Rogue Ladies Who Prefer Elephants and Those Who Prefer Them That Way

The Setting:
The musty, dusty refuge of a forgotten middle school library aisle

The Characters:
My 13-year-old self and fellow study hall refugee boy

The Sacred Object:
Musty, dusty old library book

The Turning Point:
The discovery of the poem “Lady ‘Rogue’ Singleton, which thrilled me with the confirmation of rogue ladies who prefer elephants and miasmas and the general view

The Conflict:
Cheeky, greasy-haired fellow refugee boy says:
“Yeah, but look, it was written by a man!”

The Resolution:
Cheeky-greasy boy, I would learn many years later, was wrong about the poet’s gender. But in that as-yet-unaware 13th year, my heart sank at the thought that Lady Rogue Singleton had been imagined to life by a man. But only for a moment before soaring realization flooded in—so there were also Lord Rogue Singletons in the world! And they also prefer elephants and miasmas and the general view—and the ladies who prefer them, too.

Lady ‘Rogue’ Singleton
by Stevie Smith

Come, wed me, Lady Singleton,
And we will have a baby soon
And we will live in Edmonton
Where all the friendly people run.

I could never make you happy, darling,
Or give you the baby that you want,
I would always very much rather, dear,
Live in a tent.

I am not a cold woman, Henry,
But I do not feel for you,
What I feel for the elephants and the miasmas,
And the general view.

Photograph by Wallace G. Levison. Brooklyn, New York, September 1904