Mark Twain and Dorothy Quick
Sit for Photographs, 1907
by Rob Hardy

                It was beautiful, surpassingly beautiful, enchantingly beautiful;
                and now it is lost, and I shall not see it any more.
                                                        —
Mark Twain, Eve’s Diary (1906)


In the beginning of another century,
they sat in the garden, her head on his shoulder,
her white dress drifting against his white suit,
snowflake and glacier, two clean white pages,
as if he were God, and she an outgrowth of His own rib,

Adamless.  She was the first of the well-behaved
little girls he collected in old age—his Angelfish,
floating decorously in white dresses through
his billiard room, or sitting for photographs, their bodies
a concentration of chemicals and sunlight.  Here,

he holds a cigar in his right hand, and she holds a black
box in her lap—a purse or a Brownie camera—
and it is hard with our post-Freudian eyes not to read
sex into the picture, lurking symbolically like a snake.
Puberty would expel them from his garden.  His angels

would fall into bodies that marked time, and would only
remind him he was old.  He wanted them to stay
as they were in photographs, shimmering beside him,
white on white, a comet for the beginning
and for the end of life.  He collected them in the photographer’s

black box, the bright images of his Angelfish swimming
out of darkness, their white bodies developing
into pure absence.  Here, his cigar will never burn down,
and can never be enjoyed,  and the photograph can only show him
his desire to possess an innocence he has already lost.



                    ____________________________


Rob Hardy’s poetry has appeared in the anthology 33 Minnesota
Poets
(Nodin Press, 2000), in three anthologies published by Grayson
Books, and in numerous literary journals.  His chapbook,
The
Collecting Jar
, won the 2004 Grayson Books Poetry Chapbook
Competition.  His essays have also been published in
New England
Review
, North Dakota Quarterly, and Brain, Child: The Magazine
for Thinking Mothers
.  Hardy has worked as a stay-at-home father, a
freelance writer for Minnesota Public Radio, a classics professor, and
a homeschool tutor.


On “Mark Twain and Dorothy Quick Sit for Photographs, 1907”:

First of all, I don’t think there was anything improper in Twain’s
friendships with “the angel-fishes.”  When he was in his seventies,
and his own daughters were all grown up, he made friends with little
girls, ten- to fifteen-year olds.  There is a book by Dorothy Quick about
her friendship with Twain, called
Enchantment (later retitled Mark
Twain & Me
).  Twain loved the innocence and openness of the girls.  If
anything, I think he wished he were one of them—that he could be that
youthful and innocent and lovely in every way.  I think (as I try to
suggest in the poem) that the problem is with us, that we have a hard
time believing in the purity of his intentions.  

Here are three lines from an unfinished poem I tried to write from the
point of view of the old Mark Twain, addressing Dorothy Quick:

I think the best an old man can do for the world
is to love as I love you, for the life I can never share,
for the world you will love when I am gone.

That’s how I see it: he loved these girls because they were full of life and
hope and innocence, full of qualities he had lost or was losing.  They made
an increasingly cynical old man believe that the world was still beautiful
and good.


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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Literature
 

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 1, Number 2
(Fall 2006)

Copyright © 2006
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

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Valley Review
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