Responding to Old Hag‘s open call for tearjerkers (and what won’t the blogosphere do for the Old Hag, really?), Sarah Weinman brings up an old favorite, Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, and gives an eloquent precis. I lent my copy of this book to a student years ago and haven’t seen it since–Sarah’s description explains why this says less about my student than about the book.
These words of Smart’s are scribbled into one of my journals, but I don’t know where they come from. My friend Elaine, who was the first to bring it, and Smart (and so much else) to my attention, may know:
What I’m making is a real place for language in my life since I must put up with it anyway. I want to be respected by those who are dead. I want to sing and make my soul occur.
And here’s one from By Grand Central Station:
He kissed my forehead driving along the coast in evening, and now, wherever I go, like the sword of Damocles, that greater never-to-be-given kiss hangs above my doomed head. He took my hand between the two shabby front seats of the Ford, and it was dark, and I was looking the other way, but now that hand casts everywhere an octopus shadow from which I can never escape. The tremendous gentleness of that moment smothers me under; all through the night it is centaurs hoofed and galloping over my heart: the poison has got into my blood. I stand on the edge of the cliff, but the future is already done.
And this one, which I like because, in a hothouse of a book, it is so overrun with vegetation. And so lyrical:
I love, love, love–, but he is also all things: the night, the resilient mornings, the tall poinsettias and hydrangeas, the lemon trees, the residential palms, the fruit and vegetables in gorgeous rows, the birds in the pepper-trees, the sun on the swimming pool.
You can still get a used copy of Rosemary Sullivan’s fine but now out-of-print biography of Smart. Weep away, kids. And Sarah, thanks for thinking of this.