Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Glass Essay

In my first round of reading Anne Carson back in 1998, I loved her verse novel Autobiography of Red—but the poem that truly floored me was "The Glass Essay," her depiction of recovering from the end of a long-term relationship while reading Emily Brontë's works (I have Carson's poem in the Cape collection from Britain, Glass and God). It does not diminish with re-reading:

You remember too much,
my mother said to me recently.

Why hold onto all that? And I said,
Where can I put it down?
She shifted to a question about airports.

This theme gets picked up again later, when the speaker is talking with her therapist, Dr. Haw:

When you see these horrible images why do you stay with them?
Why keep watching? Why not

go away? I was amazed.
Go away where? I said.
This still seems to me a good question.

And then that question gets picked up again:

Why keep watching?
Some people watch, that's all I can say.
There is nowhere else to go,

no ledge to climb up to.

I noticed these connections on rereading. But the image that had stuck with me from my first reading of the poem—for over a decade, that is—was this:

Everything I know about love and its necessities
I learned in that one moment
when I found myself

thrusting my little burning red backside like a baboon
at a man who no longer cherished me.

Rereading the poem now, I found a gentler version of the same point:

it would be sweet to have a friend to tell things to at night,
without the terrible sex price to pay.

In 1998, I thought "The Glass Essay" was utterly unique and extraordinary. Today, I still do.

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