Excerpts from Neon Daze

By | 1 May 2019

29th August 2016

Instead of sleeping
I push you to Dight’s Falls.

As well as sleeping
you smell mown grass

and wattle pollen.
Instead of sleeping I admire

dogs – pairs of fox terriers,
lone collies, something

intelligent with one milk
blue eye. While sleeping

you hold the pram belt
to your mouth and nose.

Instead of sleeping
I watch you dream.1

  1. Mary Shelley’s ‘waking dream’, in which she first saw her Frankenstein and his creation, has been preoccupying me lately. Of course it was a sleepless vision in the early hours; she had a five-month-old baby, William. There must, I keep thinking, have been servants in the cottage to do the endless winter laundry while Mary and Percy sat with their friends around the fire sharing ghost stories; or else, what is wrong with me that I achieve so little besides caring for my son? Were the Romantics simply living in filthier times? When I read the beginning of Chapter V aloud to my class, I tell them that the yellow skin and wet, speculative eyes resemble a newborn’s as much as a reanimated corpse’s. At eighteen, Mary had given birth twice – first to a premature daughter, Clara, who died days later. And then, to William who lived to the age of three. The fear and peril of cheating death and creating that spark of life. Mary Shelley had five pregnancies (according to the timeline in the front of the black Penguin Classic) and only one child, Percy Florence, who survived to adulthood. During a miscarriage, Mary nearly died in similar circumstances to her own mother, Wollstonecraft, had it not been for Percy’s first aid. Percy himself was lost at sea not long after the miscarriage. Mary might still have been bleeding as she grieved and cared for their remaining son. And so of course there is nothing awful or miraculous or unusual about these days that I need to remember; they might be any woman’s, lucky or unlucky – ordinary as anything that lives and dies.

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2 Responses to Excerpts from Neon Daze

  1. Kate says:

    I’m so keen to own and love this book and give it to my friends. Wow.

  2. Yuxuan Zhao says:

    She was my English teacher 🙂