I confess to having abused the ordinary details
of personal days, to having used the world less,
the self more, to the womanly flaw of regarding
private hours as the primary province
of knowledge. Dear critic, appalled
by female details, the minutia of a childless
and husbandless bluestocking strewn across
that unspoiled landscape of literature, you are
right to side with Bly, legislate against
the blight of first person pronouns. Dump
those babies in the great pit of poetic dross.
Away with these maudlin cravings, these
not new, even if cleverly disguised contributions
to the egotistical minus the sublime. All those weak
moments when I deferred to the memory
of an actual lover. Then to have covered
it up with the thin dirt of allusion, invoking Keats
or Wordsworth in concert with some man
done gone and left me. I ought to be shot
like the old dog I am, irascible, blind,
given to biting the hand that feeds, guilty
of living on the grim edges, having wished
to be the center of attention. You, dear critic,
and my father, win: I was simply not marriageable.
Was headstrong, controlling, insufferable.
How can I argue my bright Bly aficionado.
Wicked tease. Naughty girl. Dear doctor,
could you hand me that box of Kleenex now?
I’m about to weep for you, to spill the usual
gaudy humiliations, and because I pay you well,
really too much, you can’t look bored. Upstart I
who really ought to have stuck with She,
learned a We, better yet a They, or the proper art
of You, let alone the beauty of going pronounless
completely. My good grandfathers have rolled over
in their graves at my assumptions. Beginning with
the girl who peeled off her shirt to chop
wood in the sheep lot, caught like that at twelve.
Imitating the hired hands! Grandma straightened her out,
and fast, but here she is in public with her shirt
so actually off again, and plenty old enough to know …
She’s properly chastened now, sitting in her hermit’s hut
in France, all those lovers she’s abused in print, quite fled.
She hears you now, this one, feels the sting of 20 years’
advice unheeded, and promises this time to try.
She’s got this garden, see, first time in her life,
and begins to understand that bit about the still point
of the turning world: pansies nod their floppy
little pastel heads. Ivy creeps about, but quietly.
Pretty zinnias preen. And the trees, oh doctor,
I tell you, she has heard them speak out loud.
They want to be hugged, understood,
have their best stories told for the good
of the planet, told again for the good of great
literature. She must, they’ve whispered, forsake
presence, revise herself to essence, star dust, shy stuff,
by Leslie Adrienne Miller
—from Rattle #16, Winter 2001