THE REAL HIDDEN SCANDAL OF EMILY DICKINSON'S LIFE
by Marilyn Hacker
I'm going to read a few poems from a new book that's coming out in October. It's essentially a novel in sonnets--a long time, well, not that long a time--since anybody has written one of those. It's called Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons, which is what it's about, as if anything weren't about that, one of the above, or all.
Only this first one has a title which is called La Loubiane which is the name of a restaurant in Southern France.
Two long-haired women in the restaurant
caress each other's forearms. I avert
my eyes. I'm glad to see them there; I hurt
looking on, lonely, when I so much want
to touch your arm, your hand like that, in front
of two mémés enjoying their dessert,
a British couple with two kids, alert
their girls are pigging frites, and me. I can't,
and wouldn't, let them know: I'm one; it makes
my thoughts real when they touch each other. They're
guests at the hotel. They go in through
the glassed-in terrace, slow upstairs, to view
the moon go down through snarled vines of their hair.
The little English girls devour their cakes.
Five-thirty, little one, already light
outside. From Spanish Harlem, sun spills through
the seamless windows of my Gauloise blue
bedroom, where you're sleeping, with what freight
of dreams. Blue boat, blue boat, I'll navigate
and pilot, this dawn-watch. There's someone who
is dying, darling, and that's always true
though skin on skin we would obliterate
the fact, and mouth on mouth alive have come
to something like the equilibrium
of a light skiff, on not-quite-tidal waves.
And aren't we, when we are on dry land
(with shaky sea legs) walking hand in hand
(often enough) reading the lines on graves?