Sore Eros cover

Sore Eros

Brian Teare

Copyright © 2013 Brian Teare. All rights reserved.

For the Twenty Suitors of June
… a text where we can hear the grain of the throat,
the patina of consonants,
the voluptuousness of vowels,
a whole carnal stereophony …

—Roland Barthes

How to Do the History of Homosexuality

Dear Interlocutor—
Let this verse serve you
better than calligraphy
or script, the letter being
less intelligent than desire.
As when you fold me
at waist and follow
folded over and we are
as Greek vase or plate,
a philosophy lesson :
a youth and his elder.
The scholar’s question
penetration—its meaning
is it in fact continuous
within history? Because
I have good reasons
there is the question
of writing toward
and for you always—
that I want you
inside me is not
rhetorical, is historical :
you’ve been there before
and I identified
with the feeling—
it was not enough.
Of course merely
to look at the world
will always be lovely,
but it is not your beauty.
To look at you is never
intelligent skin thinking
deeper. I want you ever
inner, my words
your flesh. I mean
I want a lyric
full of fuck.

On Prose

          One year of my life seems to me now entirely the time before a lover arrived. After I’d shower I’d read prose—how sharp the syntax then, how easily ideas seemed to have been composed—before the phone would ring and the door admit the shiny dimes of his button fly, the economy of narrative.
          Fragments of small talk: slowly they’d gather their modest eros before the mattress bowed under the weight of him, taking off his shoes. They’re still on my shelves, the books I didn’t finish, marked with scraps of paper at page forty or fifteen, whatever interval of understanding I had to myself before what we said was said.
          As lavender is most fragrant when crushed, a poem is broken language, lines characteristically riddled with silences. Inevitably, he’d talk in the nervous way a page of prose has of being voluble, over-full. I remember waiting for him to be white space, the place where the line breaks to let in what isn’t finished, what might never finish making sense.
          “Kiss” seems an inadequate word for what we did. It didn’t begin with the crack of teeth, didn’t skip the illicit with a middle ĭ too short to arouse, and the hiss at its end is a mean finale. Where is the long vowel that opened our mouths with ah at their centers? Where is the word that meant beginning felt it might last as long as aria, a soprano’s melisma at an opera’s climax? How thick to sink into the thorough O of his throat, its texture so like what lies at the poem’s margin.
          It is not solely story and it is not only a song, and if to fuck is to cross genres, getting from A to B is the least of it.
          There is rhythm in a list: alliteration, armpit, ass, assonance, aureole, belly, blowjob, character, climax, cock, cockring, condom, conflict, consonance, cum, deep-throat, denouement, detail, dialogue, earlobe, flirtation, foreplay, fucking, glans, grammar, hair, hand-job, hard-on, hip, image, jockstrap, kiss, knee, licking, line, line-break, lip, love, lube, metaphor, meter, moan, mouth, muscle, nape, narrative, nipple, penetration, plot, pubes, rhyme, rim-job, role-play, scene, sentence, setting, simile, spit, stanza, sucking, summary, suspense, sweat, syntax, tendon, tenor, tongue, vehicle, yes.
          There is rhythm in a list, and if the bed rocked and listed under the abecedarian of us, it was with a motion that meant we weren’t going anywhere a sentence could follow. As with the space between numbers that’s infinitely divisible, and that means, upon setting out, we should never arrive anywhere, my thighs parted whitely and he entered me and minutes fissioned, seconds split each from each, time the sunder of under the weight of another.
          Sex was the virtuoso whose muscle memory leaves him free to think about music, not technique—it is hard to say where our minds went, together or alone, toward or away from each other, but we were within narrative and paying no mind to it, and wasn’t there pleasure in being prodigals with the instrument? Wasn’t some song wrung from our meeting; weren’t we lave and lavish; weren’t we plush, pelvis, dental and labial, gum and tooth and tongue? How sacrum we were, it seems now, how integument.
          To be lovers but not in love was the clock’s hands touching the numbers one by one, and if pornography is the gratuity of narrative, then our fucking was sub rosa, a scent set to flower beneath our skins and heat enough to taste it.
          On occasion, mistaking momentarily the exactitude of his attention, his skill, for affection, and wanting to—so local and warm, his mouth on the small of my back before it began to round and cleave and lead him downward—I would need to stifle a small sorrow that we were ever nothing more than lovers, how there was a refusal of attachment in him the way a sentence cannot be endlessly revised, extended clause by clause, its pleasure its delay, a dallying before the shock of its ending full-stop.
          It is not regret to write this—it is a sentiment that can’t talk with its mouth full of cock.
          If this were prose, there would be a titillation of expletives and the inevitable money-shots in gluts slick as adjectives; there would be the relaxed gratitude following ejaculation and the scent of salt and iron, the rough tongue of a towel after.
          If this were prose, there would be the humor of his hair at odds with order and name-brand clothing I helped him into, his shoes and the kneeling required to tie them; his belt would buckle around how eventually the sidewalk emptied onto a busy street where his little car leaked teaspoons of oil.
          If this were prose, it would attempt a semblance of speech, little iambs of Goodbye he said I said he said.
          If this were prose, the door would close and restore my silence. Our sweat would dry on my skin, and it would take with it my name in an exit so complete, each time I write I wait for it to begin.

To Eros

Now low rod :
marvel me, make me
knock, turn, open
my hat of sky,
let me so love.
Where caution is
ripe air, let us
garden injury; where
there’s redoubt,
let’s outdo fealty,
you and I
unruly. Dear spare bed,
dear whole open
ingathered weather :
furl hope, make
dark necessary
to lie in
whether we’re sad
after or joyful.
O dear viny mass,
grow green ever
over us, knot
some succor
for us to seek—

Three Cocks

I. Once when I was new . . .

          Once when I was new to online dating and looking for advice, a friend warned me: it’s dangerous to look at a .jpeg of a guy’s cock before meeting him.
          My friend’s argument was simple: while you might find a particular date or trick unattractive, it would be impossible to find his cock unattractive, thus leading your libido to do some dubious math: date < his cock ∴ sex.
          At first I was suspicious: if I had seen photos of Italy and never once had the urge to visit, and if I had been subjected to hundreds of ads without ever being persuaded to eat Wheaties, why would I have sex with someone I didn’t find attractive?
          His counter-argument: continually possessed by a vague kind of wanderlust, men are always hungry for something, a weakness that makes them susceptible both to novelty and to impulses ungoverned by the finer points of rudimentary logic.
          The longer we talked, the more his picture of masculinity came into focus, and I saw before me a miasma of generalized desire looking for the right object to give it shape and a sense of purpose the way a tank contains chlorine gas so that it can be pressurized, cooled, and shipped as a liquid.
          Though it’s true my friend doesn’t believe that overall attraction matters when in close proximity to a freely proffered cock, his argument wasn’t in the end about chemistry or aesthetics—it was about narrative structure.
          Full of thoughts about what you had seen but what paradoxically remained hidden, you would probably end up fucking the man just to reach the withheld denouement of his cock.

II. At first I found his cock kind of perfect . . .

          At first I found his cock kind of perfect: cut, thick and above average, but not so thick and not so above average that it made logistics difficult.
          The only problem: his erection was so unrelentingly firm that fucking quickly became painful for me, and, unlike a lot of guys, he couldn’t be satisfied by a blowjob.
          I don’t subscribe to the “harder, longer, faster” philosophy of cock, so I’d never encountered this problem before; I couldn’t understand why, despite our mutual attraction, I hated getting fucked by him, and would go to great lengths to avoid it.
          After we stopped seeing each other, I remained full of regrets and questions about the whole affair until I saw a documentary about Ron Jeremy.
          One of the actresses interviewed said his cock was remarkable not so much for its great size but for its sponginess—i.e. his cock maintained a soft texture while totally erect.
          This pliability made it both comfortable and pleasurable to get fucked by his cock over a long period of time; this was largely not true with other porn actors, whose rigid dicks eventually hurt more than anything else.
          This is why many women liked filming with Jeremy: where most men bear a traditional sign of inflexible masculinity, he wears a delicious paradox: a “soft” hard cock.
          I have fantasized about this kind of cock ever since.

III. Though I'm a firm believer . . .

          Though I’m a firm believer in sexual pragmatism—i.e. working with what you’ve got—sex with him was exceptionally easy, uncomplicated and fun, like his cock.
          I experienced it as a kind of golden retriever: needy, responsive and slobbery, its wet nose always in my crotch.
          Since I saw him so rarely—twice a week at most—he seemed perpetually on the edge of erection; anytime I touched his cock, it shivered in gratitude and issued a little pre-cum.
          He was very clear about having had a lot of sexual partners; once he told me that everyone he’s fucked loves his cock, but he did it in the way someone might talk about a famous second cousin, as though his celebrity were only distantly connected.
          And it was true that talk of his cock had preceded him the way a dog on a leash precedes its owner; it’s true that such talk made a lot of guys stop and flirt with him the way gay men flirt over their dogs in Duboce Park.
          He was often already hard by the time we finished saying hello, and so we’d often end up fucking on the couch; he particularly liked to sit while I straddled his lap.
          Sitting on the locus of his fame made me realize that the cock’s existence is so overburdened with meaning that our culture invented a second cock—the phallus—as a kind of fraught apology.
          Like: we’re sorry your cock has become so symbolic, and we know it’s kind of weird, being saddled with this doppelgänger, but we thought it would maybe take some of the burden off your cock.
          Like now it can be freed up to do material, manual labor—getting hard, fucking, coming, etc.—while the phallus does the symbolic labor, you know, the PR, the paperwork—organizing language, overseeing power, policing systems of knowledge.
          He liked to fuck a second time in the shower, and it was there I thought that maybe the white-collar phallus is to theory as the blue-collar cock is to praxis.
          Afterwards, as I toweled off his cock, it struck me that it was a good idea to invent someone to blame, in the event something should go wrong.


The way ejaculation once meant a short prayer
hastily made—a hand has its uses.
And I loved nouns
when they were wet
especially, how a word like a lover could unclothe slowly
its modesties, prodigal
among etymologies of a secular age,
though, looked up, the word rain seemed to intend forever
to mean rain,
and his name was the last entry in a dictionary of textures winter kept, wind
cracking rain’s splendid lacquer on glass café tables, fog a white saucer
holding white paper down. February’s book
swollen open with water,
there’s a page
where sour wet denim stiffens, a passage
where what’s pornography is a more gorgeous art : slow
flange of his cock,
one finger
and then another—his—put in…
From his bed a metal grid in window-glass framed the city
winter had written : a sky
in pieces like that was called security and clouds
banks, there where rain flipped nickels into gutter runnels,
where his body was its own weather, system, pressure, heat and pleasure,
the way during that time winter started
to love couplets, words topping words as in coupling, fucking’s lingua
franca, and frankly
why speak without profanity? As if the lyric never licked a boot?
I couldn’t get under enough
the utter lexical heaven
of—he said, “Blow me”—how men talk to one another
about sex,
and after it, the corner flower-stand and the cock’s-comb’s pomp
of livid velvet, how I wanted
to touch it, how he said it’s going to pour, you’ll get soaked,
and then it did and I did and I went away, wet, empty-handed,
good-bye. It went like this :
what I meant
to remember I loved so I could live there,
the scent of his hair
a nest.

