Mary Shelley: Nurturing Death

A dead mother gave me life, the source for my

Bewilderment, my imagination, my language derived from

Death and everything that grows from it.

Icons of death, I created, as my mother created, you could call it

Vicious circles, monstrosities, I call it love for all uncradled obscurities within and without us.


I had faith in the fruits of death, I thought that I could

Endure and nurture the blossoming of everything doomed

Degenerate and decadent. Love made me a thief, love made him

An oath-breaker. We found each other again, in darkness, resurfacing

The light that rose high between us both and nobody could see.


There had been worlds within us, between us, and we voyaged through

Them like ghosts, in love, introspection, there had been so much language

And prosperity, we wandered across endless inner lives where we never lost each other.

They had expulsed us, loathed our bodies together, the real world had been poor.

We focused on what brought us together, the invisible force that feeds us all over centuries.


Did I owe something to her? Your first wife, I think of her and try not to

Put myself in her shoes. Love is honest, the circumstances are anything but.

And I think of my mother. What do women do to each other? And men?

Did I do something to her? She rarely crossed my mind, I followed my heart

Everywhere I went, could I be wrong? Hurting her was not on my mind.


And then it happened, I had been given love, and death claimed

My daughter, stole her violently from my motherly embrace.

I got to feel the weight of the other side. Would I have consented to

Exchange my life for hers? Your first wife dedicated herself to her

Self-murder, -what could be salvaged-, we married.


I thought of us as resilient, as functional islands, where life

And death walk hand in hand, but then two other children

Of ours died and I felt absorbed. Did I curse my womanhood?

My unreached motherhood? Two malfunctioning bodies that cannot

Coexist? I questioned the universe, my growth, why did I matter then?


What did I give birth to? A son, he carries you and an Italian city in his name, and he survived.

And then I found you deceased, drowned, taken away from me.

My hands empty, my heart a dry sponge, too much, too much, eradicating water.

Italy had been our dream, not just mine, I went back to a life I had rejected.

A brain tumour infested the body part where all my life had taken place

And he drew a miniature from my dead face and immortalised it along with the words I

Had given to the world that would starve me if I wouldn’t feed it.

mary shelley

“Portrait of Mary Shelley” by Richard Rothwell (1800-1868)


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