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Anna's Eternal Sorrow - (collaboration)

……The subtle winds touch the most intricate places of the gardens, of the entwining paths and walls of hedges, of eggs in nests held safe by the arms of trees, of women’s faces as they grow red from the chill. Provoking whispering movement; gestures from daisies and quivers from wrens, words and life and music notes seizing the moment to be freed, to flow, from beaks and hearts, falling leaves and memories. And caressing one young woman in particular, who hears what the wind speaks and sees the transparencies; who perceives this quiet language and responds in her own delicate way. She allows her gaze to be drawn once again, trance-like, to the far, unfrequented reaches of these haunting grounds; of this shadowy plateau of rememberings, to where she hears the undying beatings of a forgotten heart… The young woman muses aloud…..

‘Who is she, and why does she linger so long with that headstone over there? Does she roam every day, with her beautiful sorrow her only companion, on that simple piece of earth wherein his bones rest? Her yearning; I can feel it from here each time I come. She makes me wonder if it is my own… Sometimes when I lay in bed at night, I wonder if it is her desire that fills my soul… And sometimes I wonder if those despairing fragments of my own heartache, have detached from my flesh and manifested themselves as an illusion; a mirror; as this phantom that haunts me, while she haunts the grave of lost love’.

‘It’s always at this time of late afternoon that I see her; shortly after the sun disappears behind those tall trees, she comes? But when I go to her, to ask her, after I have watched my feet manoeuvre down those three old overgrown stone steps to assure my safety, and again look up; she is always gone! And, each time at this very same spot something strange occurs. I feel this absolute urge in my body to turn and leave, while my curiosity almost insists that I stay… My body always wins… Why are the impulses of the body so strong? Perhaps it is because at the moment my heart is weak… Regardless, I always leave.’

‘So why does she still come? … Perhaps this is where she died; yes maybe that’s it… She was tragically romantic, musing upon words of love with her melancholy air, in this beautiful park where the scent of the nearby ocean lingers. Perhaps this farthest corner with the solitary grave gave comfort to her own isolation… Perhaps she had never known love, real love, and feared she never would, then one day she simply died of heartache, right here. I myself know this place to be so far from anywhere…. Would she wonder who he was, of the life he lived, of the way he loved? Would she wonder how he held his lovers feminine exterior in his strong, tender arms, or what expression fell upon his face when he kissed her…? When she lay on the earth above him, did he lay with her, could she feel this spectres essence on her skin, caressing her loneliness with his…? Or perhaps he took something from her and she waits ever for its return. Maybe he stole her words, her money, or her heart; betraying her trust, her innocence…’
‘Well whatever her fate Ma, the sun has sunk too low for me to stay any longer. But I’ll see you same time tomorrow with some chocolate from that little Deli you love. You know, I’ve grown quite fond of the manager there, though I’m sure a man of his sophistication would never be interested in a dreamer like me… A kiss from my lips to your cheek, I love you…’

……Wild violets cloak the bush rock boundaries of the main path, opening wide to greet the jasmine smothered archway of the large gothic gates. A wheelbarrow stands abandoned, despite bearing the load of work. A stray cat licks then wipes her grey face with her white paw. The bushes on the right startle, the young woman startles too. Dirt smeared black boots, blue overalls, his grey beard emerges; secateurs in one hand, twigs in the other. Her sandals forget to walk, an exchange; of curious and suspicious glances and words… Her sandals make a brisk reply to the last calls of the pink horizon. The latch of her door is raised. The pregnant moon graces the stars. Eyelids fall heavy clutching endless thought, then gently open again with the birds of morn. A familiar day slips by in fascination, in rumination… The young woman closes her eyes as she turns the corner, and lets her stocking filled sandals follow the fragrant jasmine into wrought iron arms. She opens them to wild violets as a crow crosses her path. She runs clumsily through the tangents to where her mother waits, throwing herself wistfully on the clover, she splutters sentences amid gasping for breath…..

‘Oh Ma, I now know the real story to be far more tragic than I had pondered earlier. For yesterday when I was leaving, I spoke with that kind old gardener who has worked here for so long. I asked him of the woman who haunts that grave over there, and though he looked upon my question rather strangely, he told me that her name was Anna, that she had only just been married to the man who lies there when tragedy occurred.’

