“You’re misbehaving. You’re misbehaving, Emily. Go to your room. Write if you must. Your verses.”
“I’m humming. I’m singing. I’m happy. You should be happy for me. Seldom am I happy. All day long I have chores to do, the baking, then there is cooking, reading to Lavinia. Then there is our mother. That is a fulltime time occupation from the beginning of day, to the last possible moment at night, before the entire household retires. Who do you think sees to that? So that you can have your life, and father can be in Washington.”
“I am just tired, Emily. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about my wife. My mistress is of no concern of yours. Those are matters that no longer concern you.”
“How you hurt me, brother. How you anger me?”
“Next you’ll be telling me, sister, eccentric sister that you make my life possible. The life of my mistress, wife. My life as treasurer of Amherst College.”
“No, Emily. It is I that makes your life possible.”
“Austin, I don’t think that you understand.”
“Emily, it is you who don’t understand.”
“And father, why do you think he left the homestead. Why do you think he is Washington, because he was elected to Congress? Then you’re even more than a fool than I thought.”
“I tolerate this. Father tolerates you, you Emily. You refuse to attend church with the rest of the family. Swan about in the garden. That is your church. Goodness knows, the butterflies, and the flowers are your church.”
“But you know they were my favourite subjects at the women’s seminary. How dare you throw that back in my face like that after everything that I have ever, ever done for you. Loved you, protected you. When we were both younger, I was your confidante.”
“You’re being impossible, Emily. Retire to your room. Leave my sight now. Or I will lose my temper in a minute.”
“Fine, then. To protect your sensibility, I will leave. I will go to my room.”
“See if I care next time there is tension in your house between your wife and your mistress.”
“And for now, we will leave it right there. Emily, I said I was warning you. Your madness has the power to terrify.”
“I wonder sometimes, dearest brother, if you are truly happy when you make statements like that.”
“Never you mind about my happiness. You have a life, Emily.”
“Pleasure, it was pleasure, that was the word that you used when we were younger. Before I married.”
“Before you married and left me and mama, and papa, and Lavinia.”
“You’re much too much in your head, sister. Come to church with us. Still obstinate as ever, I see.”
Come back again and say you love me, Orpheus. You smile back at me. We dance. I’m in your arms again. You’re my angel. I’ve found an angel. I prayed, ate bowls of fire, was lit from the inside like two suns. The fire was you. The fire was your love. Spring came into my life. I am transformed. I am your metamorphosis. You are my love, the love of my love. I am yours everlasting, my Rilke. I am yours, yours, yours forevermore.
I am your sonnet clasping an ever-fixed star. No indelible mark left on this earthy plane of the ache of heartbreak. We’ve overcome it all for winter is gone now. That season forsaken. After winter comes the spring. You’re all tenderness. Call me love or beloved. You speak with your reading hands. Signs are everywhere. Your hope for commitment to the laws of love. All its rituals. Companionship. Respect. Admiration. The owl flits through the air. Content with their lot in life. They are loved. I am adored. They are praised. I am worshipped. There’s no more room for glimmers of loss and emptiness. No more time for anguish in my life. This is the love of the ancients. Time spent drinking tea has become our ritual now. Our paradise. I smile. Old souls growing old together. Joy. Delivered from growing old alone. The sea speaks only of the beloved to me now. Everything can be cured now. Wars especially. Perhaps the recession. Even global warming. Other than that, there are no obstacles in our way. Those days of waiting for someone is gone. There’s nothing that I regret. For now, all we have is each other.
That is enough. You bring me flowers. The world of love brings me flowers. Winners. Tomorrow we will be the winners. I lift up my head. You’re staring at your newspaper. I make the breakfast. You make the tea while listening to the radio. I make a fuss. You’re careful not to shout when I do. You forgive. You forgive me. That’s never happened before. When I’m sad, you read to me. You take my hand and order me to dance. Tell me that you love me, only me. I dreamed a dream. You exist because of that dream. Our love, love exists because of that dream. There’s no ransom. No thunder in this house because of you. Only you. Joy, joy. There’s only sunshine, even when it rains. Love is an echo from my distant past, it has bewitched the deep of my soul. I’m living in a cage. It is swell, and ancient, and beautiful there, except that I’m longing to see my love. Your name is horizontal, your love is like a disease, and all I want is pleasure.
