Character # III

Luelle Magdalon Lumiére (1873-1973)

The Island Traveller


Luelle Magdalon Lumiére (1873-1973), stereophotographer and poet, is an enterprising and strong woman. She is a traveller among islands, societies and continents. Luelle journeyed to New York, trod the boardwalks of East River along the settlers’ neighbourhoods in Brooklyn and beheld the horizon and the people of Coney Island. She ventured north to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands, and later to the mountains of western Norway. With the sea and horizon in view, compelled by the omnipresence of myths and illusions, she journeyed from one island and one reality to the next.


I. Luelle

Luelle, you think that no one can fit in more poorly than you
– you've entered an unknown world once again.
Not any more or less terrible or wonderful –
yet alien, different and entirely imaginative.
Your preconceptions, if you have any,
tell you this world is more dangerous than the preceding.
Although the strange, dangerous, imaginative and wonderful
always pulled you, sucked you up.
You are lured here, entering this world, feeling like a stranger,
feeling the world as a stranger to you.

You like to be the misfit,
all the unexpected that will appear the moment you travel,
as you leave behind everything you know.
The raw, ruthless motions evoked as feelings face the unknown.
You will not, yet still yearn, you do not want to leave, you want to find,
like you could be twisted, torn in half, yet still not be complete.
As if the heart longs for here, then there,
which becomes here again after some time,
and then becomes what it used to be once again.

The heart is what burst,
what is heated, what aches, what touches and what is touched.
Your eyes wander, seek and aim; yet the heart always follows
thither in the end, whereas the remains are pulled up by the roots.
This existence sustains life. You drag the roots along;
let them find a new place to settle, like a bush moving across the prairie.
Each time it gets a little easier to tear,
until the wound and the breach do not feel painful any more,
but rather create a longing for the next to come.
The unknown becomes familiar and it becomes impossible to return home.

Letter to Luelle by anonymous writer.

II. Northernmost at North End

As one follows the lines drawn on the map, across the light blue surfaces,
further north, twists and turns, further north, straight lines, still north.
This is where I see myself, at the island furthest north, at the North End,
standing at the northernmost cliff, facing the North Sea.
The northern wind hits my chin, fills my eyes with tears.
Tears of no joy, of no sorrow, tears of the wind, tears of being outside,
most days it is only a pleasure, yet some days it is pure pain.

LML, Papa Westray, Orkney Isles, June 1900.

III. White Hares of Ward Hill

White shirt clings chest in spirals, as the solid black valleys surround the scene.
Wild wind, whirling in salty waves, fifteen thousand feet above wave and water.

Wild hares with white winter fur, running wild on black land,
emerge as evidence of earlier human presence, easy to forget.

White shirt, whirling wind and wild hares: Ward Hill on the island of Hoy.

LML, Hoy, February 1901.

IV. The Castle of Yeasnaby

Isolation in its purest form, as land impossible to reach,
the ditch being a wild, loose stray of North Sea.
The Castle rules Yeasnaby alone.

Waves, gales, rays of sunlight, holding their potential obstructions.
In complete stillness, new land is barely visible on the horizon,
if you know where to hold your gaze.

Castle with no King.

LML, Yesnaby Castle, February 1901

V. Well-known land

Without turning, as I stay still, I name every valley,
tell tales of unique unevenness, typical topography,
behind braided hair, twisted spine.

Cairns may be found in the thickest fog.
Paths hidden to others are visible to those who know every twist and turn,
being nook and cranny in a vast, yet bordered living room.

Well-known land, yet the view is new,
never nostalgic, always memorable, impossible to memorize,
barely recognizable, completely unrecognizable.

Wind and water weave a damp veil, snow and sky sew seams of shivering silver.
Gales galloping down gorges as I gaze.
Hausdalshorgi, like every home, holds haven, heaven and hell.

LML, Hausdalshorgi, August 1901.

VI. Diorama

Surfaces of marks and reflections
– transparent where there is none.

Reflections of gazes and lips half open.
Mark where fingers once pointed.
Reflections are always changing.
Marks stay on for some time.

as evidence of craftsmanship from past times, stay put,
keeping a square once shaped of thin glass and dark wood.

Glass that rattles as one runs through the hall.
Wood that patiently holds it all together.

LML, Museum of Natural History, September 1901.

VII. The Draft

At times when one drew drafts, sketched plans,
the heart longed for some place else than mind,
as desire and wishes wandered thinner lines, more strenuous paths.

These days I find myself hoping – for plans to fail,
for drafts to be torn apart, so that stones
along hidden paths may shine radiant enough
for a reflection behind my chest, followed by a clarity and lightness,
that may overpower every plan,
move every line on maps of the entire world,
in paper, mind and memory.

There is an island somewhere in this world,
that may show new worlds in all their entireness
as soon as one walks ashore.

