Notes on Burial Ground

In October 2004, I was in New York for my brother’s wedding. We were driving from his place in Brooklyn Heights, to Connecticut for, I want to say, a costume fitting, but no, it would have been a suit fitting.

Somewhere in Manhattan, I think on the Upper West Side, but I’m not sure now, I saw a battered old sign that simply said ‘Burial Ground’. My brain immediately went into overdrive with images of North American Indian scenes and landscapes and I wanted to start writing. Not having a pen or paper handy – somewhat unusual for me – I started writing words as a text into my phone.

It was a stream of consciousness event, I just wrote as the words appeared and the more I wrote, the more the style, form and content seemed to be directed by what I was writing – perhaps a stream of unconsciousness?

I realised pretty quickly that what I was writing had nothing to do with North American Indians, or the American West at all, but far more reflected my images of England, which I had visited around 10 years earlier. The style too, was heavily reflective of some British and Irish writers I’ve studied.

It turned backwards on itself though, when I sat down later with several verses of an incomplete tale, to realise I could clearly hear Poe’s influence above all others in the imagery, word choice, arrangement and rhyme structures even though the meter was loose and inconsistent. I also noted that a few words were not ‘legitimate’ words, but kept them in, as they fit their intended meaning exactly and are easily decipherable. It’s fitting that Poe came from Boston and at times worked in New York and all over the New England and surrounding areas. Back in 2006, I drove up to Vermont with my brother and his wife and got to see some of the stunning scenery that inspired the New England mantle. It was a particularly beautiful time in the region – ‘Fall’, just as the leaves were falling. Travellers from all over the world come to New England each year to see this spectacular happening.

Given the convoluted intersections of past and present experiences, I decided to continue writing and editing in this style. I’ve kept taking it out, looking at it, trying to write more lines, rearranging, etc… ever since. Recently I made some larger leaps in writing to come very close to feeling like it was complete, but couldn’t quite get there. Then I realised that I would be back here in few days, with lots of time on my hands and lots of inspiration…

I woke up the other morning listening to my sister-in-law practice Mozart on the piano in the living room, stepped out onto the fire escape and into a warm and fresh spring morning to see that the trees in Owl’s Head Park, that tower over the Narniaesque lamp posts and playful squirrels, were just starting to bud. Mothers were pushing their kids in strollers, people were playing with their dogs or sitting on blankets reading newspapers and books – I imagined Joyce or Wilde, E.M.Forster or Murakami. Perhaps someone was even reading “The Fall of the House of Usher” (probably not…) as a few Hassidim with their blacks coats, hats and ringlets ambled by? I was having a Merchant-Ivory moment…

My sister-in-law would later remark that the weather reminded her of England in the Spring, where she grew up. I’m intrigued by these loosely tangled connections of England and New England, with my own experiences and perceptions. Recently I was also in Amsterdam, now I’m back in ‘New Amsterdam’ reminded of the underlying influences that join these two famous cities, as I witnessed when I was there.

The surface story of Burial Ground is ridiculously simple: there’s a cemetery on a hill, someone walks up, clears a grave and leaves flowers on it, then walks away. I’ve attempted to use equally simple language to explore far more complex ideas below. Questions that, in other contexts, I find myself asking often. Seeking answers that may take a lifetime to unearth. Or maybe I’ll find them tomorrow…

Derek Wilson
Owl’s Head Court, The Narrows
Brooklyn, Kings County, NY
Spring 2008

Somewhere in The Narrows

Somewhere in The Narrows

Owl's Head Park

Owl's Head Park

~ by Derek Wilson on April 3, 2009.

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