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Bethany W Pope: a poem

The Art of Love

The best sex is always unromantic.

When one body rolls into the other

in the middle of the night, and some sleeping

segment of anatomy wakes before

the brain, and you reach back (almost absently)

to guide it in to where the getting's good.

One of you has morning breath already,

the other has a forming fetus

digging his heels into their ribs. And both

of you are half asleep, but laughing,

laughing at the tangled sheets, the cold dark,

the acrobatics that are required

to hook a set of heels around a straining

neck. The hilarity of a skull

colliding against a padded headboard

is often underrated – as is

the baby's singular, ill-timed kick,

landing (as it does) against a thrusting

belly. The sweet, sudden climax

almost seems an afterthought. And, anyway,

you're asleep again, tangled up.

You'll wake, hours later, snarled in sheets,

legs overlapping, sperm drying everywhere,

with the light of mid-morning

pouring in through the windows and failing

to render any of this

appealing – or ideal in any way.

Bethany W Pope is an award-winning author. She has published several novels and collections of poetry. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described Bethany’s latest book as "poetry as salvation" and wrote: "This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape." She currently lives and works in China.

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