by V. Ulea
Part I: Fever
My sister Anna, tell me, tell me, why,
Why do I feel such sadness in my heart?
Why does my hand, against my will, embroider,
Day after day and hour after hour,
Those birds in cages,
Silent, pensive birds?
Oh, Lisa, dear, trust me. There’s no reason
For your melancholy! The sun is bright,
The sailing clouds are benign and light,
The breeze is gentle and refreshing, Lisa,
It sways the clouds on its wings, it lulls
Birds on the trees, and carries their soft voices.
No, Anna, no! All I can hear is — voids,
Not voices, Anna, voids — crying nulls.
Their silence is so loud! Voids are screaming...
There’s no escape from nothingness.
It’s your imagination, Lisa. Look:
The day is quiet; clarity and bliss
Come from the skies, serene and peaceful.
I am in peace and so you should be, Lisa.
Look, Anna, look at the horizon:
A wild black shine... it darts right here,
Slashing the waves of daylight in distraction
And snatching dew from flowers. I fear,
It is for me this shine is rushing!
You burn with fever... Oh, poor girl!
I’ll brew an herb extract.
I’ll help us stop the outbreak of flu.
Look, Anna, look! I see his beard! It’s blue...
The horseman’s, Anna!
He gallops here. He is determined, stubborn!
He waves his hand, spurs on his horse!
Oh, dear! She is getting worse!
He’s getting closer! He is coming!
I beg you — hide me, hide me Anna!
Hide you from what? There’s nothing I can see!
There’s nothing here! What scares you, Lisa?
Nothing that vacuums every single thing
And every single thought. Its acid
Melts light away, eats energy, corrodes
All memories, all images, all words...
You are impossible when you get sick!
Sick — I am not! Oh, Anna! Don’t you see?
That leak in space through which all lives are vacuumed...
Calm down, Lisa! Let’s not argue.
Drink this — and it will soothe your fever.
Tomorrow you’ll be better, dear.
2: At Night
Look, Anna, look! Who’s gazing through the window?
You’re feverish. There’s no one there.
It’s late and everybody’s sleeping.
Look, Anna, please, I beg you!
I’m tired... Darkness outside
Blocks even stars.
Look in the window!
Sleep Lisa, sleep! There’s no one there, believe me.
Just don’t abandon me...
I’m by your side.
Don’t leave me! I’m afraid of separation...
You’re still delirious. I’ll chant my incantation.
Anna whispers her incantations and puts Lisa into sleep.
Part II. Lisa’s Dreams
1. Dream One
You see that castle, Anna, on the slope?
Who’s living there?
Ah, it’s our new neighbor.
I don’t know him. What is he like?
Some say he’s strange. I haven’t met him.
It’s nothing... Just a thought...
The castle looks abandoned...
Bluebeard silently appears.
It needs a hostess.
You’ve scared me! Gosh! I hadn’t noticed...
There was no single creature on the road...
The law of journey should be blamed for that.
Will you enlighten us on it?
The law of journey or the law of roads
Brings strangers and acquaintances together.
Once in a while, their paths are crossed.
They’re free to pass or stay forever.
Some call it fate, some call it chance,
But it’s a Law provoking change
In a stable, firm, and stagnant order,
A mechanism born on the edge
Of darkness — on that twilight border...
It changes course of rivers, stars.
It loosens formulas, and dogmas.
What you augment — it soon extracts.
What you cannot control — it owns.
There’s only one small thing it cannot change.
As soon as you are born — you’re in the cage.
Death sets you free...
But what if I’m unborn?
Then you are free!
Then you are voids owned.
Life is a chain. The shapeless wins the shaped
And brings it back to the kingdom of no meanings,
A constant of the dark. To shed it
The mind should add some light to its pavilions.
As the only stable entity on earth,
The dark’s above all changes.
It’s never been created. Blanks and voids
Structure its ugly, image-lacking landscape,
Producing nothingness. One who avoids it
Is born. The others can’t be rescued.
It’s thought-provoking... Still, I wonder
If darkness is the absolute, the truth.
For some, it is. But we can always choose
Between one and another.
You mean, between the truths?
That’s what I mean.
Some things we cannot lose, some — we can’t win,
Some we can’t mix, some — we cannot dilute.
Darkness is sediment that settles as solitude.
One can’t destroy two things — nil and the end.
The basic principle that manages the lifespan
Of every living creature comes from darkness.
It threatens life and makes it priceless.
(whispers to Anna) Oh, Anna! Did you hear what he’s just said?
I did. It’s interesting. Why are you so upset?
He talks of death!
He talks of life!
I talk of darkness versus light.
Darkness is no one’s. Light to God belongs.
And nature simply keeps them both.
Speaking of nature, what a lovely land!
This field looks like embroidery! The colors
Are silky, clear — I wish I had such threads!
