Object Pronouns

Tupelo Hassman

I was an undergrad, it was my junior year, and a poetry workshop (the teacher was famous and beloved, a darling, and I wanted to be a darling like that (like that? I should say, like her, because she was a person, not an object, but I wanted to be an object, objectified, like that)) and we workshopped a piece with parentheticals inset and inset again so at the end they all came slamming down like so many prison gates locking you in or locking you out (it isn’t for me to say on which side of the prison gates you imagine yourself standing), and I never forgot that piece, the slamming parentheticals (how I wished that I hadn’t read it so that I could write one using the same technique (because I thought then, and maybe still think, that technique is a thing that can be owned (like I used to think of people as objects, to be owned, particularly when I was an undergrad, in my junior year, and in creative writing classes, and drank so much (I really drank a lot, especially this particular term, because it was the semester that my father died (the semester when my father died? To say it was the semester that he died makes it sound somehow like he killed the semester (but he did, my father killed the semester and the drinking almost killed me and I was deep into an affair that lasted until just after my first book was sold and when that deal was signed, he seemed to leave then (the person with whom I was having an affair left, that is (but I shouldn’t say he, I should say that, the person that I was having an affair with left, because he wasn’t a person then but something I thought I could own, an object, and he’s not a person now because now he’s a lesson that I’ve learned (and I don’t wish to shut the door on that (or the other either, the semester that my father died, because that was the semester I stopped being someone’s little girl, anyone’s darling, and yet time didn’t stop, not even for a second, not when I flew to his bedside and sat there and read aloud to him (because reading aloud makes it take longer, slows time), not when I flew back afterward with the sunglasses not big enough to hide my face in airports between connections, the tears that cupped in them when I pressed them close, slammed them against my face, time said no (even when I tried to stop the seconds then with my father’s watch and a hammer on the floor, some nights later, slamming that hammer down and screaming, the splinters of glass from the watch face shining like water on the hardwood, and I gathered all that time, all that time that he had worn, worn me on his sleeve, under the fading skull and crossbones, the dagger and circling snake, and stuffed the pieces of glass and the shattered metal and the sprung spring into a vial (and I stuffed parts of myself in there too, tiny cuts from jagged time, but only the darling parts, the parts that belong and wind and whir and keep time properly, all the parts that wouldn’t steal someone else’s man or another writer’s trick, only those, into that vial, corked it then and sealed it with wax, I don’t have it anymore and I don’t want it back (but I shouldn’t say it because it isn’t a single thing, it is really a they, they are that and those and who, a collection of who they were and I was all smashed together and broken in a tiny jar as if to be drunk, a collection of endings.)))))))))))))

Tupelo Hassman’s debut novel, Girlchild, received the American Library Association’s ALEX Award. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Harper’s Bazaar, The Independent, The Portand Review, Imaginary Oklahoma, and Zyzzyva, among others. Tupelo is the recipient of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Silver Pen Award, the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award, and is the first American to win London’s Literary Death Match. Her second novel, Gods With a Little G, is forthcoming from FSG in 2019.