When the Wife Brings Love Back From the Dead, She Creates a Monster
by Carolee Sherwood
(with quotes from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein)
It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.
Scalpel. Saw. Rib-spreader. Needle
and Thread. Nuts. Bolts. Screws.
Hinges. Whisk. Garden hose. Crazy
Glue. Staple gun. Knife, fork, spoon.
There is something at work in my soul which I do not understand. I am practically industrious — painstaking, a workman to execute with perseverance and labour — but besides this there is a love for the marvellous, a belief in the marvellous, intertwined in all my projects.
Dearly departed husband, you lie
next to me still on our bed, our time
devoted, a cold slab. Each of us dead
intermittently twenty years, but this
— the true stopping of your heart —
is what I've prepared. Darling,
I have spent my days gathering
in a suitcase the tools to revive you,
studied Mary Shelley's text like a feminist
Bible, earned an online certificate in re-creation
signed by Dr. Frankenstein himself.
I know what I'm doing tearing you apart
to put you back together. You'll see again,
sweetheart, it's going to be wonderful,
just like we always wanted it to be.
We are unfashioned creatures, but half made up.
I force open your chest cavity. Finally,
hold against my breast your heart, still
warm sponge, squeeze out its red
poison, feed the meat of it to the dog.
I mean no disrespect. Having your heart
devoured by a hound brings good
luck in the next life. And don't worry:
I've found you a replacement
heart, a poet's mind, a smooth tongue.
I have scraped old, spoiled words
from the inside of your voice box,
one of the salvage parts from the wreck
of you. Due to the scarring, you'll speak
in nothing above a whisper
after this. I promise to stay close
and listen gently. I do
it all with affection for you, dear.
Remember how fond I was of you once?
This is what is possible.
It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open.
Lacking a lightning bolt and being hopeless
with electricity, I will start you back up
with a jolt, confession of a betrayal
that doesn't have to be true. It takes a shock
to open your dead man's eyes to this new life,
offspring, shoot. You will be precious
to me, my unseasoned man, handsome
monster, a fresh pair of hands groping.
It is time to bathe, dress, learn
your first words: "The trees
are in their autumn beauty." Glorious one,
love like this is unprecedented.
I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created. ... One hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped ... listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.
When you wake, you grab me
right away. I am delighted,
think: "Here we are at our happy
ending." But your grip is too firm. Already,
you are angry, confused. Like I am
nothing, you throw me out of bed, come
at me where I have fallen, reach
for my throat. I run from you, watch
from the yard as you destroy
the house, rip portraits off the walls,
upset tables, shred my paintings,
smash through the door and stumble
into gray fields, weave between moonlit
tufts of tall grass. I hear the neighbor's
horses bellowing as they do when
coyotes get too close. I lose sight of you
near the edge of the black forest.
I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the hour of your birth.
You return after more
than a week with fists
of orange mums, roots
and clumps of dirt
attached. There are holes
in the garden, I'm sure of it,
but worry instead about
the blood dried in your beard,
about the way your new smile
shows all your teeth.
There is something on your lips
I can't decide is forgiveness
or revenge. "It's over now,
behind us. Let's go back
to how it used to be," you say,
covering my mouth with yours
(a kiss?) before I can refuse.
NOTE: The italicized portions are from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. All quotes are in the voice of Dr. Frankenstein, except the last, which is in the voice of the Monster. The husband's first words (section IV) come from the first line of W. B. Yeats' "The Wild Swans at Coole."
Carolee Sherwood is a painter, mixed-media artist and poet. Her poetry has been published in a number of print and online journals. She is the "almost" poet laureate of Smitty's Tavern in Voorheesville, New York, placing second in the inaugural contest (April 2010). She co-manages the online poetry project "Big Tent Poetry" and writes reviews for Poets' Quarterly. She lives in New York's Capital Region with her husband and their three sons.
When asked to name her favourite fruit, she replied, "Tricky. I don't really know. I know what I hate: I hate those cans of mandarin oranges. They make me nervous."
Back to Table of Contents