Ella Frears

Eurydice – Mourning Pages

 

Preface

These are my morning pages.
Though us inhabitants of the eternal basement have no rising sun, no morning to speak of, no sleep from which to wake and write our first thoughts, my mind can’t help but enact day, night. A force of habit – dragging a morning up through my brain’s ethereal mist. Drawing a curtain of evening down with my eyelids. Divorced from time, dawn and dusk are emotional states. They are never not a decision.

These are the parts of me that remain human. Mimicking life.
These are the parts I wish to preserve.

I

.                                •  Mirage of a roast bird as though through a dirty oven window.
.                                •  Sudden shadow in the shape of a lemon tree.

.
                                Today I nearly remembered salt.

As a girl, I loved food. fire, steam, a pot with two handles a –

I find the act of remembering, by which I mean trying to remember, distressing. The atmosphere here resists any kind of effort – makes it impossible to dredge the lake of my unconsciousness for anything. It’s easier to wait until an image, a sensation, a smell floats across. I keep a food diary of sorts. Repeat it; a mantra to feel fed.

.                                • An echo like the sound of wine being poured.
.                                • Sudden shadow in the shape of a lemon tree.

The first time I died, I missed life. But gently. As one might miss their childhood. Sweet and cloudy. Always permeated with a feeling like falling asleep with the sun on your face. I didn’t mind. I drifted. Whispered his name. I let my mind wander through the ghosts of trees. I let go, took forgetfulness on like a lover.

Then there he was. Orpheus. Not drifting but walking. Striding. Singing…

After the second death, life – being alive – throbbed like a phantom limb. Its absence twinged in me.

.                                Today I nearly remembered salt.

.                                •  Sudden shadow in the shape of a lemon tree.
.                                •  Does mud count?

II

I remember the first death. The snakebite.
Heat and tightness.
I felt those two points of no return pierce my ankle.
Saw the striped rope of my sandal disappear into the grass.
I fell and everything was vivid and warm.
The smell of the earth in that moment was better than anything.
It opened up – the ground – or maybe I closed my eyes.
I remember thinking. Oh. and then. Oh well.

.                                •  An echo like the sound of wine being poured.
.                                •  A thought about a thought about fish fresh from the river.
.                                •  Violent yearning for the sun

Sometimes I forget where I am. I’ll hold my breath and start counting. I’ll pass a hundred. A thousand. Five thousand and realise I need never breathe again. The embarrassment of remembering you’re dead. The embarrassment of embarrassment when there’s no one else around.

Half reaching into a pocket for something that isn’t there. Wondering what the weather will be like. Journaling the morsels I almost taste.

III

.                                •  An argument involving a pomegranate
.                                •  The notion of ambrosia (even that – delicious!)
.                                •  And laughter has a taste now, I find myself chewing it like gum.

With no one to talk to, no one to measure myself against, I’ve lost a sense of how I should be. I’d always been quiet, focussed on softness. Now I feel restless, hungry, there’s a small, hard kernel at the heart of me. I hate it. This part of myself. But I know that if anyone tried to take it from me, I’d kill them.

.                                •  a phantom olive
.                                •  the thought of dough, proving under a cloth.

IV

Coming back to life didn’t hurt at all. More like a familiar drug kicking in. Taking the edge off death. It was lovely.

A resurrection is not a reset button. You don’t return to your ‘factory setting.’

I followed him out of the underworld, but I wasn’t looking at him. I was ready to overtake, buoyant, brimming. Maybe you’ll be shocked – I felt horny. Lusty, not for him, not for anything in particular, rather for everything. In that moment, I felt I could take the whole world, its oceans, its mountains, its gods inside me and fuck it all. Can you imagine! Me, the pretty girl with lowered eyes and a body even a snake desired – pinning the earth, riding it and all its creatures to the afterlife.

.                                •  Sudden shadow in the shape of a lemon tree.
.                                •  a thought about a thought about a fish fresh from the river.
.                                •  a thin mist, cold tasting, menthol

He looked. Of course. As his eyes met mine, I felt my organs tugged backwards, downwards.
My insides dropped hit the back of my body and then the rest of me fell.

In that moment, the part of me he loved, sang about, the part that was his wife,
slithered away and I haven’t bothered look for it.

V

.                                • Repeated fantasy of butter spread thickly on — no I’ve lost it.

I’ve been having memories that can’t be mine. More lucid than anything of myself I’ve managed to salvage here.

Memory one

.                                .                          I buy something hot and delicious in a paper bag.
.                                .                          I’m walking down the street eating it.

.                                .                          As I pass a garage, a man outside laughs.

.                                .                          Is that good? he asks and I nod, mouth full.
.                                .                          Well careful you don’t eat too much. he says
.                                .                          and the way he looks at me, makes me want to spit it out
.                                .                          and never eat again.

Memory two

.                                .                          On holiday in a warm town,
.                                .                          with walls like over-baked biscuits.

.                                .                          My parents are buying tomatoes.
.                                .                          I’m tightrope walking along a low wall.

.                                .                          I suddenly become aware of a group of men
.                                .                          across the street staring, gleeful,
.                                .                          looking like they’ve stolen something from me.