‘He told me rumour had it, a dark fate fell upon them after they began residing in their marital home; with her beloved falling ill to fever two short months after they made their union. And though Anna was spared the fever she called upon the doctor regularly due to her own increasing night terrors and spells of anxiety… It was four months after their delightful wedding that the man she loved so endearingly surrendered himself to the other side. Anna apparently never recovered, retaining a sombre composure at best and a severe darkness of spirit at worst…’
‘I asked him what became of their ill-fated house, and he pointed over towards those hills past the church, saying there is some land beyond them where it once stood. Apparently a few weeks after her husband’s death, in a fit of madness, Anna burnt the house; and everything in it, to the ground. And ‘twas from that day on, she came to frequent his grave daily, bringing flowers, poetry and sometimes afternoon tea… Then one day around the first anniversary of his death, the townsfolk witnessed the wildest storm they had seen in over twenty years. The moon was dark and the clouds were thick and low, looming like spirits from the sky, reaching down, perhaps for her soul… They say she offered it to them; that she wailed for the gods to take her too, insisting she could not carry on without his soul by her side…’

‘The official report of her death was that she slipped; fatally hitting her head on the bottom stone step during the worst of the storm while she was visiting his grave. Though there were those who spoke within the privacy of locked rooms, of the real reason for her demise. They say she herself had taken a concoction of herbs; herbs known throughout time to bring the angel of death to ones door. That she had been found lying upon the earth of his grave, rather than with her head broken upon the step. Then there are those who say it was both, that she had lost consciousness from the herbs and fallen to her death, with the stone step a mere accidental pillow. Anna’s family and the officials however, always remained firm that this was complete nonsense, maintaining it was a tragic accident that killed a lost, lone, yet beloved woman…’

‘How completely terrible Ma; to find your love, only to lose them, then to succumb to death yourself so young… And I wonder what it was about that house? I mean, to raze it to the ground like that… Perhaps the mere memory of what took place there was means enough…
I think I might call by old Murphy’s pub on the way home, to linger in the company of those known and unknown; to hear the wild stories twisting through the lives of other souls for a while, so that I may forget about Anna, least for tonight. I’ll be back in a few days with some new gardenias, these ones will wither soon. Love you.’

……Shadows begin to loiter on footpaths and walls. The alcohol seeped carpet welcomes partakers, as its sticky stench rises, mingling with coarsely struck chords, leeching from a mouldy guitar. Banter and crude jokes cling from the roof with cigarette smoke, while a weathered barmaid pours the ale with her bitterness. Familiar faces ease a young woman’s awkwardness. The wine soothes her senses. The kindness of neighbours sees her home. Her head thankful to find her bed……Hours traverse through the following days filled with various occupations. Thoughts roam off ahead, this way and that. A phantom image captivates. A reaching arm, a yearning heart, stealing over the usual landscapes……

‘Ma you’ll never guess, today my will sustained victory! Before I came to sit with you, I made my way close and read the inscription on the headstone that Anna haunts; of the man who lies beneath. His name was Michael, and he was certainly cherished by his kin; judging by the words of love they left for him anyway… I still feel sad for his short life though, he was as young as I Ma, they both were, stolen from life before they had really begun to live it, not even 25, and so long ago too… Well anyway, here are some fresh flowers to brighten things up around here; they have such a lovely scent, so delicate and sweet, I left one on Michael’s grave for Anna before…’
‘Have you noticed Ma, that things seem different today..? Somehow more vivid, it seems very strange to me, but wonderful. Like my senses had formed calluses over themselves; some kind of armour, but today it seems I am shedding all of that which silences and conceals… Today there are all these little doors opening with curiosities peeking through, and I want to touch them… My routines have grown so dull Ma, that in my apathy I hardly noticed that I could be living so much more than I am. I have succumbed to my lot; what I have accepted life to be… I have lost the spark that more is possible, and I have watched desire go unfed for too long, while I reason with my heart that ‘beauty is where you choose to see it, so we mustn’t be looking hard enough!’ …But today Ma, beauty beckons me forth from the most peculiar places and I want nothing more than to take her dainty hand and be led through her forest… Oh look! It’s that nice old gardener, he’s waving me over to the silky oaks… I best go, I’ll come back to visit you on the weekend and I’ll tell you of all the new things I’ve touched with my senses…’

……Reluctance begins to creep over the young woman’s posture as the swift winds lift abruptly, curling through every opening of her overcoat. She gathers it close. The old gardener’s stare embraces her every movement toward him, chilling her more… He waits for her… stooped over the handle of his upright shovel… As she draws near him, grave words waste no time in rolling from crumpled lips; kindness cowers behind stern sentences, stumbling from worn and whiskered skin. The young woman, wide-eyed, clutching the tourmaline inside her pocket, listens to them……

