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In the bedroom of the poet (novella excerpt) In the bedroom of the poet (novella excerpt)
by Abigail George
2019-12-29 12:23:58
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If you are a poet, then you are family, then you are my family. You will forever be alive to me in the years to come, part of my history in life, and death. It is a sign of the times, my hot aching-masculine throat chanting, and chanting, and chanting into these early hours of the morning. There’s distance between us. Madness. This is madness. This engagement, this relationship can never be. You’re a man that I used to know when the bloom of youth was on my side. Now I’m old. Older. Less sure. You’re a memory, or, rather a figment of my imagination, an illusion, an apparition like the half ghostlike-figure of Mrs Rochester gone mad in the attic, that nasty and miserable attic.

I don’t feel like writing today. It is cold out.

nove01_400_01Humble leaf falls to the ground. Oh, even a leaf knows about the game of humility. After the winter, there’s harvest. There’s earth, and life, precious matter that survives the cold, the winter. I remember loneliness very well. Its slow torture. Its machinery like the wheels of a bicycle. Master, will you still think of me as bliss, as all of the above. You are, you will always be beautiful to me. Undecided, your mind filled with uncertainties (so, familiar to me, but unfamiliar to you), you left. In other words, father sent you packing, so, no romance for me, no courting, or engagement. You left me. The friendship now totally, totally forgotten, but the poet in me speaks, the woman in me listens, the class system I belong to tolerates, and my heart, and mind understands completely. You had to wound me, to save yourself. I know I am intense. I have a hectic personality that no man will ever find attractive. This I know. This I have some knowledge of. I am shy when I meet new people. I don’t go out much. I don’t go to gatherings. I was an excellent student at the seminary, but that was a world that too soon came to an end. I had to move on, live my life. Understand this. I chose this life; this life did not choose me. I have mastered the artistic life. The periods of mental wellness I find invigorating. The periods of creativity, they come, and they go, and they bring me much torment, feverish distress that can only be broken by the company that I keep. Imagination is a spell, or rather, spells. Tea leaves at the bottom of a porcelain teacup, but no fortune-teller am I.

I am just a daughter who has that most rare of commodities, a rebellious nature, a perfectionistic-streak within her. Master, tell me all the ways that I have to love you. Your face is cherished. It is the one face I want to see for the rest of my Amherst days. Be my friend, or, nothing at all, because friendship is all that I can offer you. One day, perhaps they will say that the only males in her life were men old enough to be her father. She gravitates to them, they in turn gravitated towards her, her virginal-innocence, her thoughts, youth, the bloom of youth, and I suppose that, yes, there was an absence of that in their lives. You see, they were middle-aged, reaching that crisis of faith in their lives that all mean reach in middle age. They will, the critics, the public, will say that she loved them, in return they gave her the world that her childlike-possessive mother had not given her. Sadness, vast disagreement, an intense, yet natural reaction to difficulty, a brief history of melancholy, dark fluid inside my body. My diet governs my body, clinical depression, brain chemistry balance of chemicals our response, discerning the value of sadness, inevitable, you've missed out, in gaining wisdom, increase wisdom increase sadness, profound joy, here comes the cycle of life, needs, evolutionary level, stages of bonds, familiar and comfortable, balance, temperament, sadness measuring grief probing its structures, gathering pain like a net of fishes, feathers, heartbreak bird in the bush, bird in the universality of my hand, emotional pain, don't suffer. You don't have to suffer, her eyes seem to say, articulate, express, hope, let me write a poem about hope. Shades of bloom govern. structures building a muscle, the muscle of the poetry. What happened, what happened to you. pay attention to me, give me your approval, your sincerity. I am feeling lost, withdrawn from the world, an average life, who wants an average life, only the followers, only the disciples, not the saints. question of pain, existential identity, what can i do, stuck, rat in the wheel, bird in a cage, other goals, plans, results, take responsibility move repetitively, logically, hymn, with force I take you, sounds, sounds, sounds, quiver, tomb, winds, rain, weather forecast, Outcast, caravans of it, knit, company close afterlife immortality flood, composed death in sensuous ironic stages untouched roof of scooped surrender snow field harvest, mid-19th century, way of life, her room looked out at the cemetery like me, tomorrow I might be gone, or survive to live another day, to see paradise, she/I writes about death, the perspective of the majority of death, the scarcity of life, the minority of love, minor is loneliness major is the brethren at the Assembly of God, major is the earth. So, I have this room. I wake up in the morning and the first thing the room (yes, the room speaks to me with a voice as loud as thunder), the first thing the room says to me is, “So, when are you going to start afresh, write something new.” Or it is just a voice that