Granny Was an Angelfish

As for me, I collect pets: young girls—girls from ten to sixteen years old; girls who are pretty and sweet and naïve and innocent—dear young creatures to whom life is a perfect joy and to whom it has brought no wounds, no bitterness, and few tears. My collection consists of gems of the first water.
……………………….Autobiography of Mark Twain, dictated February 12, 1908

But she was only five when she joined,
Four months later, the Club with her sister,
Louise, fourteen, and Dorothy Harvey,
The Colonel’s daughter, for cards on the terrace
His first week there, the villa then called
Innocence at Home. It didn’t stick.
Summer solstice and Livy gone,
Terror harrowed his hours alone,
A neighbor wrote, taking the photo
Of four at the table intent on their hands,
Frocked older girls in big wicker chairs,
Same as their host in snowy flannels
With boiling white hair while little Joy,
Black bow in hers, dangled small feet
Over an iron one.
………………………………………Hard to believe
She mastered canasta or took to billiards
Or excelled at charades, but Angelfish pin
Clipped to her collar, she liked to ride
Down to the village with him in the car,
Debating the woods: Those, he said,
Are elephant woods. No they’re not,
They’re fairy woods, the fairies are there,
But we can’t see them because they wear cloaks
That make them invisible. Oh, he said,
Sometimes I wish I had one of those;
I had one once, but it’s worn out.

Stephen Cushman

Stephen Cushman

Stephen Cushman is Robert C. Taylor Professor of English at the University of Virginia. His most recent book is The Generals’ Civil War: What Their Memoirs Can Teach Us Today (University of North Carolina Press, 2021). Author of several volumes of verse, he is general editor of the fourth edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012). Cushman has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Greece, and Rogers Distinguished Fellow at the Huntington Library.LSU Press will publish his next book of poems, Keep the Feast, in 2022.
Stephen Cushman

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Author: Stephen Cushman

Stephen Cushman is Robert C. Taylor Professor of English at the University of Virginia. His most recent book is The Generals’ Civil War: What Their Memoirs Can Teach Us Today (University of North Carolina Press, 2021). Author of several volumes of verse, he is general editor of the fourth edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012). Cushman has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Greece, and Rogers Distinguished Fellow at the Huntington Library. LSU Press will publish his next book of poems, Keep the Feast, in 2022.