‘Young lass, I must ask you not to return to the far edges of this graveyard; to never again go beyond your mother’s grave… I’ve seen you down by those old steps that lead to the headstone where Anna walks, and each time I’ve seen her turn you away; I’ve seen her arms on your shoulder and around your waist, turning you around as she speaks something into your ear, then she always returns back to his grave as you walk away… I’ve never bothered to say anything, for I’ve seen Anna turn others away before, so it seemed harmless enough. But not today Lass, Not today… ‘Tis by no coincidence she let you walk to his grave today; did you wonder not, why you had been permitted to walk where before she had forbid you… Naive thing, had you only gone to that other withered corner of this cemetery, where I told you she lay, you would have known today to be the day she passed on from this life…’

‘They say for 200 years her loss has held her captive in that same spot. Paying little attention to those of us with flesh who might be able to sense her, other than keeping them from Michael’s grave, that is. Until you my dear; a woman of her age with that same sorrow in your beautiful eyes….. And now I know what she must have been saying to you all those times, ‘today I turn you away, but you must return on the 29th of May’… Oh child, but now it is too late, look! She is no longer grieving by his grave; I saw her leave with you today, with her hands around your waist. And now she is unseen to my eyes, but I feel her strong as ever. And your colour doesn’t seem quite right; there is a new coolness to your hue and some strange shadow in your aura that wasn’t there the other day… I’ve worked long in this place, I’ve seen many things and I tell you now Lass, you must go by the church and see the priest at once; he will rid her from you and lay her to rest once and for all. Hurry girl, make haste, you do not want the weight of an old grieving ghost attached to your soul…’

……Clovers flatten… A stray cat scurries… The Scorpio moon sneaks upon the horizon, as a young woman rounds the last pine tree to her mother’s grave……

‘Ma I have returned sooner than we both thought. That old gardener told me that Anna has taken possession of my soul, that I must go to the priest so that she may be exorcised and I may be saved. He scared me terribly… So I walked straight to the church and as I approach the edges of the building, I rounded the corner toward the doors of the priest who would save me. And I walked straight past those doors Ma and crept back here to say goodbye to you. To tell you that though he labels me possessed, I prefer it that I have a new, hmm.., friend. And I tell you, catching glimpses of life through her eyes is a delectable treat… She wants to journey with me beyond our countryside Ma; she wants to show me some of the wondrous joys of the living that I read so much of. And in my mind I have already packed my bag and booked the ticket…’
‘So now I must go straight home, I will put on my long blood-red velvet dress, with my black cloak, and I will board the next bus to the next city in whatever direction it is heading, where I shall allow my intuitions to find me and guide me. I will meet new people and learn of new things, I shall allow the flavours of foreign foods to permeate my skin, while nature reveals to me the many shades of her seasons. I shall meet with love and mingle with streams of brushstrokes and words, and write songs of such things to enchant the ears of those who wish to listen… For I will learn of the ways of the soul while I sit with the muse; I shall learn the rhythms of my path, while I decipher the language of my own heart. For Anna wants to taste life again Ma, even if just for a little while, and now after so many stagnant, reclusive years, in this stark township in which I was raised, so do I…’
‘So though I step out into the unknown now Ma, with little more than my senses and this tumbling desire chartered upon my map, I want you to know that I am happy, and please do not worry. I shall return to you in a month or two, and I shall think of you often… Anna tells me that the old gardener will retire from here very soon, and that he will be replaced by another, quite gruff man, many years his junior. That this new gardener will prefer not to converse with the mourners, and in regards to her, he will be none the wiser; so when we return, I may come unrecognised and Anna unseen.’

‘And when we do come home again Ma, I know that once more Anna will leave my acquaintance. But not before I thank her and tell her, that this is one of those times when it is better that she cannot touch or be touched. For if she could I would be smothering her with wild kisses and squeezing her too tightly; for the gift she gave; for holding up her lantern to light my dim path… And then she will turn from me, vanish, and re-appear on that top stone step other there. From where she will glance over her left shoulder and wave goodbye to me, and I will blow her one of those wild kisses on the wind. Then at once, she will forget all about me, and return, with her eternal sorrow to her beloved’s grave.’

Anna's Eternal Sorrow - (collaboration)

LilyMunroe

Joined August 2008

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Inspired from a photo by Johanne Brunet

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