Vanessa Bell Is Sending Me Dreams
1. Flash: I am falling asleep when suddenly I see, before me, a battalion of World War I soldiers having their photo taken. The soldier in the front tips his helmet at me and grins flirtatiously. I am struck by the life in him; I back away in fear that he might be the first to be killed. I realize I must be taking the photograph because I can feel the camera’s black cloth sliding on my shoulders. I want to find this photo. Was I the photographer in a past life? I vaguely recall a Victorian style turret in the background, like thousands and thousands of official buildings in the world. Did the soldiers assemble in front of the town hall for a photograph? Where should I begin such a search?
2. Flash: Winter, I have a vision of Knights Templar on horseback riding the shore. Sea smoke surrounds them; their faces are covered in a thin white frost through which I can see their pink flesh. I can hear the horses’ hooves pounding the wet sand.
3. Vanessa Bell is sending me dreams: I recently hung a picture of one of her paintings next to my bed. A golden representation of her work, "The Tub," in which a woman stands naked beside an empty tub. Vanessa didn’t get much appreciation in her lifetime. Once, she and her lover, Duncan Grant, while staying with friends, changed the paintings in the mansion to some of their own and no one noticed. She sends me the Knights Templar, and another more complicated dream about work at a printing press keeping my daughter from me. In the dream, I break the press, but her boss still won’t let her go. Vanessa’s sister, the writer, Virginia Woolf couldn’t visit very often because of her work, and because her husband, Leonard kept her so busy at Hogarth Press. For a moment in the dream, I thought while looking at my daughter’s boss, “Is that Leonard Woolf?” I think Vanessa is happy someone in the future has hung her work.
4. Vanessa’s beloved son, Julian, an incredibly dynamic and handsome youth, was killed in the Spanish Civil War while driving an ambulance for the British Medical Unit. He was 29, idealistic, a devout socialist and anti-fascist. He couldn’t get the suffering of the Spanish people out of his mind. Everyone tried to dissuade him from enlisting. Vanessa never fully recovered from her grief.
Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die: A Historical Novella of Marblehead, Telling of Two Murders Which Happened There, 301 Years Apart (2011), about Marblehead legends and true crime, and its sequel, Dreamwater (2013), about the Salem witch trials. Her novel, Holy Days (2015) is about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Her poetry books are Java Love: Poems of a Coffeehouse (2018); Telling Time By Apples, And Other Poems About Life On The Remnants Of Olde Humphrey Farme (2017), illustrated by the author; Atlantis (2006), and Marblehead Moon (1993). All Plum Press. Her poetry has been published in nthposition.com, Pemmican Press, Radius: Poetry from the Center to the Edge and The Potomac, among others. For more work and information, please visit http://patriciagoodwin.com/.
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