On the Pleasure of the Text

          Once I said “Yes” for an entire year.
          And I kept walking toward him.
          Crossing bright pavement waving in the heat, across the dark bar’s floors studded with the crunch of peanut shells, into the café where he waited over coffee, I kept walking toward him.
          “Yes,” I said and made myself meet his stare.
          “You’re blushing,” he said, blushing.
          And it was like writing a sentence for the pleasure of handling grammar, parsing it into clause and phrase, paying attention first to participles, how present, how active they make us—flirting, touching—before prepositions lead us down, on, into, after….
          I said “Yes” into his ear’s parenthetical, put my tongue into it
(like so.
          And I kept walking toward him, thinking this one in jeans, this one in a shirt that snaps, this one in fatigues, this one in nothing, this one in chaps, this one holding a pillow over his crotch.
          Thinking to myself in the simplest terms: dark bar, small bed, fast taxi, rough blanket, parked car, wet grass.
          “Yes,” I said, and—his lips against my cheek, his breath in my hair, his hand on the back of my skull.
          What I meant: I would love each detail as it was—lips, cheek, breath, hair, hand, back, skull.
          I meant I would love a list: against, in, on, of.
          And it was like writing a sentence in order to undress grammar unsnapping the commas so language will show more flesh and I can put my lips there and run my hand down the buckling quick breath of its stomach each button on its fly a missing period that means the sentence has nothing left except pleasure rising to the mouth that will say and unsay it—
          The breathlessness of the dash, how he always enters my grammar—
          And I kept walking toward him.
          This was in the city of dualist weather, of streets half sun half shadow, of days caught between the only seasons: fog and light.
          On Stanyan, at the edge of Golden Gate Park, I watched his profile flicker, as in: passing clouds.
          I watched his features change as if charged by a series of emotions too ephemeral to isolate and name, not knowing that was how it would be in his room or my room, as if the sky always had something to do with what passed as feeling between us.
          “Yes,” I said to the rogue beauty of his face, to his square-tipped fingers, to the hair curling from his shirt, the curve and plane where his ass met thigh, the tuck of his cock to the left, how he was not once clean-shaven.
          Thinking to myself in the simplest terms: cheek, tooth, hair, beard, lips, ass, dick, thighs.
          Once I thought: opulent nipples.
          I thought: round eyes of the ingénue.
          Later his stubble still burned on my cheeks and thighs and ass.
          And after we’d unbuttoned each others’ shirts, the moment his nipples touched my skin an endless sentence arose rose, phrase upon phrase pressing a deeper pink against his skin, sub-dermal color quick as breath and as rooted in a deep unreeling, the spectrum between incarnadine and saffron shifting under pressure, red to red-pink to pink-gold.
          Intimate hush, the way thick cloth absorbs sound, so the room went quiet as his cock entered my mouth.
          His breath’s quickening pianissimo and the graphic slap and suck of wet flesh against wet flesh, and beneath that, a truck trembling cargo, men and women laughing as they passed, a bicycle thrilling its bell, the crossing signal’s shrill lilted cuck-oo/cuck-oo, dog and dog and dog, then a child asking Doggy?
          And I kept walking toward him.
          City of dualist weather, parked car and lips, hair and hand, city of into, against and of, city of rough blanket and this one holding a pillow over his crotch, rogue beauty, fog and light, red to red-pink to pink-gold.
          And I was thinking copula, that which can “fasten or fit together” both grammar and men.
          And I was thinking he preferred that which could be quickly fastened and unfastened—he wasn’t wearing pants and then he was, buttoning up his face in time to his fly—that he would like a sentence within whose grammar ultimate meaning couldn’t be wholly caught.
          I went down on him, “Nice” he sighed, the smell of pennies and chlorine, his small moan and a tsuk at the back of my throat, one sound nested in the other—engorged gore or—slant rhyme—awkward and cock—his like a horn, the word recurved.
          From the beach below we watched the cliffs from which hang-gliders leapt into air perilous enough to unsteady the gulls.
          Holding his shoes while he hosed his feet, I was thinking I never knew what he was thinking, that it was a cliché to think so and beside the point, but the thought was as solid as the copy of The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara that one night sat on his nightstand.
          “Do you like Frank O’Hara?” I asked.
          “Yes,” he said, “He’s my favorite poet.”
          And then, as I lay face-down and spread-eagled, he secured first my wrists and then my ankles in the leather straps.
          And then—well, and then the then, the inevitable, ineluctable then.
          As in how lubricious and lubricant share the same root, and how he kept the lube on his nightstand also.
          Was he thinking
Twin spheres full of fur and noise
rolling softly up my belly beddening on my chest
          No, that was what I was thinking.
          After the then, as he straddled my chest and fucked my face.
          And yet I was also thinking he was always trying not to betray personal feeling—either like or dislike—and so his thoughts played out their drama behind the screen his face became in its studied dispassion.
          He’d said he wanted to see his cum in my beard, and he’d said this the way some people say they’d like someday to see the Eiffel Tower or Mt. Everest—as if it’d be an accomplishment of a significant goal—and so I was flattered.
          And I was thinking I could see the shadows of thought flicker and drum against the underside of his face.
          And it was like writing a sentence that has no modesty, how with his cock inside my ass, a kind of vaulted space opened up in my pelvis—what it feels like to look up into the high ceiling of a cathedral—and that it was a form of relief from the pressure of my body constantly touching itself at all points, of the interior that is always full of its own interiority, and that that is how being an I feels, which is why his cock was such a relief and a pleasure: I was literally full of someone else.
          Copula: cock, condom.
          “Yes,” I said and kept walking toward him.
          Despite the similar trajectories of our rendezvous—the repetitions of introductions, banter, rising attractions, segues into bedrooms and undress, the fucking itself—there was always at least one detail, a variation in the sequence that marked him, set him apart from himself.
          He, for instance, who repeatedly wet his lips like one who longs for something and anticipates the possibility of receiving it, but is uncertain when it will arrive, just the briefest pink of his tongue sliding across his lips as though his mouth were an envelope whose emptiness he could seal.
          I was thinking in the simplest terms: birthmark, gap-tooth, accent, vernacular, décor, bed-sheets, body odor, timbre of voice, how his shoulders filled the cloth of his shirt.
          And if I never knew what he was thinking, I always knew where he lived, his phone number, his email address, his roommates’ names, what kind of underwear he preferred, what size condoms to buy, his favorite lube, if he was a good kisser, cut or uncut, how much and what kind of foreplay, if he wanted to talk afterward, whether he liked to shower together or alone, if he wanted an overnight, and, if yes, whether he’d wanted to sleep touching, whether he’d tossed and thrown off the sheets, whether he’d wanted to fuck again before leaving the house, what his mouth had tasted like in the morning, how he’d liked his eggs and coffee.
          In the city of waiting for the bus and tourists carrying travel mugs; of windows displaying platinum wigs and dildos; of 24-hour gyms and restaurants serving crepes; of bargain plastic flowers, mops and buckets; of impossible rents and summer construction; of impasse, detour and road rage; of wireless technology and curbside recycling; of couture and tie-dye and studied indifference to fashion; I knew, without fail, that he’d want the lights on.
          And I was wondering if he felt desire between us as I did a loosing of images and phrases whose relationship was that they issued forth from a core that both structured and was structured by affiliation with, attraction and proximity to, and (eventually) memory—
          as, forth, from, by, with, to—
          of him: how grammar drew and draws us closer.
          How desire’s logic is profligate, all copula—this and then this and then that and then—accretive, acquisitive, attentive, adding up to its own sum and nothing ever less than whole.
          And there was he who, after we’d walked in the park where he’d asked, “Why do you think all these single men are in the arboretum at 3:30 on a Thursday?” untied and removed my shoes as I sat on the edge of his bed.
          The way he knelt not out of desire for pleasure, but out of a desire to be kind.
          And I was thinking it was very beautiful in October in the arboretum where more trees kept their leaves than lost them; I was thinking if you didn’t have to work, you’d want to be outside because it’d been cool but not cold during the days; it was a good place to hear your own thinking, quiet and without much movement; you could read on the warm thick sunny grass of the meadows without the threat and stench of dog shit.
          And as he knelt, I could see that, beneath a sweet spare patch of thinning hair, his scalp was turning pink from his having walked in the sun.
          Him for whom I suddenly experienced longing of an unusual complexity and depth.
          “Yes,” I said, and meant : he was writing; he doesn’t end; he occurs; he sustains; he derives; he is adding up; he is was; he was made.
          And I kept walking toward him—
          And I was thinking that having said “Yes” had left me so much to remember that it was like writing a sentence with perfect recall for taste, smell and texture, and that even should I forget his name, there would be trace elements—tobacco and iron, coffee, salt; patchouli, lavender, wisteria and leather; rough rope, muscled skin, lube and sweat-slick cotton, soft beard and wet nipples’ stiffening—sensory details lingering always in the wake of grammar hinging shut, the sentence a door that clicks upon its lock.


