They come to her in the dark the voices whisper, she hears them from behind half lidded eyes they sound like the children that once ran across the open field chasing the ball, a too slow bird a mortar shell whose fall outpaced them all, left them scattered, shattered, marked by simple wooden crosses that were taken for heat.
She strains to answer them the words thick on her tongue clogging her mouth like a gas soaked rag stuck into the thin neck of a bottle, lit, they explode inside her mind, the shrapnel tearing at her eyes red, only red, the sky seems aflame yet the sun has long since set behind the smoke of the fires.
They hover around her gently touching her cheek like a demented butterfly seeking nectar long dry she caresses the thick scar were her breast once stood proudly, but there is no feeling only numbness of too many bodies strewn on tables, across chairs which are broken to feed the flames which dance away into the snowy night.
She can see their masks hiding sneering lips spitting vitriol for what once was she curses them, faceless her eyes pressed shut by their tiny fingers, kneading the soft dough, pulling it taught, letting it snap back released by the sated mouth of the devil child who runs laughing up the hill chasing a dragonfly into the dawn.
The cemetery is a place of monologues, family histories laid bare, admissions, secrets long kept hidden finally revealed You must listen carefully, for the voices speak only in hushed tones, befitting both place and circumstance. There is no dialog, no riposte, no response for in this place, that would be put of place, censorious, Thy are respectful, one speaking, a pause, then the next, and time seems meaningless to them, the tale is all that still matters, and matters deeply. Pause, if you will, and learn, but say nothing for we dare not speak ill of the dead.
It is that moment when the moon is a glaring crescent, slowly engulfed by the impending night — when the few clouds give out their fading glow In the jaundiced light of the sodium arc street lamp.- It nestles the curb — at first a small bird — when touched, a twisted piece of root
I want to walk into the weed-strewn aging cemetery, stand in the shadow of the expressway, peel the uncut grass from around her head- stone. I remember her arthritic hands clutching mine, in her dark, morgueish apartment, smelling of vinyl camphor borsht I saw her last in a hospital bed where they catalog and store those awaiting death, stared at the well-tubed skeleton barely indenting starched white sheets. She smiled wanly and whispershouted my name — I held my ground unable to cross the river of years unwilling to touch her outstretched hand. She had no face then, no face now, only an even fainter smell of age of camphor of lilac of must
Next to the polished headstone lies a small, twisted root. I wish it were a bird, I could place gently on the lowest branch of the old maple that oversees her slow departure.
First appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, No. 1-2, 2006 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008.
As the plane slowly descends the cemetery appears through a break in the clouds. The headstones are arrayed in neatly ordered geometries, unknown to those who lie beneath, and those who water the always verdant lawns.
Mausoleums cluster in a small village, from which no one ever moves, and rest comes easily to those who lie within.
Apartment buildings sprout, neat orderly, so many headstones in a cemetery marking the gravesite of ancient rural culture.
A slow morning in Itaewon, for you special deal finest leather, best quality gems, but I prefer precipitously plunging prices of Rollex’s last chance, $6.
Apartment building faces studded with small satellite dishes perched carefully on tiny balconies, aimed skyward breaking impenetrable borders, offering shows not yet sucked clean of life, What’s the frequency Kenneth?
In the Duty Free Shop at Walker Hill clothing and cosmetics are quoted in dollars, alcohol in yen.