Late as usual for my Ash Wednesday installment, and now bump . . . this Mardi Gras Fairy has come down to earth. The details of my costume are so rich with nuance, I almost can’t render them here. Well okay, I’ll try. I wore a high pointed cone hat, covered in pink silk, draped with a sheer ecru veil and secured with a long pale green ribbon beneath my chin. Down below I wore an old pink satin strapless prom dress that I found at Thrift City, only I had massacred this dress so that the skirt rose in a large padded poof around my waist. I also glued a hundred or so lavender silk flower petals to the dress so they flapped in the breeze as I walked. (Never underestimate a girl with a glue gun.) Even farther down below I wore pink lace knickers, a shocking red garter, pale pink and hot pink striped stockings, and a pair of pink patent leather Converse high-top sneakers with white trim. I was a riot of pink.
Geoff said he’d never be able to take me seriously again after seeing me in this get-up. I consider this a small loss in the scheme of things, as I had already relinquished my dignity long ago. Or maybe that was my shame I heard whistling out the window. Can’t be sure, but I am missing at least one of these.
On Mardi Gras morning this Pink Fairy danced with Death in front of St. Louis Cathedral. The Treme Brass Band blasted away, while the crazy Christians marched up and down with their scary signs and shouted, “The wages of sin are death!” “No!” I wanted to answer, “The wages of sin are bladder infections!” They wouldn’t listen. No matter. “Hell for the company,” I always say.
I like dancing with Death. He’s strong, confident and doesn’t care who’s looking. Nor is he particularly flustered by the crazy Christians. Death just smiles and waits. He is patient and compassionate. He may shake your hand. The great leveler, he accepts everyone. This year, however, Death wore a Saints helmet just to show where his true heart lies, and that should explain how that “sudden death” coin toss in the Vikings game went in our favor. Death hovers over Chance. Don’t kid yourself. Plus Death loves the Saints because the Saints embrace Death with gladness. Whatever they do, the Saints are willing to die in order to do it. Certainly, they have died enough in the past to know what that means. Death rewards the Saints for entering into a conscious relationship with the end of life by making them brave and therefore invincible. It is the awareness of Death that pleases him. Death only wants to be recognized and appreciated. What any of us wants.
It should be noted here as well that Death has an appetite for Pink Fairies. He takes them with tea and toast in the morning. That is if he can catch one before she transforms into a cloud of smoke.
You might expect Emily to have tossed out her classic: “Because I could not stop for Death —/ He kindly stopped for me —” You know, that old “Death as the Courtly Gentleman” thing that she does. Nah, too obvious. Instead, she sent the following:
#885, c. 1864
Our little Kinsmen — after Rain
In plenty may be seen,
A Pink and Pulpy multitude
The tepid Ground upon.
A needless life, it seemed to me
Until a little Bird
As to a Hospitality
Advanced and breakfasted.
As I of He, so God of Me
I pondered, may have judged,
And left the little Angle Worm
With Modesties enlarged.
Emily affects a faux innocence here. The repetition of “little” is awfully twee. At first glance, the poem seems like a harmless appreciation of nature and the beauty of the world. But look closer. Emily says that we are great and useful to God in the same way that the worm is great and useful to the bird—as food. He made us to be part of this cycle of eating and feeding, living, dying and fertilizing the earth. Don’t kid yourself. This “modesties enlarged” business is her grim joke. Modesty itself is a false pose. Arrogance hides behind the phony face of philosophy, theology, and other intellectual contrivances designed to separate us from an awareness of death. Humans always put themselves at the top of the food chain, in order to see themselves as closest to God. What folly, muses Emily.
Thank you, Emily for reminding us that our soft pink flesh is no better and no different than the pulpy mass on the ground. That we are all worm’s meat in the end. You are weird, Emily, and morbid. Still, I like you.