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A Possible Life
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The Valley of Unknowing
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Jane Eyre, Unbanned
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—upon hearing of a bill to ban books with gay characters in Alabama libraries
You think of Mr. Rochester, mad wives
in attics, Jane herself, as plain as flan.
You don't remember Helen Burns, Jane's friend
from school. Reader, I married her. I pressed
my eighth-grade self between those pages like
a flower, left for later hands. Helen.
"I like to have you near me," she would cough,
romantically consumptive, after Jane
sneaked to her sick-bed. "Are you warm, darling?"
We'll always find ourselves inside the book,
no matter what the book, no matter how
little we're given. I was twelve; gay meant
nothing to me. I only knew I'd go
to Lowood Institution, rise at dawn,
bare knuckles to the switch, choke down the gruel,
pray to the bell, if this meant I could hold
another girl all night, if I could clasp—
this even if she died there while I slept,
this even if I died there in my sleep.
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