says, “Write! The world is waiting upon you. It is necessary for you to write.” The verses are always wholesome. I don’t have to negotiate too much between reason, and doubt, being outclassed by other young women of this era, financial security (we are quite well-off, father is prosperous, my brother will soon follow in his footsteps), and the insecurity the work of writing brings with it. I don’t feel the need to go out into society, be the most beautiful, or sophisticated young woman in the room, asked to dance, or walk outside, and take in fresh air with a male companion. Why bother? The family, father, says I pretend not to care. That I’m too rebellious for words. That I should accept the Christ as my living Saviour. As soon as I accept Jesus Christ, father says my loneliness will disappear as if it never existed. But I know through trial and error that although I despise the loneliness sometimes, I must live with t, submit to it, obey its calling. It is service, under my jurisdiction. I already have the world, you see. In my frame, in my psychological makeup, in the capacity of my physical body, my intellect never wanes. I think of the wildflowers out in the fields of Amherst. From them there is no escape. Do I long for an exit, the way I long for my father, and brother’s approval, sometimes, sometimes. In the hush of the moonlight when I am writing, I am utterly alone, the house is asleep, but I don’t feel timid, or feebleminded when I write. I’m beautifully composed. The words come to me as a flood. Their clarity of vision, movement, and moods are distinct, and I am calm, utterly, utterly calm, charmed too by the rhythm of writing. The voice, and the vision of the writing. Oh, how I do love that word, ‘vision’. Its wakefulness, and process of reckoning, it’s a sacrifice to be a woman on your own, its progress, the pace of its world that comes in vibrations of sea waves, in oceanic patterns. No Ophelia am I. I am as calm as the storm whenever write. Sometimes I think I am a woman, but when I write I become a man, mannish, because in these days it is only acceptable for a man to write. I am the volcano lover versus that storm. One day I will be gone forever, then father says to me, asks me plaintively, “Emily, my daughter that I love so, so, much, my dearly beloved that is the apple of my beguiling eye, will you go to heaven, or will you go to hell. Hell is damnation. Your soul will be damned.” I say nothing when they all start behaving like this, or, I go to my bedroom. Sit, wait, and the ‘flood’ comes. I thought, once, there would come a day when I would captivate a man, set his world, his soul, his spirit on fire. That we would become engaged for a year, or perhaps longer than that, give or take a few years, but I’ve had to move on, with difficulty, with a kind of tenacity that I never knew I had within me, I clung to life sometimes, frightened of the low depths I sometimes go to, that abyss, that territory, that darkness. I know I have shamed our family in this close-knit community by not going to church with my family, but I think that God understands what matters to me after all. Art, art, art, I come undone under the touch of your nimble fingers, your beautiful hands, your sensitive, and engaging face. All art s life lit up for the entire world to see on public display. I have such an undying affection for the ‘flood’. It is like the garden to me. It is precious seed. And I am, of course I am, the seed thief. A seed thief who lives in both reality, and non-reality. On display, on exhibition, subject to judgemental indifference, and moods, and disapproval. As a child I looked up to father, but now we have words. He cross-questions me about the church, don’t I want to have a relationship with the son of David. I tell him, that in no uncertain terms do I want to be indoctrinated by rhetoric. And who created man, did God create man, or did man create God in his image. I can’t stand those stories of temptation in the garden. I think to myself, ‘poor snake, poor serpent with the forked tongue, maybe you got the raw deal, instead of Adam, and the Eve created from his rib’. Sometimes I think aloud. I shouldn’t misbehave, or throw tantrums, or fits, but I do when I reach the end of my tether. I have to write. It keeps me sane, and awakened to the intrinsic environment around me. I internalise, internalise, internalise. What else can I do? It keeps the ‘flood’s’ vein sated, and alive. There is a golden reconciliation there between the education of the mind, and the psychology of the brain. What is intelligence anyway, does it make father, or my brother happier entities? They look the same to me. Stressed by the burdens, and cares, and triumphs of the day, in much the same way as I am. I think of the careless whisper of the day, the way the sunlight touches every surface, corner, angle, circumference of my room. In my bedroom, I am finally free to be me. Freedom in a sigh, I must be so patient, work, work tirelessly, this poetess of Amherst. If it wasn’t for my education at the female seminary would I still, perchance, have all of this happiness, all of this pleasure writing. Nature does seem perverse sometimes. Master’s name can be found everywhere, in every possession I own, everything material, everything earthly. How beautiful is the day! The light threatens to overwhelm me, and everything with it. Master, is of course the ‘flood’. Master, is of course, my first love, now, if only I could master everything. If only I could master the substance of real life, if only love, (perhaps in the near-future). Perhaps someday I will be admired, loved even.

