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Lynn Emanuel
Lynn Emanuel
Born in Mt. Kisco, New York, in 1949, Lynn Emanuel is the author of several books of poetry...
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inside gertrude stein

 
by Lynn Emanuel

Right now as I am talking to you and as you are being talked 
to, without letup, it is becoming clear that gertrude stein has 
hijacked me and that this feeling that you are having now as 
you read this, that this is what it feels like to be inside 
gertrude stein. This is what it feels like to be a huge type--
writer in a dress. Yes, I feel we have gotten inside gertrude 
stein, and of course it is dark inside the enormous gertrude, it 
is like being locked up in a refrigerator lit only by a smiling 
rind of cheese. Being inside gertrude is like being inside a 
monument made of a cloud which is always moving across 
the sky which is also always moving. Gertrude is a huge gal-
leon of cloud anchored to the ground by one small tether, yes, 
I see it down there, do you see that tiny snail glued to the 
tackboard of the landscape? That is alice. So, I am inside 
gertrude; we belong to each other, she and I, and it is so won-
derful because I have always been a thin woman inside of 
whom a big woman is screaming to get out, and she's out 
now and if a river could type this is how it would sound, pure 
and complicated and enormous. Now we are lilting across the 
countryside, and we are talking, and if the wind could type it 
would sound like this, ongoing and repetitious, abstracting 
and stylizing everything, like our famous haircut painted by 
Picasso. Because when you are inside our haircut you under-
stand that all the flotsam and jetsam of hairdo have been 
cleared away (like the forests from the New World) so that the 
skull can show through grinning and feasting on the alarm it
has created. I am now, alarmingly, inside gertrude's head and I
am thinking that I may only be a thought she has had when 
she imagined that she and alice were dead and gone and 
someone had to carry on the work of being gertrude stein, and 
so I am receiving, from beyond the grave, radioactive isotopes 
of her genius saying, take up my work, become gertrude stein.

Because someone must be gertrude stein, someone must save 
us from the literalists and realists, and narratives of the 
beginning and end, someone must be a river that can type. 
And why not I? Gertrude is insisting on the fact that while I 
am a subgenius, weighing one hundred five pounds, and living 
in a small town with an enormous furry male husband who is 
always in his Cadillac Eldorado driving off to sell something 
to people who do not deserve the bad luck of this mer-
chandise in their lives--that these facts would not be a prob-
lem for gertrude stein. Gertrude and I feel that, for instance, in 
Patriarchal Poetry when (like an avalanche that can type) she is 
burying the patriarchy, still there persists a sense of con-
descending affection. So, while I'm a thin, heterosexual sub-
genius, nevertheless gertrude has chosen me as her tool, just 
as she chose the patriarchy as a tool for ending the patriarchy. 
And because I have become her tool, now, in a sense, gertrude
is inside me. It's tough. Having gertrude inside me is like 
having swallowed an ocean liner that can type, and, while I 
feel like a very small coat closet with a bear in it, gertrude and 
I feel that I must tell you that gertrude does not care. She is 
using me to get her message across, to say, I am lost, I am
beset by literalists and narratives of the beginning and middle 
and end, help me. And so, yes, I say, yes, I am here, gertrude, 
because we feel, gertrude and I, that there is real urgency in 
our voice (like a sob that can type) and that things are very 
bad for her because she is lost, beset by the literalists and 
realists, her own enormousness crushing her and we must 
find her and take her into ourselves, even though I am the 
least likely of saviors and have been chosen perhaps as a last 
resort, yes, definitely, gertrude is saying to me, you are the 
least likely of saviors, you are my last choice and my last 
resort.






From Then, Suddenly--, by Lynn Emanuel. Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. Available at local bookstores or directly from the University of Pittsburgh Press:
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