The Unreliable Narrator

A great crime: she has
plunged a dagger into the heart
of her mother.


The strangest thing: a mocking little pride with
a sinister click as of a fitting together of bad

Beyond knowing. The mesmerist’s only
child. A certain indication of anemia, too much
candy, and her charming eyes.

A privilege to be near her. My
inspiriation. I risk an approach, what I call “the light of
day.” Movements, with perfect indifference, turn
place and shrink. One
might have seen less: the glimmer of
nothing. I caught no full-blown
flower of theory. And yet such visions pale in

Gorgeous, the domestic manufacture
of sausages.

Swallow and “so calligraphic a bird.”

Somebody in Dickens. Attaching
diminutive eggs.

A glamour of memory.

Assurance of intimacy on the
summer air.

Nothing to explain. We
needed breathing time. Enough to
laugh. Odd what a difference. Only to
whistle to her. Delighted to come.

I know. Prepared to reply and turning a think skein of
sewing silk sus-
pended in
entanglement. Shown “the faintest far-off
chords,” I ask myself.

Our doom complete.

The difference, so simple: she had
folded up her manner. Great advantages now, my
dear, if he will show you. Dis-
appointment and its train might enter.

The wedding day, the fever season. But
they’re dying. Kindred circle of the
tipsy, come to call. Lurid memory
remained with me, was indeed our sense of
“dissipation.” (Horses. A high aesthetic revel.) Rome
made him invest unconscionable sums in postage. He
received answers in a delicate hand or tried to think.

Sublime snythesis. A bridge
over—liable to rear up. You just had to
wait for it, curiosity worked up with
a hard-boiled egg and a doughnut.

(Very ugly, but
I LIKE UGLY. Just the
sort of ugliness to
be like looking.)

Happy, he entered the streetcar’s
nocturnal “exercise,” the platform it evidently
was to be. Bad lecture-blood her enthusiasm. Catchpenny
monsters. The ideal day with that sense of resorting.

In imagination, we mean to do well. No faith in girlhood, her antediluvian
theories not much better. Well, she should get
rid of him. The logical hero.

Keith Waldrop, “The Unreliable Narrator” from Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy. Copyright © 2009 by the Regents of the University of California. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.
Source: Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press, 2009)
More Poems by Keith Waldrop