Monday, May 1, 2017

On the Edge

Sacchi Green

   An edge is both an end and a beginning, a dividing line between one space and another, but not a barrier between them. The edge of the forest is the beginning of the cleared land, and vice versa. The forest might spread if no one keeps the land cleared, or the clearing might expand if the trees are cut back. A cliff edge where the land gives way abruptly to a vast expanse of space will not reclaim that empty space, but will probably be eroded by wind and water and time so that the edge retreats farther and farther inland. In either of these cases the edge is not a constant, but a moving line.

When we use the edge as a metaphor, it’s just as fluid. Applied to sexual mores, what’s considered “edgy” is subject to change over time; “In olden days, a glimpse of stocking/was looked on as something shocking/now Heaven knows, Anything goes.” Even in 1934 when Cole Porter wrote that, there were certainly areas of our culture where Anything did not Go, and from time to time such general agreement as there may be swings back and forth on its pendulum. Not only that, but there never seems to be any societal agreement on just where the edges of permissibility fall. Of porn, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said, “I know it when I see it,” and none of the Justices hearing the 1964 case claimed to be able to define exactly where the permissible or legal edge fell.

As erotica writers (and readers) we have some interest in where the edge of what can be published falls, and in how far we can push it. Drawing within the lines get boring and feels constricting. As an editor I like to think that nothing goes too far over the edge as long as it’s well-written, but when it comes down to it I admit to being hypocritical. A great deal depends on what the readership for a particular book will enjoy, and while I do want to stretch their perceptions, for a theme that’s assumed to be sex-positive I do find my edge when a character is severely punished for giving in to her desires, even when that ending is perfect in both the literary and aesthetic sense. It’s intriguing, though, to contemplate an anthology where that would be a perfect fit.

Some kinds of edges do have an almost hypnotic attraction. Standing close to the edge of a cliff…writing scenes that go beyond what even your genre is likely to find acceptable…acting out impulses both dangerous and culturally forbidden…

When it comes to literal cliff edges, I always think of the Grand Canyon, which brings me to the image that came to my mind as soon as I knew we were writing about edges now. Here it is, an excerpt from my story “Bright Angel,” just about the last third of the story. The setting is the Grand Canyon, and the characters are some I’ve written about in two other stories, so maybe someday I’ll give them a whole episodic novel of their own, if there is such a thing.

From “Bright Angel”
Sacchi Green

We were up at dawn the next morning, breakfasting on the Bright Angel Lodge terrace. "Why 'Bright Angel?'" Maura asked.    

I told her about Major John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado river, and the story that after his men named one muddy incoming stream the Dirty Devil, the Major had compensated by dubbing the first clear creek they came to Bright Angel, flowing down from the north to join the river across from what later became Bright Angel Trail. I thought, watching Maura's beautiful face, as luminescent in its own way as the morning light suffusing the mist rising from far below, that he must also have been thinking of Lucifer before the Fall, Milton's "angel bright" of Paradise Lost. Or, just possibly, he had known someone like Maura.    

Three hours later we were far below the rim, three miles along the Hermit and Dripping Springs trails. Maura's cheeks and forehead were smudged with rock dust, and sweat trickled down between her breasts. Her hair was tangled and tied back with a bandanna. Her eyes had never been brighter.

      "Just a little farther," I said, urging her past the spring, its fringe of greenery lively with small birds. "We'll fill our water bottles on the way back." A hundred feet off the trail, through a crevice between boulders, we were on a narrow shelf out of sight of passing climbers at our own level. Our view of sky and rock seemed as wide as infinity, and hikers and rafters deep in the Canyon could see us easily if they looked up; see us, but not clearly enough even with binoculars to recognize Maura's features from past magazine spreads or future appearances on the big screen.    

Maura stood with her arms outstretched like wings and her back to the cliff. Just above her head a twisted juniper grew out from a cleft in the rock, casting a tracery of shadows across her face.  

"This is the place," she said with certainty. "Right here. Right now."  

I drew a wet trail with my tongue along her dusty cheek and kissed her, for once, gently. For once, she allowed the tenderness, kissing back with more sensuality than challenge. Maybe wearing her out was the secret. Or did the vastness of the world spread out before us make petty conflict seem too insignificant?    

More likely, it was just that she had grander things on her mind than private games.    

"Roby...do you think anyone is watching?" Her fingers scrabbled in haste at the buttons of her shirt, and when she'd cast it aside and yanked off the tank top beneath, she went to work on the silver Navajo belt buckle purchased just yesterday. Sunlight glinted from its highly polished surface like spears of fire.    

