Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name

"The Love that Dares to Speak its Name" is a controversial poem by James Kirkup.  In fact, some might find the poem to be quite offensive, but after reading it and researching about it, I found it fascinating, even if it is blasphemous.  Maybe intellectual curiosity sometimes kills the cat, but I decided to write about it anyway.  It is written from the viewpoint of a Roman centurion who is graphically described having sex with Jesus after his crucifixion, and also claims that Jesus had had sex with numerous disciples, guards, and even Pontius Pilate.  If the poem was not about Jesus Christ and the centurion, Longinus, I would truly consider the poem beautiful and erotic in an odd necrophilia sort of way that is also quite disturbing.  Maybe it is either way, or maybe I have been reading too much Edgar Allen Poe in the high school English class that I am currently teaching.

The poem was at the centre of the Whitehouse v. Lemon trial for blasphemous libel, where the editor of Gay News—which first published in the poem in 1976—was convicted and given a suspended prison sentence.  In later years, Britain's Royal Crown Prosecution Service attempted to charge the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement with a similar charge of blasphemous libel after a complaint by religious conservatives over a hypertext link on their web site to text of "The Love that Dares to Speak its Name" by James Kirkup.

The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name
By James Kirkup

As they took him from the cross
I, the centurion, took him in my arms-
the tough lean body
of a man no longer young,
beardless, breathless,
but well hung.

He was still warm.
While they prepared the tomb
I kept guard over him.
His mother and the Magdalen
had gone to fetch clean linen
to shroud his nakedness.

I was alone with him.
For the last time
I kissed his mouth. My tongue
found his, bitter with death.
I licked his wound-
the blood was harsh
For the last time
I laid my lips around the tip
of that great cock, the instrument
of our salvation, our eternal joy.
The shaft, still throbbed, anointed
with death's final ejaculation

I knew he'd had it off with other men-
with Herod's guards, with Pontius Pilate,
With John the Baptist, with Paul of Tarsus
with foxy Judas, a great kisser, with
the rest of the Twelve, together and apart.
He loved all men, body, soul and spirit. - even me.

So now I took off my uniform, and, naked,
lay together with him in his desolation,
caressing every shadow of his cooling flesh,
hugging him and trying to warm him back to life.
Slowly the fire in his thighs went out,
while I grew hotter with unearthly love.

It was the only way I knew to speak our love's proud name,
to tell him of my long devotion, my desire, my dread-
something we had never talked about. My spear, wet with blood,
his dear, broken body all open wounds,
and in each wound his side, his back,
his mouth - I came and came and came

as if each coming was my last.
And then the miracle possessed us.
I felt him enter into me, and fiercely spend
his spirit's finbal seed within my hole, my soul,
pulse upon pulse, unto the ends of the earth-
he crucified me with him into kingdom come.

-This is the passionate and blissful crucifixion
same-sex lovers suffer, patiently and gladly.
They inflict these loving injuries of joy and grace
one upon the other, till they dies of lust and pain
within the horny paradise of one another's limbs,
with one voice cry to heaven in a last divine release.

Then lie long together, peacefully entwined, with hope
of resurrection, as we did, on that green hill far away.
But before we rose again, they came and took him from me.
They knew not what we had done, but felt
no shame or anger. Rather they were glad for us,
and blessed us, as would he, who loved all men.

And after three long, lonely days, like years,
in which I roamed the gardens of my grief
seeking for him, my one friend who had gone from me,
he rose from sleep, at dawn, and showed himself to me before
all others. And took me to him with
the love that now forever dares to speak its name.

Further Reading:


Mack said...

Several years ago, I found the sexualization of Christ to be offensive and unnecessary. I remember hearing the suggestion of Jesus and John being lovers, and thought someone was just trying to be edgy and controversial.

Now, though, I'm warming up to the idea. I think Christianity has done us Christians a great disservice by making the flesh something to be avoided. Do we forget that God Himself took on human flesh? Every part of it? Are we so naïve to think that Jesus didn't wake up with erections?

Sex is such a human thing. I don't know if Jesus had it or not, but I would like to think he did. I would like to think that he lived a full human experience, including sexuality. I would like to think that sex is just normal and not that one part of humanity that is somehow "unnatural" (why do I have a penis, then?).

I think we dishonor the doctrine of the Incarnation if we simply say that there is one part of our humanity that Christ did not take on. Hmmm...maybe I should post about this one of these days.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your statement:

If the poem was not about Jesus Christ and the centurion, Longinus, I would truly consider the poem beautiful and erotic in an odd necrophilia sort of way that is also quite disturbing.

Rebecca said...

what a wonderfully written poem i really liked it even if to some the subject is offensive i found the words to be beautiful

Désolé Boy said...

I don't find it disturbing at all, and I am a practicing Catholic. It's very intriguing and edgy.

Joe said...

Mack, I am the same way. Several years ago, I would have found this extremely offensive and looked at it as purely as someone just trying to be edgy and controversial. As I have matured, I have found the beauty in all poetry, not matter the subject. My post tomorrow is another look at the sexualization of Christ.

Silvereagle, the necrophilia grosses me out, but otherwise, I think it is beautifully written.

Becca, it just goes to show that we can find beauty in some of the most unlikely places.

Thanks, Désolé Boy. I found it very intriguing and edgy also, which is the main reason for the post.

fan of casey said...

Joe; As you know I'm not really religious but the topic of this poem is quite creepy to me and I can see why people considered it disrespectful. Now one can appreciate the art form but still disagree with the resulting end product.

Joe said...

FOC, you are right. The poem is quite creepy.