Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I am rereading Bleak House, and now I can't stop thinking about that V. S. Pritchett comment on isolation that I wrote out for you yesterday. Now I am seeing every character through that lens, not to mention the fog and the public houses and the courts of law and the river and the stage coaches and all the other things in a Dickens novel that are as alive as his human characters. After so many years alongside Dickens, I am amazed to suddenly comprehend his tremendously disturbing vision of solitude. And yet it was there all the time. I've even written about it myself, without knowing what I was seeing.

Why I Didn’t Finish Reading David Copperfield

Dawn Potter

Bus three’s eight-track tape player chunks into gear,
it’s Frank Zappa again, crooning huskies and snow,
and down the back of my neck, a couple of bad boys

chant, “Mescaline, peyote, LSD.”  I’ve got this book
splayed on my lap, poor Mr. Peggotty, it’s not like
I don’t feel for him, I just can’t keep my mind off

those bony elbows and white hands, those tender,
spotty faces. Glance up in study hall, sure enough,
beautiful bad boys are scrawling “Skynyrd”

all over the chalkboard, the teacher’s slipped off
to the supply closet, everyone knows he’s got
Mrs. Kay jammed up against a stack of manila paper,

but where is my true love? I worry all the time
I’ll end up with nothing, even Barkis-is-willin’ won’t save me
a smile, I’ll be stuck on the bus with Miss Murdstone,

driver shrieking she’ll play The Sound of Music twice a day
for the rest of the year if those tramps in the back seat
don’t keep their hands where she can see them.

I could lay my head on this vinyl seat and cry,
even Little Em’ly has more fun than I do, not one bad boy
in the whole world wants me, I’ll never brush my clumsy

lips against his open mouth, taste his sweet smoky breath,
and every time I pick up this book, my mind starts wandering
in circles like an old dog that can’t find a good spot to sleep,

you hear his nails clacking back and forth across the kitchen floor,
and it just makes me so sad, sitting here on the bus wishing
I was holding hands with a boy in a Kiss t-shirt, my own wild Steerforth.

I don’t care if he dumps me after a week . . . I don’t care.
All I want is to give him everything he asks for, I’d lay myself down
in the falling snow to feel the weight of his heart,

and Little Em’ly, if you really needed me, I swear I’d finish your story.
Maybe you’ve floated too long in the cold, or the wind’s wrong,
but right now I have no idea what you’re screaming about.

[from How the Crimes Happened (CavanKerry Press, 2010)]

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