TWYLA BELLEGRAVE

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 TWYLA BELLEGRAVE

        Once upon a midnight bleary as I sat tap tapping on my computer keys there came a sighing, gently prying from my heart, a sorrow for my unobtainable love, signifying, “Katylyn, I never stop thinking of you.”

        I stopped tapping on my computer keys, stopped my semaphore sadness for the key to her love, untouchable evermore.

        I sighed, again for my eternity’s end, for, “The moon outlasts all love,” as I stared into midnight,  reflecting a pale and immaterial purpose in the window.

        The full moon had arisen in majestic luminance, the stars parting.  I recalled Katylyn’s amused observation from our Paris balcony that the same moon is seen by others beyond our horizon.  I don’t know why I should remember that except that Katylyn had gone beyond my horizon like the memory of sunlight.

        My hope was that the sun also rises yet I knew my hope foolish, last to die in the end of my days.

        It was as I sat staring into my emptiness that I noticed a figure beyond my window, a woman’s figure, a familiar figure, and I thrilled suddenly to ice in my heart.

        The woman was approaching and seemed to be emerging from my very own reflection in the window.

        I cried out as suddenly she was standing in my room before me, seeming to have passed through my wall and my reflection.

        I leapt erect, shouting, “Katylyn?!”

        The apparition smiled and I heard her answer, “I am Twyla Bellegrave, pleased to make your acquaintance.”

        I was paralyzed with clashing thoughts.

        The apparition then laughed and said, “You have shaped me, my poor dear.  Be careful what you wish for.”

        I burst, “What?!”

        The apparition said, as if to a child, “You poor dear, you have summoned me,” and then it said to me, “Please call me Twyla and stop thinking of me as ‘the apparition’, my poor dear.”

        I had to acknowledge this mad reality that was before my senses.  The …, the …, “Twyla Bellegrave” was a dignified young Southern belle, I perceived, in the manner that I remember my dearest Katylyn.  She wore a gown of satin and white lace and around her neck a string of pearls like a string of tiny luminescent moons.  She looked like the debutant that Katylyn had been and I started to laugh nervously with nascent insanity.

        I was suddenly very afraid and I asked, “Are you the angel of my death?”

        Twyla Bellegrave smiled slyly and teased, “Why poor dear, are you so sure that you are really alive anymore?”

        Self-pity stifled my fear and I retorted, “I am in pain so I know I am indeed alive.”

        Twyla Bellegrave mused, “Life is the dream that hurts, for sure.  But, believe me, the After-life..”

        I fumbled, terrified, “Are you…, are you not…, are you… alive… not?”

        Twyla Bellegrave mocked me gently, sing-song, saying,”She loves me…, she loves me not…, she loves me…”

        I cried, “Stop it!”

        Twyla Bellegrave replied, “You are the one who must stop it, my poor dear, if you don’t appreciate my company.”

        I asked again, near nervous exhaustion, “Who are you really?”

        Twyla Bellegrave began, “Do you know of that old Motown song by Jimmy Ruffin ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted’?”

        I moaned.

        Twyla Bellegrave continued, “Well, when I was alive the way you are alive, I died the way that you have died,” and then she stared at me expectantly.

        I stuttered, “What, what do you mean?”

        Twyla Bellegrave continued, “You can think of me as the Spirit, the Maid of Unrequited Love, if you like, if it helps you.  It is no life, believe me.  In a terrible cosmic irony, I am yours, truly.  You have shaped me…”

        I whimpered, “What?  What?!”

        Twyla Bellegrave raised her hand, saying the ghastly words, “And I have shaped you.”

        I became an open mouth.

        Twyla Bellegrave then said, “But take courage and let me tell you my story,” and she smiled with commiseration, adding, “Oh, Servant of Yearning,

        It was May of 1861 and the War of Northern Aggression had begun the month before.

        I was in love with a young man, Jubal Johnston, oh, who was studying medicine.  He would read to me his favorite sequence of poems by some Yankee, Walt Whitman, called Live Oak Moss.  He was a beautiful man, my Jubal.

        But Jubal never furthered the relation of my desire.

        Jubal soon joined the Army of Northern Virginia.  I was mad with worry.

        I traveled to his encampment.  I learned that he was in a quarrel with another soldier over some insult and that a forbidden duel was being tendered mutually for satisfaction.  I used my lady’s persuasion to find the secret location.  It was to occur on this very day!

        A sympathetic young soldier agreed to bring me there although he was distracted severely by my request.  I confess, that young soldier, of low birth, had fallen in love with me by the end of my persuasion, the poor smitten dear.

        We rode through the woods until I discerned the clearing and saw there the entourages of the two rivals.  When I followed their gazes, I saw that I had arrived behind Jubal’s opponent and then I saw Jubal across from him, facing my direction.

        I dismounted in panic and I flew toward Jubal’s opponent.

        I heard the young soldier cry out behind me in alarm.  Jubal’s opponent was raising his firearm.

        I leapt to pull down his arm.  As I rose into my leap I saw the burst of smoke from Jubal’s firearm and the sudden impact of horror upon his face.

        His bullet missed his opponent and struck my heart.

        My desperate leap became my descent into Hell.  I saw the leaves of grass arising to bear me into the bosom of the earth.

        Yet I turned and floated onto my back and I was in the arms of the young soldier who had guided me to my fate against his affection for me.  His face was contorted with grief.

        The world for me washed pale as in moonlight.  Then I vanished into that moonlight.

        Do you remember?”

        I was startled, “What?!”

        Twyla Bellegrave repeated earnestly, “Do you remember?”

        I stared at her.  She prompted me with a nod and whispered, “You were that young soldier in whose arms I died.”

        I was overcome with a seizure of terror.  I screamed against my will.  I could not stand the heart-long rush of adrenaline.

        I fainted.

        I arose strangely free of my emotional gravity and my habitual malaise.  I stood before Twyla Bellegrave who smiled at me and without a word bade me look beside myself by her glance.

        It was I lying unconscious on the floor!  At least a person identical to my own self, l rationalized ludicrously.

        I was amazed that I was unafraid.

        I looked up at Twyla Bellegrave.  She extended her hand and calmly I clasped it.

        Twyla Bellegrave said to me softly, “Let us together end this.”

        And so the two passed into moonlight.

        When I awoke on the floor from this, this extraordinary dream, I could never forget it to this day.  I ponder it now with a peace I had not known before.

– Edgar Allen Ash

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