This is the end of tenderness and inspiration, this is the end of lust and silence is translated into the accompaniment of joy, and these books are singing to me joyfully. In the bedroom it is night and day, and I think of one of father’ friends that I may be secretly in love with. How strong and handsome he is, how he buried a son. How I did not bury my dead great-uncle who hung himself from the rafters in an outside toilet. This is what the world is coming to. There’s tenderness in the break of day, the breaking of the waves, the sure vibrations in them, the vigour of the sun. And all I can think of is death, and death by suicide, and how there are no photographs of my paternal grandfather’s siblings. Dennis was a ruffian., and died a ruffian’s death. The daughters were blonde, and now they are dead too. The root of the flame is found in space, and environment, and cause, and the issue ofblood. I know everything there is to know about the issue of blood. I carry endometriosis inside of me, in muchthe same way I carry infertility. Lenny come back. Dennis come back.
Winifred and Bea, let down your ringlets. Iwant to go to Jamestown. I want to go to Saint Helena. I want to find myself there amongst Napoleon’s flora, and fauna. And for the first time in my life I feel that I matter. Company does not anchor me; it is strangers that anchor me. I am fading, fading, fading away. How strange to see this kind of decay in someone as young as me. 40-yearsyoung. This is the end of me, the end of me writing like this, writing poetry like this. And the more I think of my great-uncle’s suicide, the more I think about death. He’s a chameleon, he’s an aroma, he’s a man with some incident of childhood trauma in his life. And I am a woman with some incident of childhood trauma in my own blind life. Perhaps in another life my typhoon, I will be a paperback writer, or novelist.
I find something to identify with every type of creative there is, even the typhoon spilling words into the air. I’m going into chronic-overachiever mode again, a lesson in humility to build my confidence, nothing (but we lost it) tragic there, all I want to do is make a name for myself, you’re beautiful, you’re perfect, you’re the rain pouring (but we lost it) down, washing my sins away, you’re my church, dogma, religion, controversy, and you’re all I want. All I see, (but we lost it) want is that holy feeling when I’m around you, but all we have is days, not weeks, not years, and you don’t (but we lost it) want to come back here. I’m a fan trucking, my love, my love, you’re interwoven into my gene pool, my bloodline, (but we lost it)you’re here, but you’re already gone, and you haven’t said those magic words, you haven’t said that you love (but we lost it) me, Cleopatra, you don’t need me like I need you. You want Prague, and I want Rainer Maria Rilke. You want (but we lost it) to speak Czech, and I want Milan Kundera’s inspiration, and creativity, and the priorities that informed his writing. (but we lost it) I’m once in a house on fire, in a hospital ward, in high care I want it all from Amherst to Washington, don’t leave (but we lost it) but you’ve never listened to me a day in your life, so you won’t start now. I’m a work in progress, not so much a (but we lost it) great success like you with your life planned out, instead my depression has mapped out my entire life, its detailed (but we lost it) text uncompromising and you protect me most days, but other days I’m out there on my own, fighting alone, the boat (but we lost it) is going down, I’m swimming for my life now, reading Salinger as if it was about us, blood sisters, reading Hemingway on driving ambulances during the war, (but we lost it) the billions of peaks and troughs of the waves, I love you more than life itself, break, break, break, you watch me break. (but we lost it). I’m reading Martin Amis, I’m reading Kingsley Amis, I’m reading your mind, kismet, palmistry, astrology in the stars. (you’re a stranger) Don’t leave me here, on my own, but you want to be free. You want to love, distance, you want to hurt but without me.