On Reading Woolf Again
After 26 Years

–for Chrissy Mason, with fondness

Over Thai, bright eyed, Chrissy confessed
she once wrote out every sentence
Virginia Woolf ever penned.
Novels. Short stories, essays too.
The way the nuns would read
fine literature aloud and pause
as pupils scratched down word
for word in perfect penmanship.
The nuns were, I was, laying down the track,
she said, for what a sentence could do.
And now, as I re-read Orlando’s thoughts,
Clarissa’s— gasp at her shilling tossed
into the Serpentine, her never-Septimus
(Clarissa’s double; Woolf’s triple, and mine)—
and think them, I am also thinking Chrissy’s,
perhaps, marveling at Virginia’s odd clauses,
generous commas, semicolon hitches; hooking
coach cars; occupied by well-heeled, awkward
friends; freight cars bursting delphinium;
shadow cargo; centuries of ice coupled
with foiled men waking up as women;
everything pulling on everything else
behind the locomotive of her mind;
riding a rail that will never arrive,
or always; in Vita’s arms; in one of several
lakes; in my hands; yours. Call it luck
to rattle under the warping weight of her,
all of us, every place: her station.


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