by Cassandra Euphrat Weston
You were no spotlight dyke, Charlotte. Think Edna St. Vincent Millay—a show just premiered about her dazzling life. Gertrude Stein’s portrait hangs in the Met. Playing Virginia Woolf earned someone an Oscar. Can you imagine that uproar of eyes? Even your suicide was unsuited for film: you poured a small glass of Lysol and waited. Your hands still, no cinematic tremor, relying quietly on yourself. Trusting anyone else was your problem. You ran to Paris for one straight girl and your love for another became public scandal. “Charlotte is a pervert,” her friend declared. And you? Limbs suddenly elephantine; your dress squeezes you like a fist. Your hands are paving slabs, your feet battleships. Your voice is a brass boomerang, recoiling to smash your jaw. You are 4’10” of tumor. The relics of your femininity startle you: neat script falling in ringlets. The small fingers holding your pen cannot be yours. “The steady slowing down of the heart,” you wrote: your pain and wrongness, collared in lace. I picture you Victorian, but you published your first poems at the height of the Great War. You lived “little damp rooms” and you wrote empty cathedrals. Your poems still ring in the nave. My body is a doll’s house sometimes. It is the underside of a pier when the tide comes in. But my poems surge and spray. Born into leeway, I have not learned a measured walk or a metered line. “Everything is burned, and not quite through,” you wrote, and kept on. I gallop and falter in your wake. I can love the wrong woman without detonating my whole life. The air between my body and its mistake is soft with benevolence. But I would like my lines to spring and bend like green branches, like the poems you wrote, leaving room for grace.