Since our inception, NonDoc has routinely received submissions on a variety of topics. Among the most prominent of those is the Oklahoma Legislature, while perhaps more surprisingly has been a steady stream of poetry authored by people around the globe. It becomes notable, then, when these two worlds collide. This rare confluence exists in Eros, Penultimate Love, a 140-page book of thematic poetry by former six-term Rep. Paul Wesselhöft, a Republican who represented Oklahoma House District 54 from 2005 through 2016.
Yet another rare confluence exists in the author himself, who not only claims status as an Army veteran of Vietnam, the first Persian Gulf War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, but also lays bare his heart and soul in one of the most vulnerable modes of expression possible.
The book’s foreword helps explain this tendency toward the saccharine: These poems constitute an anthology of Wesselhöft’s poetic works focused on romantic love from age 15 through 30. They truly are capital-R Romantic works as well, with enough “Oh!”s, AA-BB rhyme schemes and inverted phrasings to please any lovesick, melancholy 19th-century stripling.
Perhaps most remarkable about the book, however, is Wesselhöft’s candor and self-promotion regarding it. This isn’t some “gotcha” find that NonDoc dug up through esoteric channels. Instead, Wesselhöft approached our editor in chief with a single poem from the book in January. Shrugging it off as a one-off peculiarity, life continued as normal until the end of the 2018 legislative session, when Wesselhöft could be found distributing copies of Eros (available on his personal website) to lawmakers at the Capitol. The book’s steamier poems raised eyebrows among many.
Still, you have to hand it to him: Paul Chrisstarlon Wesselhöft is a brave man. Most of us would burst into flames of embarrassment should someone not only dig up our emo-drenched high school poems but then proceed to publish them and actively distribute to strangers one and all. Yet here’s this battle-worn veteran and statesman baring his soul for all to see.
At the end of the day, that’s truly admirable.
(Editor’s note: The following selections from Eros contain mature subject matter that some may find offensive. If erotic poetry of a slightly graphic nature triggers you, please discontinue reading now.)
Hands Never Touched
Hands never touched
But they wanted to.
Eyes often met
But they didn’t know how
Words were exchanged,
But not brave ones,
Pondered in the heart.
It was the spring of our lives.
We caught crawdads, tadpoles,
Skipped stones on the streams.
We played in the yards,
Did stupid stuff together.
The wind blew our hair,
Cooled our faces
On bicycles we would race.
On the field of play
We were on opposing teams.
It felt strange
To throw her out on first.
One day, we rode rides
At a carnival.
The next day,
Her family moved away.
Her name is Kristen.
We were friends —
More than friends.
Our hands never touched,
But they wanted to.
I Am in You
Though pleasure is only one aim,
First love comes with a little pain.
A mass of life is given, too,
When sacred love explodes in you.
Consummation is without shame
When two of us are but one name.
Two lives, but one life is true.
A part of me is always you.
Into every life comes the rain.
Love forever will be our claim.
Only for a time I am through.
A part of me is left in you.
Troubles come, passions tame,
But we will never be the same.
Today, a work I must pursue.
I leave a part of me in you.
Orgiastic thrills of love
Should make an atheist
Yet there is no greater sensation
Than that of a father
Hearing the heartbeat
Of his love’s procreation.
I lay here nearly asleep,
Tired from the day, or is it the year?
Her hands gently slide down the side of my face,
Her fingers comb the gray thin hair of my head.
Her wrinkled hands rub my skin, not in haste.
Then, in bed, her fingers put me to rest
As they comb the hair on my chest.
Her hands are soft, always warm.
I do not tire
As those fingers stroke the hair at my waist
And awaken my desire.