.                                .                          But I can’t work out what’s missing.
.                                .                          They’re shouting. Calling out to me.
.                                .                          I slip. I fall.

These two memories are the same girl, I think.

After the first, I looked for her here. That drop in her stomach so familiar. But she hadn’t died.

.                                •  sudden shadow of wine being poured
.                                •  violent yearning for wheat

VI

I thought about her, endlessly. I replayed those memories, tried to cut them at the points before the men – the hot good food, the sweet obliviousness. It never worked. I held onto them, mind clenched. But it was like holding onto sand. Then just as I’d almost forgotten her, another one.

Memory three

.                                .                          I’m a teenager, with other teenagers, boys.
.                                .                          They dare me to swim across a lake.
.                                .                          It’s not a big lake and I’m a good swimmer.

.                                .                          I set off. Bravada in a polkadot swimsuit.
.                                .                          Around halfway, the water gets very cold, very dark,
.                                .                          my legs feel unsafe, bare, kicking hard as though trying to kick
.                                .                          something off, away.

This is different. I felt her fear, palpable. Could feel her presence, the ripples coming off her legs like she was right above me, the line between our worlds nothing more than the lake’s surface.

A small part of me hoped she would drown. Hoped she would sink down here, land in my arms. That is what this place does to you. I’m a ghoul. A forgetful, selfish ghoul.
Hades, I can’t judge you now.

VII

.                                • Today I nearly remembered salt
.                                • Today I put my finger in my mouth and tasted myself – I had a taste! I
.                                was a body, I kissed my hand, for – well it could have been years.

Did part of her pass into me? Am I coming back to life? More memories drifted in.

Memory four

.                                .                          I’m in my early twenties, big city. A work
.                                .                          Christmas party, stumbling down steps,
.                                .                          into a tiny mirrored nightclub.

.                                .                          Lights flashing red, blue, green. Dancing.
.                                .                          Syrupy rum and coke in a plastic cup.
.                                .                          At some point the dance floor thins.

.                                .                          In the mirror, pulsating through the colours
.                                .                          I see my married boss’s hand sliding
.                                .                          up my skirt. But I can’t feel it.
.                                .                          I can’t feel anything.

.                                .                          In the mirror his face is fixed
.                                .                          on my body. I meet my own eyes
.                                .                          as he finds what he’s looking for.

Her eyes. Unsettling, the dullness, the deadness. Everything swaying, pulsating but her. Why didn’t she stop him?

Troubled, I suck my salty thumb. Repeat my mantra. Moan into the ether. I want to forget this one. But nothing’s as it was now. Things are shifting.

.                                •  Mirage of an echo, a lemon, a dirty oven window.
.                                •  Sudden shadow of violence proving under a cloth
.                                •  The notion of yearning

VIII

.                                •  Today I nearly remembered salt.
.                                •  a cool mist, an argument

Another memory, this time unannounced. I was pulling the shutters of my eyelids down,
making an evening, and then there it was – a lump in my throat. And I was choking on it.

Memory five

.                                .                          The lake again, but I’m not in the water,
.                                .                          I’m on the muddy bank and the water is on me.
.                                .                          Faceless. Shifting. Heavy. It’s pinning
.                                .                          me down and I think it will crush me.
.                                .                          I kick and kick but my legs don’t make impact.
.                                .                          The sky is dark and cold, I’m losing consciousness,
.                                .                          and then it’s pressing into me, and I can’t
.                                .                          I can’t I

NO, she can’t, not like that. I hit out at the mist, I hold my breath I cough I shout. But the
memory’s gone. I can’t see her anymore.

.                                •  wine, laughter, olive, fish, wine, lemon, laughter…

And then, something, falling from above like a leaf.

Not a memory but a vision. It’s her!

It’s you! I say. She’s shivering, wet. I reach out for her, but she turns away.
No she’s whispering, no please. She can’t see me.

Stay! I shout. But she drifts off into the ghostly wood.

I move to follow but find myself rooted. Wait! I shout.

And that’s when I see them. Not trees, not the ghosts of trees, but women. Everywhere.
Some falling; others drifting, rocking, tears on their faces. Some close enough to touch –
translucent – the mist – they are the mist.

.                                •  wine, laughter, olive, fish, wine, lemon, laughter…

Thousands and thousands of women.

.                                •  mud, mist, lemon,

And me with my second death. Second sight.

.                                •  menthol, violence, pomegranate, sun

Stuck. Rooted. Biting my arm and not bleeding.

.                                •  laughter, olive

Screaming as another girl’s memories begin to filter through.

.                                •  laughter, olive, salt

Screaming as the broken women fall around me.

.                                •  salt fish sun

screaming for how long, I can’t say, I haven’t stopped.

 

Ella Frears is an emerging poet and visual artist. She is a trustee and editor for Magma and published her pamphlet Passivity, Electricity, Acclivity with Goldsmiths Press in 2018. Her first collection is forthcoming from Offord Road Books 2020. She has been writer in residence at the Design Museum, Tate St. Ives, Knole House and Royal Holloway University Physics Department. She has been a Jerwood/Arvon mentee, commended in The National Poetry Competition 2019 and shortlisted for the Out-Spoken and Manchester Poetry Prizes as well as the Young Poet Laureate for London.