Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Emily Coming In From The Moors

 we are also living the stories we planted - knowingly or unknowingly - in ourselves
                                                                                                              Ben Okri   
She enters the house with her skirts
frayed and field-stained. Her left hand
bitten by a dog. Oblivious to  pain, she grabs
a washbowl, hot iron from the hearth, rags
that were once her  brother's linen shirt.
Soon the wound is cauterized and dressed. In
the glass, she glances at her  face. Tangling hair
resembles the shade of dried blood -- or is the  broom grass
ruffling the broad lands in thick disarray. The thought
lingers along with the day's trauma
but none of its makes news in her diary. Her fingers
 pull aside a pale ribbon 
as if yielding to the mundane --  and she writes;
Branwell is coming home on a train from London.
There will be storm clouds over the moors and cold
gusts when he returns. We must ready the house
with plenty of light and food. Lay out fresh linens
and sheets of music on the piano. I think
I will play him a concerto by Liszt.
Then she shuts the leather shutters of her journal
and ends a daily routine. Rubbing her injured hand
 she remembers where  she disembarked
(days before)  and leans again into the twilight
of  that half-imagined scene. A girl clings
to the granite  ledge of a window
watching the young people inside.
Her legs  are scratched by the bramble;
and her ankle bone shines
like a white moon  drawing
the howl of wind and pit bull
straining to seize
the beautiful intruder.

Having seen the wonderful and uniquely crafted book sculptures on "The Myth and Moor"  blog site sponsored by author/artist, Terri Windling, I was left awestruck by the scope and diversity of the art. The one image  that haunted me long after the initial viewing, was a piece called "I shall not; finding out the secret" by Justin Rowe. 

The pages cut and left billowing as waves  along with the winsome girl standing near the edge , brought to mind Emily Bronte. Standing there with her bustle skirt wrinkled and a sprig of broom in her hand, I thought of the Victorian author coming in from the gust-swept moors. A poem was beginning to form as I also recalled a recent article in The Paris Review. The magazine's feature focused on the enigma of  Bronte's reclusive nature paralleled with the wild and expressive prose she exhibited in her masterpiece, Wuthering Heights. It contended that the diarist writings of this woman along with her letters were mundane and  unassuming. The reader as well as the author of the essay would be inclined to ask,  Then how could such a reticent  person write with that depth of passionate risk and abandon? 

My poem attempts to answer this question with its openings scene where Emily enters with her hand bitten by a wild dog. Without hesitation, she tends to the wound and then proceeds to write in her journal. The contrast between what she writes, what she has experienced  and what she later imagines as a continuing scene in her novel, is  distinct and diverse. It underscores the epigram by Ben Okri. In the appearance of our nature and everyday life, we function one way--  but underneath, imagination stirs and we slip into those stories that shape our inner desires and other identity. Maybe the shadow of our character that keeps its distance but still casts its influence through art.
I should also mention the poem's reference to the dog bite and dressing of the wound is based on an incident from her real life.
Credits and Links:
Justin Rowe's Gallery:
Article in Paris Review:
 Terri Windling's Blog, Myth and Moor:


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