The Double Image

{The Double Image
by Anne Sexton}


I am thirty this November.
You are still small, in your fourth year.
We stand watching the yellow leaves go queer,
flapping in the winter rain,
falling flat and washed. And I remember
mostly the three autumns you did not live here.
They said I’d never get you back again.
I tell you what you’ll never really know:
all the medical hypothesis
that explained my brain will never be as true as these
struck leaves letting go.

I, who chose two times
to kill myself, had said your nickname
the mewling months when you first came;
until a fever rattled
in your throat and I moved like a pantomime
above your head. Ugly angels spoke to me. The blame,
I heard them say, was mine. They tattled
like green witches in my head, letting doom
leak like a broken faucet;
as if doom had flooded my belly and filled your bassinet,
an old debt I must assume.

Death was simpler than I’d thought.
The day life made you well and whole
I let the witches take away my guilty soul.
I pretended I was dead
until the white men pumped the poison out,
putting me armless and washed through the rigmarole
of talking boxes and the electric bed.
I laughed to see the private iron in that hotel.
Today the yellow leaves
go queer. You ask me where they go. I say today believed
in itself, or else it fell.

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Dotwork Illustrations by Annita Maslov

Annita Maslov is an illustrator and a tattoo artist working at Heretic Studio in Melbourne, Australia. Her intricate artworks are delicate, enchanting, and macabre little vignettes. She takes inspiration from historical subjects and the occult, such as the Mercy Brown incident of 1892, in which a Rhode Island family was accused of vampirism and the bodies of its deceased members exhumed, with young Mercy showing little sign of decomposition and thus being deemed the undead culprit.

Her pieces remind me of old lithographs and combine cuteness with somberness in portraits of haunted, doll-eyed, flower-enshrouded girls haloed with the accoutrements of animals, feathers, and skulls; and modern Danse Macabres where the level of detail in the flowing drapery of a cadaver, or the waves of a restless sea, is amazingly precise and delicate.

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The Spiral Sacrifice

The Spiral Sacrifice is the thirteenth and probably the last album from Sopor Æternus & the Ensemble of Shadows, the musical brainchild of the ethereal and splendid Anna-Varney Cantodea. It is haunting, beautiful, and enthralling, full of both serenity and almost religious mystery. The distinctive darkwave/neo-medieval sound of Sopor Æternus is here subdued to a modulated theatricality, making it more effective and mature.

Its less blatantly melancholy tone mirrors the emotional development and dignity of the album’s lyrical themes. The richness, playfulness, and delightful atmosphere of its music opens up a vista, conjures an ethereal world – with its quality of medieval cloisters, crypts, cadaverous despairing souls, funereal draperies, obscure chambers, massive ruins, tenebrous fastnesses – with startling immediacy, a world of dark stone, veils, tears and lutes, drawing you into this realm so remote from modernity and present reality, so spectrally dramatic, delicately anguished – you can almost smell the odors of incense and dust, the dried roses…

The cooler and more abstract sound of the instrumentation provides background and juxtaposition for Anna-Varney’s vocals and lyrics, which as usual are highly personal, emotional, and deeply sad, yet also peaceful and not without a certain loving gladness. These songs speak of the agonies and beauties of failed, unfulfilled, or forfeited love and are achingly moving, with the full-hearted generous emotionality that is typical of Anna-Varney, who has said that “a good album should be…like a tombstone…a sepulcher, where a part of the artist lies buried.” They are filled with profound resignation, the final laying to rest of torment. Her lyrics are a pure incarnation of the roiling vicissitudes, the ecstasy and agony, joy and loss of love.

As always, Sopor Æternus is a breath of refreshing iconoclasm and unearthly atmosphere in a sea of musical sameness. It is one of the few projects that truly remind me of no other artist or band. It is the only one able to evoke the spirit and feeling of the Middle Ages in such an intimate way, a unique hybrid dream realm embodying this peculiar penumbral vision. Jubilant, mischievous, ominous, and sorrowful, this album brings together the best qualities of the chimerical Sopor Æternus & the Ensemble of Shadows and is animated throughout by Anna-Varney Cantodea’s lifeblood.