The opal of the dew, the emerald of grasses...
This land is rich in beauty. If you follow
This path you’ll see a truly striking view.
I’ll come back for you!
I am the owner of the castle. Would you like
To take a walk and see how it looks inside?
2: Dream Two
Here is my castle.
Do you live alone?
Well, I have visitors... They come at random...
The castle is old. At night it groans like a phantom,
Becoming quiet at the crack of dawn.
And what’s the meaning of its nightly cry?
A feeling of remorse... With the castle it will die.
My castle mourns for lives that it’s consumed.
It’s getting dark... I have to leave you soon.
The voices torment it, tear it apart.
Whose voices are they?
I’m talking about art,
The paintings on the walls. Their nightmares
Disturb the castle, cracking stony walls,
As if an army of slowly waking souls
Broke through eternity and turned into gloomy fighters.
Oh, everlasting, endless ancient feud
Between the stony walls and paintings
Whose agonizing cosmic solitude
Pulls up beginnings through resisting endings!
It’s the creators’ lonely long howl
That tears the canvas, breaking through the voids.
They burn themselves, being both flame and fuel.
Museums would shatter from such ghastly voices.
They find no consolation in themselves.
Their lonely solos multiplied by the echo
Of emptiness will never intersect
With what their looking for — their alter egos.
They suffered life as now they suffer death.
A work of art is a child of loneliness.
Why keep them here?
I keep what here belongs.
You own the paintings?
I own the painters’ souls.
What are they like?
They are like mirror rooms
With the artist endlessly reflected
Who searches for his missing roots
Once and forever on the canvas planted.
Does he succeed?
Art is against the end.
It keeps up those who fly and crushes those who land.
Faith seals a dreamy form
And casts creator’s images in stone.
A dream comes first, then it becomes one’s faith,
For dreams are fickle and often tend to fade.
Faith takes their freedom in exchange for the Height.
They live as truths, but as winged dreams — they die.
Who are you — light or darkness?
How can I trust you?
Trust is built on harm.
It’s built on faith.
Then faith is built on harm.
Faith’s built on truth.
Then truth should be disarmed.
Who are you?
And why I’m here?
Perhaps, to put an end to your secret fear...
3: Dream Three
(takes a handkerchief from her pocket)
Here is my work — a silky handkerchief.
What would you say about its design?
I see incarceration, grief,
A dream of heights combined with a fear of flying.
The bird and cage will never grow apart.
They are in harmony. I render
Them as a union, as two halves of the heart.
They’ll stay this way. Fate’s bound them together
Like life and death. As soon as the bird leaves the cage
The soul will abrogate its contract with the body.
It’s not how I’ve intended it... I’ll change...
You cannot change yourself. I studied
So many works of yours — their concept, outcome,
And fancy colors...
Do you like them?
What do you like?
I like the way they fit
Your state of mind, but — they are incomplete.
There must be some new color, some new thread...
What color, tell me!
I can’t tell you that.
You must decide yourself, I only
State my opinion.
I feel so lonely!
It’s cold. The castle looks so dismal!
It’s time to go! Where are you, Lisa?
Wait, Anna! I’m here! I’m coming...
Just wait for me. I love you...
For now on, in sickness and in health...
I’ve talked to Anna...
Love’s what I possess.
For now on, we’re bound, bound, bound.
4: Dream Four
They enter a room with broken mirrors.
The room is full of broken mirrors...
Inside each splinter, my embroidered birds
Sleep silently, and now I fear them.
What do you fear?
A lack of the living force...
My silent birds... You keep them in your basement...
They never fly — I opened every cage,
But they don’t move.
For that you must erase them.
Still, they won’t move!
The movement’s in the change.
The broken mirrors are birds of bad omen.
You made the birds, the cages...
But you own them.
In sickness and in health...
Your beard looks blue!
It’s in this light. Both fighter and appeaser,
Light may uncover what’s been missing
Or hide what is the very clue...
It’s often pleasant, but — not honest.
What do you mean?
It hides the darkness.
It melts the darkness.
It’s a myth.
The dark is like a coral reef.
It has its structure, beauty, life.
It gave us God who gave us light.
Your talk is scary... Stop! No more...
I’ve found what I was searching for...
Part III: The Return
(wakes up in her bed)
My room, my window! Dismal world, adieu!
Enjoy your freedom. I will come for you!
2: A Search for the Thread
Oh, this embroidery is lacking depth...
Look how flat the gold’s turned out!
I need a thread... dark-blue.
Both dark and blue, but not in a single color.
We have dark-green, dark-brown and dark-red,
Dark-blue, I said!
I’m sorry, Lisa! I just try to help.
Unfortunately, these are what we have.
Then take my work,
Stick in the needle,
And help me out.
I don’t feel well.
Copyright © 2009 by
photography by V. Ulea
artwork by Irene Frenkel