The sun is a laughing, talking, walking miracle today. If it shines, it shines only for me and Lavinia. What perfection, because it shines with an otherworldliness. It is a forceful warrior, (and I’ve known prayer warriors in our community here in Amherst). The sun is like a woman who is a siren, in the company of other men. The sun is fire, means fire, is powerful, a powerful commodity. It grows during the day, ablaze with heat, eddies of dust rising up from the floors of the homestead as I walk, as I wander from the downstairs to the upstairs. It is much like me, much like I was in my early twenties, popular and admired at dances. It is a dazzling sun. It dances in shadow. It plays with leaf, another omniscient miracle. Leaf, and leaves, tree, and trees, those most ancient, like the instrument of change, like a symphony orchestra, a violin being plucked at repeatedly with expertise, a composer being, again, plucked from obscurity into fame, and fortune. The wildflowers found in nature, the most natural feeling in the world is to feel as if I am like that wildflower. Built temporarily to sustain the hidden energies of beauty, wonder. Am I wise? But am I wise? Am I courageous whenever I’m articulate? Austin, my brother, does not belong body and soul to me any longer. I can only imagine what his life is like now, shielded from the view of sometimes perplexing me, intense me, playing with ideas, bringing life to words, awakening a truth in them. No man has ever said to me that he loved me. Taken me in his arms, but understand this. I am a token soldier. I can see. I can hear. I have this powerful knowledge within my bones, planted there, and it resonates through the entire marrow of my being, season after season of this terrible war that they call the American Civil War. Men are dying. Boys are dying. Can I trust in the knowledge that I have the personality of a wildflower? I like the expression. I can guess at its hidden meanings. I can trust myself in the daylight. I don’t cower away from the light, from the life, from the wakefulness that it gives me. The sun is divine. On it lives fire. On it burns a volcano. I only want the freedom to be an individual. I dare not call my writing art, for art’s sake. My vision is my own, and, yet, it is not my own. It has something to with divinity, those strongholds, those realms, and my own intuition. The process is for me to make as much progress as I can in the afternoon, work in the evenings with the lamp at my side guiding this process, navigating the trajectory of the moonlight. Yes, yes, I am fond of working my nimble fingers to the bone until the early hours of the morning. Until daylight breaks into a kind of passive resistance against the night sky, the unfolding and putting away of the stars under the jurisdiction of God’s grace, and His supreme mercy. I need clarity and vision when I write. There’s a brightness lit in my brain, every living, breathing cell. I worship every crack in this system, watch every nerve tick like a clock chiming in on every hour into homestead life, into Amherst, and with writing comes despair. There is hardship. I don’t want to fool you about my preoccupation. Perhaps one day my childhood home will be a museum that people will all come to explore. They will see my life for what it really is. Loneliness personified. They will say I lived like a recluse. I don’t want anything to be published while I am still alive. That is strange. Stranger than fiction. For all poets want is an audience to tell them how wonderful they are. How wonderful it is to be published. I often ask myself, Emily, Miss Dickinson, where does this gift of poetry, of writing about minor flora, the wolf begging, knocking at the backdoor come from. My soul begs my spirit to answer. I live in a just world. I am robust. I have health on my side. I am neither superstitious or sentimental. Why do you call it both terror, and Master? Deceit, well, it never rises to meet me when I wake n the morning. Yes, I am a difficult person, don’t ask me to transform my personality. This is bone season, feast season, meat country, the communing of the brethren meeting on every Sunday morning without fail. I have to wear a hat, that’s how hot it is now outdoors. I want to say remember me, or, do my words, does my poetry frighten you. Give you cause to think that because of my output of sometimes three poems a day, that perhaps I am touched with madness, or playing with madness. Making it ally, instead of foe. Oh look, how crestfallen the tomato plants look in their green finery. As if they are all dressed up with nowhere to go. As if they are living in a dream. I keep waiting to hear the words said, told to me in secret, or, conspiratorial whisper, or, confidence that I am special, (yes, that I Emily Dickinson is special, is beloved, is a saint after the outcomes, and aftermath of this mad war, young men dying like flies, maggots in their wounds, ) nobody has ever said that to me, or, that I’m shy, miserable at holding a conversation when meeting a stranger for the first time. The work, the passion that I have for it, I fall under its spell. Never to forget, always to be quick to forgive, to be cunning, and witty in my letters to male friends, male counterparts. I share my life’s work with my sister-in-law. Love. What is love anyway? It can strike you infirm. Its possibilities are endless. The limits of the work are totally up to you to a point as poet. It is