In the novel Villette, either I or Lucy Snowe live and work in a girls’school that either she or I found in a small French town. She hasnowhere / I have nowhere and no thing in which to hide any of her few/ my few possessions. Her mattresses / my mattresses and bedding inthe dormitory where she sleeps / I sleep are checked over daily, and shesuspects / I suspect that her / my desk in the classroom is also lookedthrough.

She has nowhere / I have nowhere to hide a letter that was sent to her/ to me by Dr Graham, who she has a heavy and imaginative crush on/ who I have a heavy and imaginative crush on.

She invests / I invest in the letter a devotional adoration thatmismatches the friendly goodwill it was written with.

I / Lucy guess that the schoolmistress has snatched, read and thenreturned the letter to under her / my bed. Lucy panics over her / mylack of private space and makes the eccentric decision to bury theletter in the garden grounds of the school.

She folds the pages tightly / I fold the pages tightly, wrap them ina silk handkerchief dipped in oil, curl them into a glass bottle andhermetically seal the bottle with wax.

She buries the bottle / I bury the bottle under the roots of an ivy bushin an area of the garden that is haunted by either me or the ghost ofa nun who was buried alive.

In this gesture / in my gesture, Lucy Snowe rejects the possibility ofpossessing the letter. She applies / I apply a fantastical value to theletter. The letter passes into an earthed state of absence. I use / Lucyuses burial as a way to disown the letter and to refuse being privatelysubjected by the letter. She instead / I instead ecstatically ritualise herpoverty / my poverty, and her otherness / my otherness to ownershipof objects, and evacuate the self into love.

From ‘Comic Timing’ (Granta Poetry, £10.99)

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