(Who is Kristina Marie Darling? Whoever she is, her poems have affected us strongly, even as we cough uncertainly in the far east, growing weaker by the day. Three of these aforementioned poems can be found below:)
The brass locket, which contained only an empty frame, was the first in a series of ominous love tokens that appeared beneath her window.
When he fastened the clasp on her necklace, every nightingale seemed to sing. Their swollen throats and colorless eyes.
He reminded her of Petrarch, driven by the necessity of pursuit. The beloved as interchangeable, a vessel. A bird heaving under the weight of an otherworldly song.
The homage felt contrived, mechanical. And still the luminous buttons on her shirt.
It was then she wished the pursuit would continue indefinitely.
She presented him with a miniature bird, which bore the most unusual inscription. Her wrist still heavy with silver charms and locks of his knotted hair.
She remembered his eyes growing dim. Her fingers tracing the brass locket’s empty frame.
A History of Melancholia: Glossary of Terms
beloved. The raison d’être of the melancholic’s affliction. Consider the graceful line of his wool coat, its fabric dark against the towering snowdrifts.
courtship. A set of social conventions that gave rise to their exchanging of love tokens. These antique pendants, which held locks of tangled hair, were inevitably lost in the great avalanche.
locket. An object onto which her memories were inscribed. When she thought of their evening soirées, its clasp seemed smaller, more intricate.
memento. A foreshadowing of their ominous tête-à-tête. The charms she would unpin from her blue silk dress.
mourning. Described as a year of pathological grief, in which her locket gave rise to a luminous and deathly narcissism.
nightingale. A harbinger of both despair and the onslaught of winter. Its bright mornings and colorless evenings.
ocean. Now iced over, this body of water was said to reflect the imperceptible radiance of their courtship. Compare, in its present state, to a discarded necklace, pendant, or charm bracelet.
Footnotes to a History of the Beloved
1. Two of the darkest flowers, which were pressed in a book and displayed on a mahogany nightstand.
2. Only then did she describe the recurring dream, in which his luminous cufflinks gave rise to a series of house fires.
3. “I had wanted to preserve the cold white light that shone that evening. But beneath every door, a little wisp of smoke. The hallway smolders and now my armoire burning in a locked room.”
1. The use of physical coercion.
†2. The relative strength or duration of an emotion.
‡3. An unpleasant or destructive natural force.
5. The unpublished portion of their correspondence, which documents her pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Jude. Despite numerous appeals to divine providence, the lock of hair never appeared beneath her window.
6. Parure. Translated from the French as ornament or embellishment.
7. She told her sisters he had given her the locket, which was wrapped in green paper and tied with a cluster of blue ribbons.
8. “The necklace was a relic from the shrine of a saint. In every charm, a white veronica and the most intricately engraved psalm.”
9. A little known version of the film, in which the heroine enters a convent. After renouncing all ties with the beloved, she was plagued with visions of fire. Smoke shattering the neat rows of stained glass windows.
10. Her house contained the most elaborate memorial. His cufflinks tarnishing on a white satin pillow.
11. The wilted corsage. Every shrine burned to the ground.
[The above poems are part of a larger project entitled Melancholia (An Essay). Kristina Marie Darling's previous books include Night Songs (Gold Wake Press, 2010), Compendium (Cow Heavy Books, 2011), and The Body is a Little Gilded Cage (Gold Wake Press, 2011). She's been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation, as well as grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Vermont Studio Center.]