From HERmione





“Sea beat up and wind fell hesitating…” “Go on…” “It’s rotten rather just here.” “You read so beautifully.” “I don’t want you to think I’m reading. It’s things back of me. It’s things back of me. You draw things out of me like some sort of… some sort of…” “Go on.” “I mean you draw things out of me.” Fayne Rabb was sitting on the sofa. The remains of the tea things scarred the floor beside her. “I mean the tea things look wrong here. Like setting teacups down on some pre-fifth-century Attic boulder. I mean to see teacups now in this small sitting room, to see you now in this small sitting room makes the sitting room… I mean it makes the sitting room seem like a gauze curtain.” “How exactly gauze? And how exactly curtain?” “I mean the curtains…” “The—what exactly?” “I call the curtains potpourri-coloured. I mean everything in this house is potpourri-coloured. You make everything in the world seem shabby.”

She stuck out her head like a bird; seeing everything, Fayne Rabb saw nothing. She saw like a bird that sees a tree not as heap of leaf, haymow stack of leaf on leaf, a heap of green making a curve or a cushion or a feathery sort of blurr on a horizon. Fayne Rabb saw not the potpourri-coloured curtains, not the figure drawn a little apart, drawn just too far, just too near that made a voice ring and resound and colours jab and dart against the dark faded rose of the faded-coloured curtains. Fayne Rabb saw a bird, seeing nothing of importance. “All the things that make the world important… all the things, I mean mama thinks important… you don’t… you don’t… recognize. I mean you don’t see the things. It isn’t as if you were destructive. Nellie said you were odd and so destructive. You just don’t see them.”

“I just don’t see what? This is interesting.” “I mean there is George. Now you would, I think, like George. I don’t want you to see George as George—“  “Are you still infatuated?” “In-fat-uated? That is just what all this time I’ve been telling you I wasn’t.” “Little, oh Miss Gart.”  “No Fayne. I’m not. I’m not so very little.” “You’re as little as a bird that has no wings, no beak, no feathers. You are the sort of thing a caterpillar would be before it were born, if all the time a caterpillar before it were born kept its own fur—fur-i-ness (is that what I mean exactly?), you are like a caterpillar just the minute it changes to a phoenix.”  “A caterpillar doesn’t—I mean it doesn’t change into a phoenix.”  “Who told you that little Miss Her Gart?”  “A caterpillar I say does change into a phoenix.” Chin thrust out, days are getting darker, days are getting longer; Hermione said, “Now when I look into your face I think the most ordinary things. Now just now looking into your face I just thought the days are getting longer.”  “Why looking into my face, shouldn’t you say the days are getting longer? Ordinary words aren’t always ordinary. Anyway I am—“ “Am?”  “Are”  “Are what exactly?”  “Ordinary.”  “Fayne. Fayne. Fayne. Fayne. Fayne.”   “You sound like a prophetess shrieking before Olympus.”  “Not Olympus. It’s Delphi.”  “It’s Olympus.”  “You don’t really know the difference.”   “Now little blasphemer—“

A hand thrust out. A hand swift, heavy; small, heavy swift hand. A hand thrust out and the hand (as it were) was thrust from behind a curtain. “All this rom, I’ve been saying is like a curtain.” These words were (as it were) dragged out of her long throat by a small hand, by a tight hand, by a hard dynamic forceful hand. The hand of Fayne Rabb dragged words out of the throat of Her Gart. “The whole thing comes right perfectly. I mean it is true that man is a shadow (what is that Greek tag?) I mean man being a shadow or spirit or a bit of fire or something holding together a corpse. You are, aren’t you?”

The hand let go dynamically. “Am—what, Hermione?”  “You are—you make me see the transience in everything. You are conscious aren’t you that Fayne Rabb is nothing?” “I am, little blasphemer, conscious of none of any such thing. I am of great importance.”  “You are and you just aren’t; don’t joke about all this. I mean I see (through you) the meaning of—of—“ “Eternity?”  “No-oo—not that exactly.”  “Maternity?”  “Oh horrible—“ “Paternity?”  “Fayne—are you really still there?”

“I am, Miss Her Gart. And I am not. I mean looking at Miss Her Gart, I see a green lane. There is some twist to it, a long lane winding among birch trees.” “No-oo—not birch trees.”  “Yes. I say they are. I say they are birch trees. We are and we aren’t together… we go on and we don’t go on together… there is fear and disaster but Fayne and Hermione don’t go on together. I see a lane and the sea. The sea sweeps up and washes the steps of a sea wall. I mean the steps run down from the top of the wall and are half covered by the sea tide. There is wash forward, wash backward, there is wash of amber-specked weeds beneath the water. I don’t know where this is. I can see you are and you aren’t here. You are here and you aren’t here. I hate all these things that blunt you. You aren’t firm enough. You are transient like water seen through birch trees. You are like the sparkle of water over white stones. Something in you makes me hate you. Drawn to you I am repulsed, drawn away from you, I am negated. You are not myself but you are some projection of myself. Myself, myself projected you like water… you are the sort of fountain (to become graphic, biblical) that gushed out of the dead desert rock. I am not Moses. I never could have struck you. I did not strike you. You are yet repressed, unseeing, unseen…”

“Oh, Fayne, do, do, do stop saying these things.”  “You are like other people. Really at the end, you are just like other people. You are afraid.”  “Who wouldn’t be afraid of you glaring in the darkness?”  “It’s not dark. The room is full of light…”

It frightens me to hear Fayne. It happens just as we are near coming together in some realm of appreciation. Words spring from nowhere; Fayne is like a bird under an anesthetic. Her chin thrust forward, “Oh, you’re always just like people.”  “People?”  “One gets so far with you. One thinks that you will follow. You’re just like everybody.”

Anger choked Fayne Rabb. The small murderous hand thrust out again as from behind a curtain. “Bur you’re iron. Where do you get your strength, Hermione?”



Words with Fayne in a room, in any room, became projections of things beyond one. Things beyond Her beat, beat to get through Her, to get through to Fayne. So prophetess faced prophetess over tea plates scattered and two teacups making Delphic pattern on a worn carpet. Pattern of little plates, of little teacups (Fayne as usual had had no lunch) and people and things all becoming like people, things seen through an opera glass. The two eyes of Fayne Rabb were two lenses of an opera glass and it was Hermione’s entrancing new game to turn a little screw, a little handle somewhere (like Carl Gart with his microscope) and bring into focus those two eyes that were her new possession. Her Gart had found her new possession. You put things, people under, so to speak, the lenses of the eyes of Fayne Rabb and people, things come right in geometric contour. “You must see George Lowndes.”

For George Lowndes pirouetting like a harlequin must be got right. Hermione must (before discarding George Lowndes) get George right. “I’m seeing him tomorrow.”

By H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), from HERMIONE, copyright ©1981 by The Estate of Hilda Doolittle. Use by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. 

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