Phillip Crymble

Biography of a Story

for Shirley Jackson

Shelved among the thirteen miles of boxes in the LOC —
protected now from light and migrant acids — stray lingins

and humidity — the outsized leather scrapbook in your archive
waits in air-conditioned darkness like an overwritten codex

or a clavicle of alchemy. On the cover, ripped and incomplete —
the folio you tore from The New Yorker, scissored, held in place

by glue — the strips of old adhesive tape applied to mend it
frail and ossified — as yellow as a witch’s teeth. Inside, affixed

with staples, paste, and rubber-based epoxies — all those letters
of displeasure, condemnation and abuse. “Outrageous,” “grim

and gruesome,” “a perversion of democracy.” Subscribers
in their hundreds asked if what you wrote was true. As if

they understood that blame and female sacrifice were things
they thought they recognized — things they thought they knew.



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