Oct 4, 2004

Remember death

Fall, the calendar said, and things started dieing. Immediately leaves began to wrinkle with age, crumpling crumbling on the ground and the corn stalks went brown, a shifting of shades unnoticed almost, and the sky cooling in opening intonations of death.

The dragonfly is dark brown dead on my window sill, fragile double wings folded back, round head gone brittle and bug eyes gone dark. He flew in my door, opened weeks back in hopes of a breeze with the evening dark, flew in with vigor, with life, in and attacked the light above the kitchen table, throwing giant horror-movie shadows on the white wall.

I found him later, clinging to the window screen. Dead. Delicate brown stillness in maybe acceptence of finding a late summer breeze in which to die and he reminded me of ducking the first time I saw a dragonfly, startled and surprised and the buzzing bobbing big-eyed violence of them. I was seven, it was June or July and they were fascinatingly frightening in gaudy colors and large ugly buggness finely winged and gently balanced bodies but flying with crashing recklessness, named for a monster and floating like a hummingbird. I lifted him gently from window’s mesh and held him, delicate and dead, life-sapped to silence, leaving him in rest on the sill above the sink, memento moria of beautiful ugliness.

The emptiness of the hole is cut down brown with jagged edges to the ritualistically scattered gray landfill rocks at the bottom. They’ve dug up the graveyard, unrested the dead, carted off the marble headstone markers marked with crosses and pulled loose shook loose the coffins like weeds pried up out of their hold to the earth. It’s just a hole now, death erased to a blankness, the dead silence again, cast out again, excommunicated from the living. It’s just a hole now emptied of death like a resurrection false alarm, earth open around the Methodist Church soon to come down clapboard by clapboard, the red slash of the red-sash sign to go dim, earth opened for business to the strip malls and the drive-throughs, split open sanitized woken from still hopes of peace to be put to labor.

My brother tells me they stopped building the bridge back home from peninsula to island to mainland when they dug down to the bones. Every man quit, went home, went on strike for the dead. They talked about curses and ghosts, of dust you are and to, requiems and final resting places and times when all you know is it’s always appropriate to cross yourself. They talked about Indian burials and Viking burials and Christian burials and afterlives and resurrections. They felt the air in their lungs and the weight of their feet on the earth. They talked, shovels silent, and every one remembered death.

The backhoe stands above the barren hole like a tribute to yellowness, yellow violent with death, the color of leaves gasping for last life, and soon it too will be gone, moved out leaving the ground sealed smoothed with pavement. It’ll rattle off with the last wheezy thoughts of death and rest, and the ground will be clean, de-sanctified safe for the living buying but even as openings open the hemisphere will tilt to death, dieing clothed in colors of memento moria and the shop windows will open to display open-ribbed skeletons advertising with symbolic sickles and the dead will have their day.