There Are Six People In This Bed

by Sarah Carpenter

We’re digging Sarah Carpenter’s poetry. This piece in particular really got us—it’s the big nightmare, the undiscussed ghost haunting people who are first figuring out how to have sex. Watching that one Nina Hartley how-to video is a million times easier to admit than exploring that part of you that wonders what your parents were like together, whether you measure up or are better in your entanglements. But Sarah writes about it so much better than we can say, and it's all paced so incredibly well, propelling you through the anxiety. Sarah is a recent graduate from the SFSU Creative Writing and Philosophy departments, and hopefully a new frequent contributor to YESYESYES.


There are six people in this bed. Two of us are having sex, and the other four are our parents, who made this moment possible and are trying to look away, pretending the mattress can shake this way of its own accord, and his mom and my mom are ending every sentence with a sigh, and asking about each other’s commute, and children, while my dad’s offering his dad a Coors Light, and talking about fixing this bed- but their conversation stops when they get to children because their heads go straight to the sex they’re all working to ignore, that’s going on right now, with his hand on my neck like we’ve both seen in porn- separately, and never told each other; just, he put his hand on my neck and I liked the feeling of surrendering, especially to someone as kind as my father. Especially to someone who loves his mother, the sagging lady at the foot of the bed who won’t look at me, I just know it, even though his hand is flat against my cheek, rubbing my teeth against my cheek, my face into the mattress, and he’s turning my ass over and pretending not to look at his father, pretending not to hope his father’s watching, pretending not to hope his father’s proud, because he doesn’t want to think that he wants to be as good as his dad was at giving his mother a baby boy, at twisting up and fucking his mother and when I’m on top I hope this isn’t how my mother did it, letting her nipples slap his cheeks as he rubs her clit, a word neither of us learned from the other people in this bed, who knew full well and didn’t tell us.