As I step on solid ground once again,
after days in the unconfigured instability
that one takes part in, willingly or unwillingly, at sea,
I do hope, and for a moment hope will convince me;
this is the island.
Not only the island of my dreams,
but the island of every dream and real desire.

Somewhere among them all, this island is here on my map,
too small for the ink to make a mark in the light,
radiant blue representing the deep, dark sea.

Sea in miniature, mapped out entirely in mind,
holding islands of infinite adventure.

LML, Wernersholm, December 25th 1913.

IX. Fair & Fear

A Ferris wheel turns clockwise,
motion counterclockwise;
turns back the hands of time,
just a tiny bit.

Gigantic yellow letters
grab your attention
from the beach,
drag you across the boardwalk:

The island of rabbits,
March 3rd 1913.
Draw a line straight North,
and it will hit
New York.

Wheels turns, directions shift.
The island of rabbits is all about
time past, past times,
mirrors and twins,
piers and castle lookalikes.

Prior to the fire of 1911,
Luna Park would shine,
like a land of pioneers.
Magic from the faraway East
Misplaced in the American East.

The fire spared life.
The fire spat out of the elephant’s eyes.
Illusions went up in smoke,
like illusions tend to do.
Smoke and then nothing.

Today this island is a reconstruction
of an illusion.
Magic is replaced
histories of forgotten dreams
– outdated American dreams.

You trod the boardwalk
in the wake of the pioneers,
seeing what we can only imagine.
A lady in black passes.
Ash grey laces, stiff and hard.

The lady with a moustache.
The laces of the hem of her skirt,
rasp your all-too-exposed ankles.
A black stare, stares right back.
You know you did stare first.

The Kodak camera.
Bellows extended. Lens focused.
Legs leap a long step forward.
Your gaze demands a photograph.
Index finger pushes shutter.

Her mouth moves in a mumble.
Eyes still all black.
Her moustache moves towards her small nose.
Shoulder hit you hard
as she passes you once again.

a boy in one of the wagons.
Screeches of fear and fun.
Loop the loop,
fear and excitement; his first loop.

Black eyes. Loud screech.
You have not noticed the poster,
you notice it just now.
The freaks of the freak show.
The well-adjusted misfits.

They all fit in better than you,
no one can fit in more poorly.
You enter unknown islands. The island traveller.
Not islands less terrible or less wonderful,
yet new; holding new dreams and new desires.

Freaks, fairytales and fresh faces;
pull you, suck you up,
drag you across the boardwalk,
through gates, into houses, behind stages.

Entering this fair like a stranger.
For the island and its folk are strangers to you.
You are the strangest stranger of them all.
Jumping islands, always just passing through.

Twin of the twin of the twin.
The twin himself.
What does a mirrored man do if his brother disappears?
His own reflection looks just like the lost twin.
No one believes his story, their story.

Tales like that of the twin keep coming,
pop into your head.
Two eyes seeing.
Two identical images,
only slightly shifted in horizontal plane.

Photographs in three dimensions
require two lenses,
two images shot at the same moment.
Stereo photography made your thoughts turn stereo.
Ontoscope, patented in Paris in 1901.

You believe in your own imagination.
Fantasy and magic is alluring,
how it halts in a boulevard,
replaced by a strip of sand,
to resurrect in the ocean.

Froth and undertow
smash fear and fantasy back at the beach,
beneath the sand for a while,
to rise tall in the collusive, colourful constructions
at the other side of the misplaced Riviera.

At this strip, a thin line,
you may balance the bridge
between two islands;
the man-made and the strip of earth
kept by the tide and swell of the ocean.

These waters will carry you all the way
to revisit the Selkie of the Orkney Isles – very soon.
Far away from fairs, twins, bearded women,
loops and Ferris Wheels.
Tales of sea and Selkie will replace tales of twins and towers.

Still the duality of the stereo;
the real and the imagined.
The world and the reflected image.
The encounters and the tales that may follow.
Like a tail.

Coney Island, once the island of wild rabbits,
the only place you may hide a rabbit today
is in the top hat of the Magician.
You feel like someone pulls your ears,
like that of the rabbit, your eyes caught and kept in a stare.

You try to resist the urge to capture,
you stare, stares are mirrored,
you stare once more, you capture.
Then you feel the urge to rest your eyes
on the eternal, deep, dark blue sea.

The air surrounding sea.
A gaze may wander and will never be returned.
The wind gets hold of your hat. Almost.
The two feathers play, seek, in front of your eyes.
Hat, eyes and sea are of similar shade and colour.

Green – emerald, turning cedar at night.
A golden centre sings of sisters further south.
Your heels dig deep into the sand,
they beat the boulevard harder.
You, Luelle, live life along the ruins of Luna Park.

Lights from lanterns.
Lumiére among ladies and alarmist fortune tellers.
Fear. Fun.
Yes, sometimes.
Soon you will bid your farewells anyway.

LML Coney Island, New York, March 3rd 1913.