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386 pages, Hardcover
First published November 3, 2009
"As a new mother, I used to cup my son's downy head with wild tenderness and marvel at his heavy slump in my arms, and for the few moments his china-blue eyes fixed on mine before they closed, it was as if the sky had been boiled down and rendered into that small gaze. Those first months, I fed him from myself. And doing so felt like the first true and good act I'd managed in my whole slipshod life."
"But humming through me like a third rail was poetry, the myth that if I could shuffle the right words into the right order, I could get my story straight, write myself into an existence that included the company of sacred misfit poets whose pages kept me company as a kid. Showing up at a normal job was too hard."
"I was empress of that small kingdom and ruled it all weathers. Sleet, subzero winds, razor-slicing rain. I'd just slide a gloved hand over my tumbler, back hunched against the door. I defended my time there like a bull with a lowered head, for that was the only space in the world I had control of."
"However long I've been granted sobriety, however many hours I logged in therapists' offices and the confessional, I've still managed to hurt you, and not just the divorce when you were five, with its attendant shouting matches and slammed doors.
"Just as my mother vanished from my young life into a madhouse, so did I vanish when you were a toddler. Having spent much of my life trying to plumb her psychic mysteries, I now find myself occupying her chair as plumbee..."
"In Odyssean terms, I'd wanted to be a hero, but wound up - as Mother did - a monster."
"Maybe by telling you my story, you can better tell yours, which is the only way to get home, by which I mean to get free of us."
"What hell do we have that we didn't construct?"