Because He Is a God and I am a Handmaiden with a Broken Urn—Mary Ruefle Remembers
by ________Posted on August 7th, 2012 at 11:28 am
I remember when I graduated from college, we were asked to submit exactly how we wanted our names to appear on our diplomas, and I spelled my middle name (which is Lorraine) Low Rain, because the day before I had been reading W.S. Merwin’s new book and in it was some kind of brief Japanese thing along the lines of “Low Rain, Roof Fell.”
I remember when my parents saw my diploma, they were horrified and kept asking me how I could have done such a thing, after they paid for my education and all.
I remember finding the diploma among my mother’s things after she died, and throwing it away.
I remember I never did like to save things much.
I remember saving everything.
I remember the afternoon I sat in a literature class, my hardback edition of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens open before me, a book I had already owned for years, the pages worn and softened by endless turning and fingering, page after page filled with marginalia, notes, the definitions of words, question marks, exclamation marks, and underlinings, all in the soft gray graphite of my own living penciling hand, when a distracted classmate I did not know very well leaned over my book and wrote in it with her ballpoint pen: I’m so bored!!! Are you going to the party tonight? I remember feeling like my blood had stopped and reversed course, not in the heart, where that is supposed to happen, but midvein, the feeling medically called shock. I remember trembling and soaring with anger, and I remember the weekend after the unfortunate incident took place, sitting for hours and hours in my room with a new book, trying to cope, copying by hand everything I had ever written in the old book, with the exception of that one bold, sorry, uninvited guest.
I remember, in college, trying to write a poem while I was stoned, and thinking it was the best thing I had ever written.
I remember reading it in the morning, and throwing it out.
I remember thinking, if W.S. Merwin could do it, why couldn’t I?
I remember thinking, because he is a god and I am a handmaiden with a broken urn.
*If anyone knows about any literary magazine pre-publication history of Brainard’s original I Remember—anything before the 1970 book release from Angel Hair Books—please comment. Thx.