Monday, October 18, 2010

Five-thirty, light mellowing like brandied apples meandering nosily through my bookshelves. (There. Did I paraphrase that enough?) Comfort me with fettuccine. No, that was the other day when I was playing mother to myself. Hello darlings, welcome to another installment of I've unloaded the dishwasher, folded and hung laundry, made couscous, threw broccoli in a pot, let in cats, and made sure food was on their plates. Now what?

My mind/brain will not let go of a riddle. I worry it like a tangled skein of worsted, trying to find the end. Of leading theories, the one that fits best is the most improbable, chance encounters at holiday get-togethers, same holiday many years apart, under very different circumstances. But that makes no sense. I remember, though not clearly. (I could have made such an impression? That's what feels improbable.) The other involves a pleasant branch desk, the offer of a fresh Vogue that had just come in. But that doesn't fit the clues because we've met many times (though not recently) at checkout or whenever I forgot my password.

Behind me on a little mat on the floor Penelope is sweetly snoring, KZE is rocking downstairs. Have been reading Lyndall Gordon's epilepsy-theorizing chapter of Lives Like Loaded Guns, very slowly, turning back to her notes, looking up the Dickinson poems and letters she cites, which is quite a wonderful, slow-motion, revelatory if painstaking way to read. I'm completely withholding judgment - at the moment anyway - as to whether or not E.D. was a "little bit" epileptic, that is - as with pregnancy - epileptic at all. Either she was - or she wasn't, would that be fair to say? Or perhaps not. What do I know of epilepsy. Next to nothing. My cat used to have it - the symptoms anyway - now she doesn't.

Gordon really could have used a better editor on this chapter, I'll say that. The chapter is entitled "Snarl in the Brain," a phrase poetically suggestive of (perhaps)- and as Gordon would wish (certainly) - epilepsy. The phrase comes from E.D.'s letter 281 from late May 1863, according to the page-by-page source notes at the end of the book.

L281 To [E.D.'s cousins] Louise & Frances Norcross
“I said I should come “in a day.” Emily never fails except for a cause; that you know, dear Loo.

The nights turned hot, when Vinnie had gone, and I must keep no window raised for fear of prowling “booger,” and I must shut my door for fear front door slide open on me at the “dead of night,” and I must keep “gas” burning to light the danger up, so I could distinguish it – these gave me a snarl in the brain which don’t unravel yet, and that old nail in my breast pricked me; these dear, were my cause. Truth is so best of all I wanted you to know. Vinnie will tell of her visit…”
I don't know. That ole snarl in the brain sounds more like a panic or anxiety attack on being left alone, it seems to me. (I leave it to "academic biographers" to determine why caretaking sister Vinnie had left E.D. unattended for whatever reason & length of time.)

Okay, so no evidence there of epilepsy. But leaving that whole question aside, what a very odd, funny letter. I mean it's written by a 33-year old woman, who's incredibly literate, well-read, brilliant. And it reads as though it's the monologue of a toothless hillbilly Ma, "loaded gun" at the ready, spittin' 'baccy off the side of the porch. Is E.D. having her cousins on in this letter? That ain't no cryptic modernist poetry. The woman was a ham!

Don't make me shut off comments because I just put forward a radical, unpopular view. On the other hand if it's to send me kisses, then by all means. I'll be checking miscellaneous accounts a bit more often.


No comments:

Post a Comment