This story is paired with Chapter 1 of Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free.
I threw myself into the chaise and sobbed
furiously & fell, deep
& deadly, muscles & veins
rage & revenge.
How can I describe my emotion at this catastrophe?
Drowned & thrown
split & cracked, I seemed
to have lost all soul or sensation.
I writhed under his
long & tedious
awful & majestic
words. I gazed on a picture of my mother
quiet & calm
blue & gentle
ever & although
useless & only
I was now alone
confused & indistinct.
I resolved to remain silent, motionless
alone & miserable
shunned & hated
more & more black & impenetrable.
For some time I sat upon the rock that overlooks
the sea of ice—
snow & rain
stones & wood
stars & listening—
my eyes became accustomed to the light
came to perceive objects in their right forms
hour & moment, pigsty
& pool of clear water
my existence & all of the world.
I could mention innumerable instances:
simplest & tenderest, heart & dared
digging & pulling, desire & after.
I plainly saw that he never attempted to draw
my secret from me.
I presently recovered myself
fearless & therefore
I said smiling, “Is that all?”
sat down & enjoyed
contrary & the stream
creation & this
boats & cast nets.
All phrases and joined-by-ampersand pairings are taken directly from Mary Godwin Shelley’s first draft as printed in The Original Frankenstein (edited by Charles E. Robinson, Vintage Books, 2008). Poet Percy Shelley, her lover and later her husband, added 5,000 words to her story.
Something that struck me immediately when reading Mary’s original draft was her repeated use of pairs of words joined by an ampersand: stars & clouds, despair & remorse, sorrowful & dejected, reverie & consideration.
The idea of pairings—Mary & Percy, lovers & collaborators, vision & revision—inspired the direction this poem took.
Mary Shelley’s mother, mentioned in stanzas 3 & 4, was the feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft who died when Mary was only eleven days old.
Kelly Nelson is the author of the chapbook Rivers I Don’t Live By, winner of the 2013 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award. Her poems are in Another Chicago Magazine, Watershed Review, I-70 Review and Bluestem. She teaches Interdisciplinary Studies at Arizona State University.