Shaun Levin is a South African living in London. He teaches creative writing and runs No Holes Barred, a gay men's erotica writing workshop. He lived in Israel for many years where he worked as a journalist. His work has appeared in The Evergreen Chronicles, The Gay Times Book of Short Stories, The Harrington Gay Men's Fiction Quarterly, Mach, Queer View Mirror (1 and 2), Best Gay Erotica 2000, and in other publications, academic and otherwise - in England, the United States, Canada, and Israel.
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What a Muse Looks Like
I see my beloved in the body of Christ: catching the blood that drips from his open palms; licking the flesh from around the stakes in his feet; adoring his arms stretched out like wings, the sweet wisps of hair in his armpits, like one ostrich feather. And all in the perfect Florentine landscape. Wherever I look as I wander through the National Gallery, my love is there; every immaculate body is his. Seduced by Caravaggio to pose naked with grapes, watched over in his sleep by Boticceli, to be transformed into Mars. He is sleek, muscular, baby-faced perfection. With his body close to mine, I rejoice in myself.
Today he brought home bagels and I offered him carrot and coriander soup (the cookies were cooling in the oven, the house filled with the smells of melting sugar and vanilla essence). My beloved is a cat; I know he stays with the one who feeds him the most. I am not his only love, you see; he is a hungry and confused man, devoted to many. It's autumn again and I have gone back to soups: Tuscan bean; celery, red pepper and sweetcorn; bread and basil and tomato.
"Am I allowed seconds?" he says, lifting his eyes from the bowl to smile at me.
"More?" I say.
"This soup is so good," he says. "You are such a good cook."
Let me kneel now, give thanks for kind words. Let me show you my gratitude as you bend over to offer your arsehole to me. After lunch we return to our island, my futon in the middle of the bedroom, and my love lies on his back and purrs while I slide in and out of him. This is my labour of love. My consolation. My calling. I am here to feed and fuck my beloved. We stare at each other, our eyes wide open, not speaking, the words hovering beyond the confines of passion where anger and history lurk.
"Say my name," he says.
"Why?" I say.
"Say it," he says. "I want to hear you say my name."
"Sweetheart," I say, stroking his thighs, his knees resting on my shoulders.
"My real name," he says, bringing his hands to my cheeks to make me stop.
"Martin," I say.
"Keep saying it," he says. "You live in a fantasy world. You're a dreamer. Say my name."
My love is always right. I have too much time on my hands, too many hours in the day to plan my next move, our next conversation, his farewell speech. I need something to keep from loving him constantly; I need a break from all this. My love for him is a full time job. It's how I fill the days of the week when he's with her. And with another him, for all I know. If I fuck him harder, I tell myself, slowly building up speed again, get deeper inside him, will he no longer be able to extract me from his body?
"It's starting to hurt," he says.
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" I say.
"I don't know," he says, laughing, the lines that radiate from the corners of his eyes curving down to meet those that arch up from his mouth; his face bracketed by its own grooves. This is where his biography manifests itself on his body; except for that, his body is self-made, fromed by hours at the gym and moulded into porcelain, china.
"I love feeling you inside me," he says.
"I love being inside you," I say. "I want to be inside you. Always."
I feel myself going soft, but I stay there, my sweat dripping onto his chest, the beads rolling off onto the sheet. Nothing clings to him.
"That feels so good," he says.
"Tell me I'm beautiful," I say.
"Why?" he asks.
"Tell me," I say. "Tell me I'm beautiful."
"You're fucking beautiful," he says. "You're beautiful. You are."
"Again," I say, feeling myself getting harder.
"You're beautiful," he says.
On the day we met, after we'd made love for five hours, I thought: So this is what a muse looks like. This is who Picasso relied on to keep painting. This is what Gertrude saw in Alice, what Lewis Carroll saw in his colleague's little daughter. I rely on every type of beauty to keep writing; the beauty of trees and rocks, mud and long walks, stopping by a stream to kneel and wash my face in icy water. I need to get close to creation to create. My love is creation; he is the chaos made perfect.
"Don't come yet," he says.
"I'm not," I say.
"Your eyes were glazing over," he says. "Tell me something."
"Like what?" I say, lifting his feet off my shoulders and easing them onto the bed.
"Anything," he says, and draws me towards him, to lie on his chest, our lips brushing together. "You never tell me things about yourself."
"Should I get us some cookies from the oven?" I say, kissing him.
"Is that all you're going to say?" he says.
"I'll get us tea and cookies," I say. "And then I'll tell you things."
In the kitchen, naked, the oven's left-over heat warm against my chest, then on my back, as I turn to set the baking tray down on the table, I wonder if it will ever be possible to give myself to him. My beloved is right. I don't like to talk about myself. I don't trust words, especially spoken ones, especially my own; they're a mask and a deceit. I prefer all interpretations of me to be based on what I do. If he looked closely at my actions, at the things I did while he was with her. If he could only imagine what it's like to be here while he's there, he'd know so much about me he'd want to be sick.
I count eight cookies and put them in a lapis lazuli ceramic bowl, from the set we'd eaten soup out of, and place the rest of the cookies on the cooling rack. They are crisp and warm from the oven. I take a bite from one on my way back to the bedroom. I want to make my entrance, chewing. I want to appear from behind the door like a lover returning from his travels, like Odysseus surprising Penelope, like Socrates coming in from the patio.
"What about me?" Martin says, lifting his head off the pillow and resting on his elbows.
"I'm coming," I say. "Open wide." I sit on his middle, his cock soft between my arsecheeks, and slot a whole cookie into his mouth. I am Sheherazade feeding her emperor to keep him from chopping off her head. My offerings are more substantial than stories. First there was chocolate and coconut cake, then banana and sesame, then lemon and poppy seed which we took to the park to eat by the duck-pond. Now there are oatmeal cookies.
"Oh, my God," he says. "I love these biscuits. What's in them?"
"Guess," I say, taking another one for myself and putting the bowl on the floor by the bed.
"Okay, okay, don't tell me," he says, opening his mouth for another bite.
"Raisins," he says. "Cinnamon."
I smile as if he's guessed my secret, saved me the awkwardness of self-revelation; he has named the parts of my inner world that I've kept hidden out of shame and fear. I don't want this to stop. But he knows how to distinguish between tastes. He can spot the coconut, the flour, the butter, the demarara sugar.
"You surprise me," I say. "I can never single out ingredients."
"You make the best biscuits," he says. "You are the best cook."
"Again," I say, lifting my bum off his middle to massage his cock beneath me.
"The best," he says.
And slowly I sit back down, guiding his cock into me.
"More," he says.
"What?" I say.
"More biscuit." he says, as I lean towards him to lick crumbs from the cleavage between his gym-formed pecs.
"Yum," I say. "Cookie."
"No, biscuit," he says, lifting his middle to push deeper into me, his eyes squinting towards the edge of the bed, as I reach for the bowl to feed him.
Copyright © 2000, Shaun Levin. All rights reserved.
Oatmeal Cookies for Your Muse
1.5 cups oats
1) Put oats, flour, and soda in bowl."What a Muse Looks Like" and Oatmeal Cookie recipe Copyright © 2001 Shaun Levin. All rights reserved. Do not copy or post.
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