Monday, October 27, 2014

How I Didn’t Get Myself to a Nunnery

Looking (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

from 11.3.14 The New Yorker
How I Didn’t Get Myself to a Nunnery 

That girl they found ensconced in mud and loam,she wasn’t me. Small wonder, though, they jumped.To a conclusion. Water puffs you up,and we pale Slavic girls looked much alike—back then. Deprivation smooths you out.Yes, that was the season of self-drowned maids,heart-to-hearts with skulls, great minds overthrown.And minds that could be great if they could justcome up for air. Not in that town. Something stank.
But me, I drifted on. I like rivers.And I’m all right with flowers. I floatedon a bed of roses—well, O.K., rueand columbine. It bore me up not down.That night I made a circle with my thumband finger, like a lens, and peered through itat the moon—mine, all mine. My kissed-white moon.“Moon River wider than a . . .” Mancini/Mercer wrote that, sure, but I wrote it first.
You wonder where I’m going with all this?Where water goes. It empties into sea.Sold! I’d take it—the sea or a fresh life.Some other life. A good man—good enough,fair—fished me out. He’d come to quench his thirst.No sun-god prince, of course, like him I’d loved,still loved. (Some loves don’t die; not even murderkills them.) I married his thatched hut, hatched chicks—kids running underfoot. Don’t cry for me,
Denmark. I’d learned the art of compromiseback there, in the black castle—then came blood,ghosts. Something in me burst. If not lover,father, king, then whom can you trust? Alone,I took up some playing cards. I played theminto skinny air. A voice said, Swim or drown.It said: Your house caught fire, flood, caught fear—it’s coming down. No one loves you now, here.By land or water, girl, get outta town.


  1. I love the image you paired with the poem -- extraordinary. It captures much of the mood of the poem, and it's fascinating to imagine that beautiful but damaged face uttering these lines.

    1. Thank you so much. It is an image I made in Tuscany. Glad to know it resonated and works with this terrific poem.