Ampersand

Original Text: 
Midland Swimmer (London, Ontario: Brick Books, 1996): 31.
1'He thought it had only been put there
2to finish off th' alphabet, like, though
3ampus-and (&) would ha' done as well.'
4              (George Eliot: Adam Bede)
5And had in fact, for generations --
6the plump, open armed '&' waving goodbye
7from the end of the old-world alphabet
8like an innkeeper framed in doorway candlelight,
9farewells swelled with hopes of come again.
10Then the old world burned down
11because we sensed, beyond the candle's glow,
12the road led to a dead end. No
13traveler returned, even the unverified
14odd reports of happy returns petered out.
15So we renovated the alphabet, signing it
16off with a streamlined 'z' as sharp
17and final as lightning: no sense
18in posting notice of further connections
19that didn't exist, or passing off maps as places.
20Trouble was, nobody felt at home
21in the revamped compound. Bookings fell off,
22postcards of views of blank walls piled unsold
23in the unvisited gift shop, the same
24paperbacks stalled on the revolving racks.
25It was a paradise of sorts, a golden age
26of nullity, no relatives
27breaking the costly silence. No wonder Eliot's
29of Z's was somehow 'not right,' that
30'it was a letter you never wanted hardly.'
31He knew, as one newly released from the unlit
32cell of his long-unlettered ignorance,
33what you did want hardly: you wanted,
35abandoned at the dock -- someone to stand by.
36You were the murderess of your baby,
37silenced with a 'z.' You needed a hand,
38the open-armed return of all your relations.
39You wanted, harder than death, ampersand

Notes

28] Jacob Storey: the character in Eliot's Adam Bede, responsible for this poem's epigraph. Back to Line
34] Hetty Sorrel: Adam Bede's vain beloved, seduced by well-off Arthur Donnithorne, neglects her resulting, illegitimate baby, who dies, and is imprisoned and tried for murder. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
Special Copyright: 

<b>This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of John Reibetanz or the Brick Books permissions department.</b>