in response to Preface from Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads
Every time I do it it’s a learning, a tempering. A few degrees more than what I could take: a brisk cold up the side of my skirt, dry knuckles, or slight burns across my face. You leave your home without a jacket and your body learns. The internet says this is how you get used to it: this is how you change. It’s about adapting or, at least, working through a process, or maybe even just: exposing your-self, you would say: being in nature. But I mostly don’t like any of it. I don’t like it at all. This skin thickening: it’s too much feeling, too much thrashing against. It’s better to be somewhere regular, somewhere warm: like the narrow path toward your abbey. The one you walked through with half-closed eyes. Several of my friends are anxious and this is pretty normal. And I guess, if you think about it, I’m a little anxious too. You see, I read two of your Victorian predecessors last week and these men were also concerned with feeling–and I’m a little worried about what you call: that spontaneous flow of emotion. If I am a conduit of sentiment then what about everything else? How do we take that in too? Let me share something: sometimes our understanding of nature is unbearable. Sometimes we need to expose ourselves to only what is practical. The rest should be ignored. You see: I’m worried about over exposure. I try on most days to not to keep what should be kept: square. To keep what should be mounted: tame. If my job is to feel everything, then how long can you do that before feeling nothing? So many simple things have made me cry. I do not want to see a fawn in the early morning, or witness a child play in the grass. Those things are tantalizing. I don’t want to watch a film or look at that tree in a certain light. As a child, I would sit in the dark coolness of my closet so that my toys couldn’t see me, so that they couldn’t know I was trying to ignore them. It didn’t make any sense, but I was trying to tamper with feeling. I was trying to turn some of it off. Can you see how common life can be sad? What if everything we experience is a nocturne, or so vibrant that we cannot properly see? So you say that I should filter and form but how long is it until an open sore becomes infected? How long until this overflow is more like a drowning or worse: a layering, a method toward jadedness, or that process of adapting? Oh Wordsworth, tell me you don’t believe in your own sensitivity. Tell me this preface was an exercise of your own common pleasure: a release of beautiful words. Tell me that you lied about all of it: that path toward the abbey, the one void of smoke stacks we all know were there; your sister; and this advertisement. Tell me you were just kidding and I would believe you because I know what you claim to know of feeling could never be true.
Kirby Johnson is a writer living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She is the editor of Black Warrior Review and the founding editor of NANO Fiction. She has two cats and a lot of time on her hands.