The erudition of a monster is a hard, cruel thing,
the way it makes a body ache, stitch to stitch,
with all it will not, cannot, know. But crueler still
is how the erudition fades, how Frankenstein rose
from the grave of his book into film after film
of a modern age, and lost his tongue to some pre-
modern problem, half-conceived, half-distorted.
Dear bewildered Boris Karloff. We looked on him
the way one looks at a ruined castle. The storm
that flashes through it. The temperamental child.
But then, if we are watching the uncut version,
we meet Maria. And no sooner our sole fugitive
becomes a child’s child. They are throwing flowers
to watch them float, and when he comes to his last,
he stares into his empty hands. We are the book
of those hands, our pages blank, longing to be turned
toward some moment of redemption. Those hands,
we know from experience, have blood and music
written over them already. And not just anyone’s.
Which is why the censors cut them off, cut the scene
entirely, why Frankenstein’s confusion (his vision of her
as one more flower made to float) climaxed in a cry
too sharp to be endured. Whatever the horror, the heart
of it is dying. Beast swallows beast, cameras turn away,
because our Marias are just too small, too close,
too beloved to suffer the innocence of monsters.