Ago 11, 2007

By Rote

Visit to Jane Austen’s house... I put my hand down on Jane’s desk and bring it up covered with dust. Oh that some of her genius might rub off on me! One would have imagined the devoted female custodian going round with her duster at least every other day.

Barbara Pym
August 11, 2007
Diary entry


This is the method. I read the diary entry. I imagine how your voice would have wrapped itself around each word.

How would your tongue carry ‘desk’? Would it hiss out ‘genius’, would it settle with ‘female’? In a flash, I see how your tongue clicks up female, and this sets off a crystal bell where I never thought I kept any.

I read the entry again and again, trying to get your tone right, hoping to catch the rise and fall of your breath. It disappoints me that I cannot recall you ever saying the word ‘rub’ or ‘custodian’. I have not heard enough from you. I console myself with the clarity of your pronunciation of ‘imagine’, for I hear it as if you were whispering it to the back of my ear, a place which is mine and I cannot see.

You have that chewing mannerism. Have you noticed? I do not know if anyone called it to your attention. It is not a knowledge that would save the world. This is just something I recall, a digression from the method of course, yet excusably, something in the same province. Anyway, it is just a manner of yours that I am glad to remark before my death. One thing – like a peculiar burp or the accident of a dimple – a quick thing, for which one requires neither dream nor logic to push up and again into the light of memory.

Do you care if I pull myself up from the digression? Do you hear me? Do you hear me listening to you? Do you hear how I tried to eat your voice so I could write my words on the strength of your tongue? But then, I find some difficulty. A common enough phrase – ‘at least every other day,’ ‘at least every other day’ – a slow phrase, yes, but one with which I shall never allow you to help me.