I ransack her room. Loot and pillage. I root in her trunk. Crack open the tightly sprung boxes of satin and plush. Pierce my breast with her butterfly
brooch. I pose in her hats, French berets, mantillas of lace, the veil that falls over her face, the boa she wraps round her neck.
I try on her shoes. her slippers are mules. I can’t walk in her callipered boots. I break into her wardrobe. Hands grope in the dark. Faded bats,
like umbrellas, are humming inside. Stoles of fox-fur and mink : tiny claws, precise nails. Lips clamped in the rictus of death. I’m hot on the scent
of oestrus, umbilicus, afterbirth, eau-de-cologne, I fling myself down on the bed that she made of dirt from the Catacombs, blood
of the saints. Under the counterpane, nettles, goose-feathers, a tore.
from : The New Irish Poets, edited by Selina Guinness Bloodaxe 2004.
I remember well those fox-furs, my own mother was bequeathed a pair and I too delved into the huge old wardrobe, bringing out the fur stoles complete with little curled feet and a golden chain effect that operated as a clasp. The wardrobe revelation is part of most girl’s growing, though only that it were a peaceful thing.
In the meantime, there is a small piece on the trousseau, inheritance and the Island Women on the blog . I quite remember being unable to zip the zipper of my mother’s wedding dress confection onto me at twelve- nor indeed being able to squeeze my toes into the minute satin winkle-pickers that she wore for her wedding day !
EDIT : 25/11/2010 , this is a Reblog of a piece written to mark the 16 day Campaign to eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls.
“Now bloodless and almost fleshless unmoving , unbreathing, voiceless. With eyes half closed and sunken, what matter if -Anna or Maria, the fine lids will never rise, the clenched lips will not move or ever again utter a moan or sigh. And look how already white and strange is that ring upon her hands, crossed forever.
But do you hear her innocent child crying in a cradle nearby. There is her immortal blood, transferred and her soul now resident in this world. days will pass by, years, centuries and the yielded lips of two young lovers will again whisper ‘Anna’ or ‘Maria’, at night amidst the fragrance of spring. The great-granddaughter will bear everything: name, eyes, lips, locks of the other invisible one.
1925. Selected Poems of Elisaveta Bagryana; Penelope of the Twentieth Century Trans, Brenda walker, Valentine Borrisov and Belin Tonchev. Forest Books.
I thought I would put a small excerpt from Cennini’s excellent Il Libro dell’ Arte on the blog today:
“You would have occasion in the service of young ladies, especially those of Tuscany to display certain colours to which they take a fancy. And they are in the habit of beautifying themselves with certain waters. But since the Paduan women do not do so; and so as not to give them occasion to reproach me; and likewise because it is contrary to the Will of God and Our Lady; because of all this I shall keep silence. But I will tell you that if you wish to keep your complexion for a long time; you must take a practice of washing in water-spring or well or river: warning you that if you adopt any artificial preparation your countenance soon becomes withered, and your teeth black; and in the end ladies grow old before the course of time; they come out the most hideous old women imaginable. And this will have to be enough discussion of the matter.”
Quite reminds me of my grandmother’s woe at freckles. Il LibroDell’ Arte is still studied for its excellence in technique in painting,from grinding colours through creating fresco. If one can ignore the jaundiced approach to women… its always best to keep in mind the artistic instruction books were written solely for the benefit of young men hoping to be apprenticed to masters, but he does some pretty good facial and cosmetics advice therein.
The Craftsman’s Handbook , ” Il Libro dell’ Arte “. Cennino d’Andrea
Cennini, Trans, Daniel V. Thompson Jr. Dover. 1960
I am reading a poem while it rains. The day blinks through windows guarded by a griffin; its talons flex, its tail switches. Do you remember those summer showers high in the mountains? The dull pop of a toadstool beneath your bare foot in the dew-covered grass?
Under a crystal bell jar, the still life-fleshy ripe bananas, cherries, lemons and the silver knife you bargained for in the bazaar as the Bhosphorus sparkled at the feet of the one you loved. On the wobbly kitchen table, with that very knife, you slit open a pike. And the hunting rifle, propped against stuffed peacocks- has it turned into a lapdog licking the other woman’s hands as she weighs my pearls….?
In the Forest
I wrote the essential poem on an oar just before setting out. Perhaps long ago it’s been erased or maybe the sea knows it now by feel.
Like the woman in Rousseau’s painting I shudder at the sound of footsteps -when the fear comes on too strong.
The path I follow is a knife blade. maybe this is why the sky behind the forest is now so red.
I wrote the essential poem on an oar just before setting out.
These two poems are taken from the Bloodaxe published book, The Sky Behind the Forest by Poet Liliana Ursu. It is translated by Tess Gallagher and Adam Sorkin.
I really like the book, but I always make one suggestion when recommending it, and that is to read and absorb the beautiful writing before reading the introductory and translators essays.The essays are highly important in establishing the appalling context of censorship under which the poet suffered , but one can feel it also in the powerful writing.
The Sky Behind the Forest, Liliana Ursu. Trans, Liliana Ursu, Tess Gallagher,
Adam J Sorkin. Bloodaxe Books. 1997.