the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

quotes/poetry: carson on grief, anger

Posted by rigorousm on July 3, 2012

Hot blue moonlight down the steep sky.
I wake too fast from a cellar of hanged puppies
with my eyes pouring into the dark.
Fumbling

and slowly
consciousness replaces the bars.
Dreamtails and angry liquids

swim back down to the middle of me.
It is generally anger dreams that occupy my nights now.
This is not uncommon after loss of love–
blue and black and red blasting the crater open.
I am interested in anger.
I clamber along to find the source.

My dream was of an old woman lying awake in bed.
She controls the house by a system of light bulbs strung above her on
wires.
Each wire has a little black switch.

One by one the switches refuse to turn the bulbs on.
She keeps switching and switching
in rising tides of very hot anger.

Then she creeps out of bed to peer through lattices
at the rooms of the rest of the house.
The rooms are silent and brilliantly lit

and full of huge furniture beneath which crouch
small creatures—not quite cats not quite rats
licking their narrow red jaws

under a load of time.
I want to be beautiful again, she whispers
but the great overlit rooms tick emptily

as a deserted oceanliner and now behind her in the dark
a rustling sound, comes—
My pajamas are soaked.

Anger travels through me, pushes aside everything else in my heart,
Pouring up the vents.
Every night I wake to this anger,

the soaked bed,
the hot pain box slamming me each way I move.
I want justice. Slam.
I want an explanation. Slam.
I want to curse the false friend who said I love you forever. Slam.
I reach up and switch on the bedside lamp. Night springs

out the window and is gone over the moor.
I lie listening to the light vibrate in my ears
and thinking about curses.

Emily Bronte was good at cursing.
Falsity and bad love and the deadly pain of alteration are constant
Topics in her verse.
Well, thou has paid me back my love!
But if there be a God above
Whose arm is strong, whose word is true,
This hell shall wring thy spirit too!

The curses are elaborate:

There go, Deceiver, go! My hand is streaming wet;
My heart’s blood flows to buy the blessing—to forget!
Oh could that lost heart give back, back again to thine,
One tenth part of the pain that clouds my dark decline!

But they do not bring her peace:

Vain words, vain frenzied thoughts! No ear can hear me call—
Lost in the vacant air my frantic curses fall….

Unconquered in my soul, but Love I cannot kill!

Her anger is a puzzle.
It raises many questions in me,
to see love treated with such cold and knowing contempt

by someone who rarely left home
“except to go to church or take a walk on the hills”
(Charlotte tells us) and who
had no more intercourse with Haworth folk
than “a nun has
of the country people who sometimes pass her convent gates.”

How did Emily come to lose faith in humans?
She admired their dialects, studied their genealogies,
“but with them she rarely exchanged a word.”

Her introvert nature shrank from shaking hands with someone she
met on the moor.
What did Emily know of lover’s lies or cursive human faith?
Among her biographers

is one who conjectures she bore or aborted a child
during her six-month stay in Halifax,
but there is no evidence at all for such an event

and the more general consensus is that Emily did not touch a man in
her 31 years.
Banal sexism aside,
I find myself tempted

to read Wuthering Heights as one thick stacked act of revenge
for all that life withheld from Emily.
But the poetry shows traces of a deeper explanation.

As if anger could be a kind of vocation for some women.
It is a chilly thought.

The heart is dead since infancy.
Unwept for let the body go.

Suddenly cold I reach down and pull the blanket back up to my chin.
The vocation of anger is not mine.
I know my source.
It is stunning, it is a moment like no other,
when one’s lover comes in and says I do not love you anymore.
I switch off the lamp and lie on my back,

thinking about Emily’s cold young soul.
Where does unbelief begin?
When I was young

there were degrees of certainty.
I could say, Yes I know that I have two hands.
Then one day I awakened on a planet of people whose hands
occasionally disappear—

From the next room I hear my mother shift and sigh and settle
back down under the doorsill of sleep.
Out  the window the moon is just a cold bit of silver gristle low on
fading banks of sky.

Our guests are darkly lodged, I whispered, gazing through

The vault….

— Anne Carson, “Hot,” The Glass Essay

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