Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beyond Sleepy Hollow

The road between dreams and reality is one that must be negotiated....
                                                                                                Jack Zipes
He dreamt of her incessantly, a young woman
wandering through his garden. Her face cameo'd
on the cool, showered  dusk. A pallid impression
of something. Something like the  thistles and lilies
resigned  to bloom as stalks of pain , of pathos

when  called  by time  or inclination. Was it hers or his
that willed them to flower near the gate? Reverie
is never clear They were simply there -- nodding
( along with her) for him to enter and follow.

Always the same place. The house with its peaked roof
and open shutters. A candle burning inside. A jug
of water on the bureau, a bed  with just her shadow
flung  over the mattress, long and angular as the spires

he had seen in Spain. Maiden towers of the church
imprinting  canal or street with their dark outline, a sketch
of what they conveyed. The details absent but open
to whatever the wind  delivered. A litany of leaves,
 petals, saint-lipped  whispers...

And in this dream,  she kept pleading to return-- not rising
from the bones but through the breadth of his stories. The architecture
of his heart that had fallen in love with Europe
and was about to rebuild her shrine. Her place and purpose.

Each time, he awoke thirsty, the scent of candle smoke mingling
with a humid sun. His quill on the table. His head aching with rain.

Washington Irving  is famously known for Rip Van Winkle and The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow but his talent and breadth of writing extends way beyond that.  He took a tour of Europe in his late twenties and fell in love with the landscape and the old architecture of castles and Churches. In particular, he loved the Moorish history and terrain of Northern Spain. He wrote short stories and essays about his travels. Before becoming quite a prolific writer and tourist, he fell in love with young woman named Matilda Hoffman. She literally become the "love of his life" and they were engaged to be married. She tragically died at  17 of typhoid fever, maybe yellow, and he never got over her death. In a letter to a literary friend, he wrote that he never married or thought of marrying because he dreamed of her  incessantly. And I used that word deliberately in the first line of the poem. Now whether Matilda was present in the role of some of his female characters, I don't know; but I made that assumption for the poem. Upon returning from Europe, he did metaphorically say he had fallen in love with the continent as if it were a woman who had infatuated him.

Could Matilda's beauty, love of art and music, sense of dreams and passion been channeled into his descriptive verve and spirit that echoed throughout his Sketchbook and essays on Europe? Perhaps, but that is the contention of my poem. Because he meets her in recurring dreams, the only way he can allow her to live and breathe in his daily life, is through his stories and writing. That way, beyond memory, she becomes a creative part of his work, his life and routine. She awakens his imagination and speaks to him in a way that only artists and writers can understand. It is a negotiation bridging that world of dreams with that of reality


No comments: