After he reads his poems with his Irish accent, so that I don’t understand his words, and when I do, I don’t understand his meaning, his wife follows him to read to us her short story. Her name is Zadie Smith.
We are in a church. The pews are full. She switches from her English accent to an American accent and reads her first person story in the voice of God, who alludes to Whitman when He says He contains multitudes. She says after her reading that she did not know she would be reading in a church.
I buy two copies of the same book for her to sign, one for me and one for a friend who lives across the country but knows I am here and holds Zadie Smith dear. I don’t know what the book is about and the first story I know by Zadie Smith is the one she just read.
I wait in her signing line and soon she will say hello, sign her name twice for me, and move on to the next book. I am searching for a meaning in these events.
Here is what I find:
Whitman, in “Song of Myself,” said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself (I am large, I contain multitudes).”
He meant, I think, that he was so big he could not be defined.
The Irish man married to the English woman with Caribbean ancestry reading with an American accent a story in a church in God’s voice to me and one hundred others on a Spring evening at Wesleyan and who will write my friend’s name in her book.
The moment contains multitudes.