I Confide in Miss Havisham about My Divorce
“In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.” –Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
I tell her that I’m sick of talking about this.
There are questions that will never be answered,
and I’m fine leaving them in some locked
room that I have no intention of haunting.
These poems were never really about
him anyway, just as her years of watching
flowers morph from bloom to wilt to rot
were never about her vanished bridegroom
either. But I have come farther along
this road than she has, because I can
finally say to all who will listen that it
never should have happened. Not just
the getting married but the almost twenty
years before that. She won’t understand
that when he was gone, I woke up a girl again,
but I tell her that her dress is still beautiful
like cobwebs are beautiful, like something meant
to be worn only once is beautiful. Before I leave,
she offers to throw her bouquet for me to catch,
and I put out my hands to collect the falling dust.
Girl Reading in a Sunlit Room
After the painting by Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (Danish, 1863–1935)
You enter the painting as if you stood
at the girl’s back and peered over
her shoulder in the slightly puffed
white sleeve of her dressing gown.
She doesn’t hear you or look up
but remains absorbed in what she is
holding, head slightly tilted, dark hair
caught up off her neck. You try to see
what she is reading but are unable,
think instead of the times you were
so enmeshed yourself you heard
nothing around you, remember how
it was to step out on your family’s
porch in summer, the concrete slab
burning your feet, as you waited
for the mail. Back in the small room
of the painting, her chair is deliberately
positioned, as if she took it from a table
and faced it to the window. Light enters
and pools on her lap. You continue
to stand there but now are pulling a letter
from the mailbox. Before you can begin
to read, those words dissolve in sun.
Jennifer Finstrom is both an instructor and staff member at DePaul University. Her poetry appears in Escape Into Life, Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, and elsewhere. Additionally, she is the poetry editor for Eclectica Magazine, one of the oldest continuously publishing online literary journals.