exhausting. The hours that keep. I see no one now. Nobody comes to the house. Nobody visits. My close friends are my family members. It sometimes feels as if I have a dune to climb. It is giant. The sand is so hot I have to wear my walking shoes in this pretend reality. Everything I do, which concerns the family, I do out of love. It is a spectacular giving, and forgiving love. I study it from afar first. The first line of the verse and so on, and so forth. I am small in stature, but my words make up for that fact. I take it by the hand, kiss it ever so delightfully, remembering the church doctrine, the minister, the sermons delivered as lectures to the congregation that I adhered to as child. Summarily, I would adjust my behaviour accordingly. And sometimes at the end of the day I feel tired-happy, or, mentally exhausted, physically drained, and please, please don’t tell me that they are only words, for they are my life, they are my very breath, every inhale, every exhale. The words are lovely. They are truly perfection. Meanwhile it is I who is imperfect. It is I who is the sea, and the words are like a mountain stream in the dead of the wild. You’re something else, you’re the love of my life, I say to my children, the poems because they are. I birthed them, gave life to the words, before abandoning them in a bureau drawer. I become someone else when I write. It’s completely absurd to me to even to be thinking of another life. I cannot say I have been persecuted. By whom? Nobody in my family has ill-treated me badly in any way, shape, or, form. And then I think of how courteous and professional spring is, the wildflowers, the lavender, everything in the natural. Am I behaving these days? Sometimes I have my bad moments, but my family is good when it comes to forgiving me, forgiving the words spoken in the heat of the moment in a fit of anger. I am a flame. I am a flame. The snow will fall and I will still freeze out the winter, the layers of soppy time, and I, the poetess of Amherst will still be a flame. Star bright in the paradise of the homestead. I sometimes will look at what I have written, weep a little, be overcome with emotion, or stare in awe at this feverish creation on paper that will stay alive forever in my heart, and nature, and life. I think of the rain sometimes (when witnessing a downpour that seems to eclipse everything in my brain, like for instance the language of blood, the comfort of strangers). How wise, and thoughtful, and knowledgeable blood is. I think of this spitting rain in a half-condescending way, in an itinerant fashion, in the manner of a non-believer, because I cannot work for the very life of me outside, or go exploring Amherst with my sister, Lavinia, or work in the garden, toil the land, survey the landscape that was built by my grandfather. I do not often think about my lucky circumstances, and I try not to think, but it does come to my mind from time to time, I do think often that I am wealthy, or rather the word that I’m looking for is, ‘prosperous’, because of my family name. It is the work, the love of my life, the master of my life that yields those results. The reward at the end of the day is my angelic tongue, which is connected to my brain, which is connected to my thought patterns, and every living soul in my world. Even the wildflowers that Lavinia and I pick have souls. She declared this to me one day in passing, and I thought what intelligence you have for someone so young. I can’t imagine a day without the sun. And after I have put in a day’s work, I think to myself that this has been a remarkable progress, an enchanting journey from beginning to end. I think to myself, what direction will tomorrow bring. For if I had a compass, which direction would it face, to the west, or, the east yonder, and how to navigate the unknown without a foe in the world. When I write, it seems my mind is as ancient, as darling, as fetching, as beguiling, as fertile as Eden. It is evergreen there, and for the rest of the day I am not stuck in a rut, I am inside a valley. Just adding life to the joyful activity of writing, scratching out that which does not please me. On the inhale the sun hits my desk. The heat of the day seems to warm everything up. Joyfully, I start a new page, give my all, give my everything. I am a woman on a mission. There’s a peace of mind that comes over me, and everything about life that has somehow altered me for the good, all of my sheltered intentions, and protected me humbles me, stares me in the face, hunting me down. Where am I to go? I only have this desk. I only have my older brother. I have Lavinia. The page, the page. I see the dune again. It splits my brain into intelligence and stupor. I freeze suddenly, helpless, I feel I am not alone in the room. I turn around but no one is there. I am alone, sitting at my small desk, polishing what I did the day before, or settling own to work on the latest poem. I think of botany and nature, geography, time, and place, fire spilling over from a volcano, geology, the face of a rock, and the mountains of my imagination are breath-taking. Nothing can break that spell, transform my mood when I am working, when I am writing. The world is a beautiful, sensuous-filled place. But I am alone. I am quite alone. I am in my palace, sitting on my throne, king and queen, and my words are my loyal subjects. The terror of before passes, creativity comes upon me once again. I begin. Begin to write