The middle of the day grew so fat and hot that it shuddered and broke right open, became a wet greenness, leaves silvered over and dripping. My dirty secret is that I was happier at the screendoor, bracing my hands against my back and watching the rain pound the magnolia tree, than I'd been all day. The broken-open middle of the day was cool and quiet. I framed possible pictures but did not take them. I pulled the extension cord onto the porch, cleared the past year's dirt from the top of a bookshelf out there, plugged in a lamp, and curled in the wicker chair, cardiganed against the damp, to read my way closer to the end of the Brownings' love letters. I've reached September 1846: they've sneaked Elizabeth Barrett out of her father's house and gotten married now; all that's left for them to do is finish planning and run away to the continent, to live their Italian love affair.

But back in July 1846, E.B.B. has written to Browning, "Don't let me slide out of your mind through this rift in the rock. I catch at the jutting stones."

A weekend like this one weighs hard. A weekend like this one leaves me rifting, feeling for stones that no longer jut, finding buds that will always be this highly scented, this tautly closed.