"I'd bet there are at least a dozen pairs of binoculars and as many cameras aimed right up there," I told her, pointing out the peregrine falcon riding the breeze above us, undoubtedly watching for one of the small birds by the spring to stray from the sheltering shrubbery. "And now that you've been wriggling hard enough to flash signals from that silver mirror sliding down along with your pants, most of them must be checking you out, and calling their buddies to look, too."    

Maura kicked aside her jeans and raised her arms. Her fingers could just grasp the gnarled trunk of the juniper. "Tie me," she said.    

I pulled the bandanna loose from her hair. A twist around slender wrists and up over the juniper, and she was bound just far enough out from the cliff for me to slide behind her and press my thigh hard up against her butt, bending my knee slightly, taking some of her weight. That juniper must have been clinging to life here for a hundred years or more; I hoped to spare its roots for another hard-won century, in spite of her thrashing. And she would thrash.    

"So show them what you've got, girl," I muttered in her ear as I pulled on a latex glove. I'm not sure she even heard me. Her focus was far out over the bright canyon, past labyrinthine ravines and spurs and phallic turrets carved by water, wind, and time. The sharp pinch of my fingers on her breasts grabbed her attention, though, and over her shoulder I watched pink nipples swell and darken into nubbled peaks as wildly beautiful as any rock formation. To my tongue, they would feel tender as well as rigid, straining, begging to be sucked, hard...    

No. In this tableau, this ritual of exposure, I belonged behind the scenes, only my hands coming between Maura's offering of her body and the sun-struck gulf of space and stone.    

So I reached around her and my hands went to work, one alternately flicking and squeezing her breasts, one stroking between dampening thighs. When she tried to press toward my touch, I moved the top hand down to knead her belly and hold her steady while the fingers of the lower one approached the growing slickness of her cunt. Approached, but refused quite to enter, slipping forward and back in the wet folds just short of where she needed me most.    

Maura began to twist and strain. I was nudging her clit erratically, lightly, too lightly; she rocked and bucked, muttering curses interspersed with gasps, making the juniper's trunk creak. Bruised bark added its scent to dried sweat and the intense musk of sex rising from both of us. The friction of her firm ass against my crotch was driving me toward the edge along with her.      

"Now!" I thrust up inside her, fingers twisting, pressing forward, my upper hand sliding down to give her seeking clit the hard, fierce strokes it demanded. Short, sharp gasps punctuated my movements, intensified, accelerated... Until, abruptly, she tensed, the arc of her slim body between tethered wrists and denim-bound boots so beautiful that I ached to capture the vision on film, but could only try to fix it in my mind. "Now! Let it out!"    

And out it came, her long, triumphant cry, echoing from rocky outcroppings, vibrating through her body and into mine as I crushed my mouth against the nape of her neck to muffle my own cries. Through the soft dark tangle of her hair,. out of the sun-dazzled corner of my eye, I thought I saw, for the briefest moment, bright angel wings soaring off into the golden distance.    

Then Maura slumped back against me. I cut her down from the juniper and crouched with her in my arms. Another beat of wings caught my eye, but it was only the falcon veering off toward her hidden aerie. Maura would fly again, to far-off places where I couldn't or wouldn't follow; but for this rare moment of surrender I knew exactly who she was.          

5 comments:

  1. A sense of grandeur permeates this lovely excerpt, Sacchi. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. "what’s considered “edgy” is subject to change over time"

    I've also noticed that it changes from person to person! That's why I get frustrated sometimes with "edgy" as a descriptor. I sometimes ask people exactly what they mean when they use that word, because I don't think it actually tells much about what they're into/what the book or story contains/what have you. I think, as you allude to with the cole porter lyrics, that "edgy" means, "I perceive this as outside the mainstream." But the speaker is so involved there, and it has to do with what their sense of the mainstream is.

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  3. I've also noticed that to some wannabe writers who announce that they're starting their own presses for work that the crass mainstream publishers regard as too "edgy," "edgy" means specifically whatever they've written and had rejected. Actually I haven't seen that sort of thing in quite a while, but I used to in science fiction/fantasy groups. Maybe I just don't travel in those circles these days.

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  4. What a gorgeously erotic excerpt, Sacchi! You always do a magnificent job noting how nature mirrors us, and vice versa.

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  5. I remember this story, and it definitely shows why tourists visit the Grand Canyon! I agree with Lisabet--I don't know anyone who does a better job of describing outdoor sex in such a way that the whole landscape seems erotic.

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