, where I find this: “That same scar shows up in The Great Gatsby, when Nick Carraway rents the house next to Gatsby’s and fails to maintain his lawn according to West Egg standards.” The “scar” referenced, I learn as I read backwards, is “a disgrace…where the crew-cut lawn rubs up against the shaggy one, is enough to disturb the peace of an entire neighborhood; it is a scar on the face of suburbia, an intolerable hint of trouble in paradise.” It seems someone had not read or gave no heed to their community lawn catechism: “After neighbors took it upon themselves to mow down the offending meadow, he erected a sign that said: “‘This yard is not an example of sloth. It is a natural yard, growing the way God intended.'”

I stack the new old books on the coffee table to return to the library box on the morrow. In the middle of the night I awake, a line of words in my head suggesting the three books tie together, and a kind of triptych poem emerges, which I finish off over a cup of coffee come morning.