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Hello? Did you kill yourself yet?
he wrote.
Where are you at?
Been a while since we spoke…


(based upon Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”)

Edna, at a very early period,
“apprehended instinctively the dual life
—that outward existence which conforms,
the inward life which questions.”

Bejeweled by societal customs
Of the customary “wife,”
Trapped in domestic ennui
That her soul and spirit despise.

“…life appeared to her like
a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like
worms struggling blindly
toward inevitable annihilation.”

That bad.
Until one man,
And music by an offensive supernatural outcast
…named Reisz.

“It was then, in the presence of that personality
which was offensive to her, that the woman, [Mademoiselle Reisz],
by her divine art, seemed to reach
Edna’s spirit and set it free.”

What Reisz unlocked in the woman,
was unleashed…

“Fantaisie-Impromptu,” Reisz played by Chopin
Oh, do play it again and again!
The music trembled Edna’s spine.
But “perhaps it was the first time
she was ready, perhaps the first time
her being was tempered to take
an impress of the abiding truth.”

It awakened passions in her soul
That thrashed about like ocean.
It aroused in her a fondness for a man
With whom she’d fall in love.

And to feel it deep
And to feel it wide
And to feel it sweep her
And to feel it inside
She walked to the beach
To the sound of the sea
She took off her clothes
And in she dove.

And in the starlight
She swam with all her might
“she seemed to be reaching out
for the unlimited in which to lose herself.”

She went too far, felt it a dream and terror-death
She swam back, exhausted, lay in a hammock.
(I too went too far, felt it a nightmare, terror-death
Thanks for carting me to couch away from the rickshaw!)

The lover, admiring her reeling, uttered: Si tu savais!
While the boring husband told her to dry off and come in.
To the lover she said: “A thousand emotions have swept through me to-night.
I wonder if I shall ever be stirred again
as Mademoiselle Reisz’s playing move me to-night.”

The Lover joked of her being mesmerized by feeling
Said it was all the doing of some sky-fairies.
That on the 28th of August the semi-celestials go hunting
And they’ve put a spell here on this young New Orleans beauty.

This cheeky lover was warned by a married friend of his:
“She is not one of us; she is not like us.”
Meaning: “She might make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously”
If you act with her as if you’re in love.

So the lover went away and Edna went insane a bit
Moved out of the family home to be on her own
And she’d secretly visit Reisz who had the lover’s letters
And would reveal how the lover asked of Edna often.

“I didn’t think you’d come” tonight, said
Mademoiselle Reisz, the witchy supernatural mystic.
Re-read to young Edna of what the lover penned:
He does not write you because “he loves you, poor fool,
and is trying to forget you, since you are not free to listen to him.”

Oh, the constraints of marriage!
Oh, the folly of possession!
Oh, the age differences!
Oh, the bloody distance!

“Do you suppose a woman knows why she loves?
Does she select? ‘I shall set my heart upon this musician,
whose fame is on every tongue?’
Or, ‘This financier, who controls the world’s money markets?’”

The lover came back to town and acted like a friend
Until Edna kissed him and he admitted his love then
Passions sizzled, they wanted to go further
But she was summoned to help a sick friend.

Stay here, I’ll return and finally be together then!
But when she returned there was a note that read:

“I love you. Good-by—because I love you.”

Now, Mademoiselle Reisz said that to be an artist
You have to have a courageous soul.
She knew Reisz would be mocking her as a coward
For throwing herself facedown to drown herself
in the ocean.

But this is what me and Edna do!
We a’Muse, we die, we a’wake.
We fight for feeling
We get off our heads spinning
And for the love of life,
We break with tradition,
We take
After we are done giving:

© Sylvie Hill 2014

dixon / “Plunderous” / 80x70cm / spray paint and acrylic on paper / 2014 // painting for Railbender Gallery, group show, Ottawa.

“Plunderous” is an artwork by dixon (aka Juan Carlos Noria). It is about a princess who takes anything she wants. I adapt this concept to a female like myself who [m]uses men to resurrect the tradition and warnings of dead heroines among our consciousness, but – selfishly – also as a survival tactic. Where death is a poetic conclusion for a literary heroine to escape the pain she suffers after awakening to feeling, touching the void, accessing magic, or simply reveling from a transformative connexion, in real-life us ladies have to go on, right? To do this, the female poet, here, takes/begs/borrows/steals/rapes/pillages/usurps whatever she needs from her experience with her Muse, and at all costs (hopefully, avoiding lawsuits), to beat the death trap. In my case, I am lucky: my Muse does not respond and keeps silent – dead to us both. In this, my Muse gives me life. Like Mademoiselle Reisz whose music awakens Edna to feel and to live beyond the rules that plague her soul and to break free from the confines of how/who women are “supposed” to love, so too did my “Reisz” Muse. Poetry is how I live my reincarnation. It was funny how one day after not hearing from me for a week, my friend, who became the Muse, wrote me: “Did you kill yourself yet?” in sardonic jest/joust. I smiled: music to the poet inside me. Today, I’d tell him: No, man. Current position: Just holding on for life …