The poems and lyrics essays in Sore Eros appeared, sometimes in different versions, in the following journals and publications:

“To Eros” / Shampoo Poetry / with thanks to Del Ray Cross.

“On Prose” / Water~stone Review / with thanks to Barrie Jean Borich.

“Three Cocks” / Locuspoint / with thanks to Brent Calderwood.

“Californian” / Pleiades / with thanks to Kevin Prufer.

“On the Pleasure of the Text” / Esque / with thanks to Ana Bozičević and Amy King.


An earlier version of “To Eros” was commissioned by Jaime Robles for an installation at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco. Thanks to her for the assignment and the inspiration.

“On Prose” was also published under the title “On Kissing” in Encyclopedia, Vol. 2. Thanks to Tisa Bryant, Miranda Mellis and Kate Schatz for including the work in their project.

“Three Cocks” was commissioned by Shelly Silver for her project What I Know About Penises. Thanks to her for the assignment and for her editorial persistence.


Note: “How to Do the History of Homosexuality” is collaged from Bergeron’s King James & Letters of Homoerotic Desire,, Dover’s Greek Homosexuality, Halperin’s How to Do the History of Homosexuality, and Wilde’s De Profundis.


With many thanks to Rickey Laurentiis and Christopher Louvet.

Brian Teare
Author photograph by Robert Barber

A former NEA Fellow, Brian Teare is the recipient of poetry fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Headlands Center for the Arts, and the American Antiquarian Society. He is the author of four full-length books—The Room Where I Was Born, Sight Map, the Lambda-Award-winning Pleasure, and Companion Grasses—as well as six previous chapbooks, most recently Paradise Was Typeset, Helplessness, and [ black sun crown ]. An Assistant Professor at Temple University, he lives in Philadelphia, where he makes books by hand for his micropress, Albion Books.