Flaubert recognised my love, tender and whole,
and it made him sad.
‘I forsee that I shall make you suffer’, he wrote to me,
he included a line of my poetry;
‘I shall show them
what a woman of iron mind can do.’
‘But not if I keep you here on my page, my Emma,’ he said.
He half-knew what I would reply:
‘We’re all suffering, all the time. If you do not make me suffer,
somebody else will make me suffer,
and of all the infinite options, I choose you.’
He had a remarkable way
of flexing his thresholds for me.
I was that one, the one he would always forgive;
despite storms, despite wars, despite himself.
He would write my punishments—
oh, yes, he delighted in those.
He mocked my books;
he killed my lovers;
he poisoned my bread.
But Flaubert never truly
embodied his fiercest sentences,
or his darkest thoughts.
He would make me suffer in other,
more creative ways.
For my part, I found my revenge;
I became his universal listener.
Years later, in periods of our prolonged,
but never indifferent silence, he would still speak to me.
In his heart. In his head. Out loud in his bedroom.
It was not my voice he imagined, but my listening,
the unquenchable way that I had absorbed him;
his words, his brilliance.
In his final letter, he would tell me,
he never found a match for that.
“Elle est moi,” he said. She is me.
And I, in my profound listening,
had taken his voice into mine.
Image by Padurariu Alexandru