until I am sated. Until I am quite thrilled, quite elated with what I have in front of me, what I own. I am both (speaking here of my mood) is high and low, mad and sane, ruthless and determined in the composed hush of the silence in my bedroom. The air smelling like damp and rust, the heat of the day and citrus, a forest deep-deep in the Amazon. I am in a rainforest. Then I am in a jungle. Then I am standing next to a volcano breathing fire. Then I am in nature, the place where I most want to be. Then I am in a small room in Amherst, that is all mine. Then I am explorer. Then I am scholar deep in the frame of my textbooks. I am Keats studying medicine. Then I am Keats the poet. Of course, I relish all of this. This world has nurtured me since birth. Father and I, we have our discussions about church and the larger than life Christ-figure. There are times when I myself don’t understand why I don’t go to church anymore. Father doesn’t understand me, I don’t understand him. He is a law-man involved in politics, carrying on his father’s legacy, in the same way my brother will one day in the not too distant future. I want to be great friends with his wife. I now we will be. Already she has expressed an interest in the poems, but she doesn’t understand why I don’t publish them. The sun is romantic to me. I want every bite of it. Look, it is a new day that has come upon all of us. I can feel it. I can feel it. The sun, as it plays upon my hair, every silken thread of it. I think of the nocturnal. I think of all the sights in the moonlight that is so charismatic. I think to myself what would feel like to be an owl, or a bird. What would it feel like to flit like a bat, to stare death (open and wise and vulnerable) in the face, celebrate the verbosity of life, to acknowledge that women have it differently in the world than men do when they write? I am life. I am life. There are no other words to describe this beginning, or this end. In another place, perhaps not this lifetime, but the next one, I will find love, and truly captivate a man. A man, a love, a master even greater than the poetry itself, than that heavy burden of suffering, and all the sorrows that I feel I must accept if I am to pursue this course of life. The writing life. I must always take this swift action when it comes to the demanding work of the writing of the poetry, and not the other. The writing of the poetry is my shield, and master now. The sun, this bewildering sun. The strange thing is, is how it makes me feel inside of myself. That today of all days it gives me such satisfaction, such closure, and even such mirth in the face of the loneliness I must tolerate, and understand, and live with on a daily basis. Don’t think that I’m tragic for one minute. Don’t, please, make a fuss over the writing of the poetry. It is mine. It is all mine. It is my gift to either want to share it with the world if I want too, or to not share with the world. The sun, this bewitching sun in my room that hovers, that hovers over there nearby my desk. Look at me. Look at this feast of the day in front of me. In this place in time, there is wonderment, childlike wonderment at the world around me, at the worlds and realms and empires found in Amherst, the worlds of the homestead. In my writing, the world opens itself up to me, offers itself to me on a silver platter. I make myself open to it. I must. For there is simply no other way to get the work of the day done, the chores, the kitchen, reading the newspaper to Lavinia, going out on the town. I remember in my twenties how I was a socialite. When I am writing it feels as if wave, after wave is breaking inside of me. Vibration after vibration. The sun is a miracle. I am ethereal. I am emotional. I am sensitive. Does, can the world understand that, can, does the world see me as special, as a wonder. Some days I am high on life. Other days I am as low as the branch that can bough down to major earth meeting minor sky. Distance meeting the remote. Sky meeting brides. Earth meeting grooms. Sky meeting the wolves of the earth. Amherst is my country. Perhaps, perhaps one day the world will be my country. Perhaps, perhaps one day I will be loved by that world, that country. It feels as if I am pulsating with a kind of natural rhythm. As if I am almost being pulled and pushed in all directions. In life, I must go several ways. In the writing-life, the world of my poetry, that pulls me down another rabbit-hole (a kind of black hole) trajectory. My course is set. My voice is stone. My voice belongs to the wilderness, overshadowed by absolutely nothing that I can possibly think of. My voice is like the wind. My voice will one day reign supreme, but all of these are just thoughts processing themselves repeatedly. I think of seduction too. How words can evolve. How words can seduce vision into art. They are beautiful, aren’t they? They are magnificent, remarkable even. For sometimes it feels as if I am standing too close to the edge. That this precipice, or whatever it is will mark me for life. Oh, how I want to glorify the page. Perfect it. How I want to be cleansed of that vision of what comes after winter. Master, master, the writing of the poetry, my correspondence too, are the greatest loves of my life. My eternity come close, come even closer to me. Let me kiss thy cheek, and do thy will. Amherst, you are muse. I am a visionary in your hands.


   
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