Tag Archives: Death

Easter Morning

Good morning. Today is Easter Sunday. Lance and I ran into Nancy and Renny on our walk along the bayou. She wore large pink and white fuzzy rabbit ears . . . and sunglasses. “He is risen,” Nancy said, by way of greeting. And then: “He did die for our sins, after all.” That considered, we agreed the least we could do was wear funny bunny ears in tribute to our savior.

The pealing bells of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary fill the sky. Trilling birdsong drifts down from my neighbor’s rain gutter where some loudmouth has built a nest. I have a vague atavistic notion that I should be in church today. There is a distinct sense of uplift in the air. Everywhere I went on my walk this morning, people called out, “Happy Easter!” Does this happen so consistently elsewhere?

I also saw Diane walking her Jack Russell Terrorist, who happens to be named Grace—of all things. I mentioned Easter Mass in passing. Diane shook her head, no. “I’m in church, right here,” she said, as she passed beneath the arms of a giant oak. That’s the spirit. I’m not going to church. I’m staying on the porch with my coffee and Lance and Emily.

Random Chance tossed out the perfect Easter poem.

#712, c. 1863

Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
And Immortality.

We slowly drove — He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility —

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess — in the Ring —
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain —
We passed the Setting Sun —

Or rather — He passed Us —
The Dews drew quivering and chill —
For only Gossamer, my Gown —
My Tippet — only Tulle —

We paused before a House that seemed
A swelling of the Ground —
The Roof was scarcely visible —
The Cornice — in the Ground —

Since then — ’tis Centuries — and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity —

I’ve been trying to avoid the poems on Emily’s Hit Parade, but this one wanted to jump out today. I’ll try to treat it as though I have never read it before.

Her sense of Death here is a radical restructuring, unheard of before or since. Death is not the enemy or the terrifying, scythe-wielding skeleton. He is a gentleman. The soul of kindness, and nothing if not civil. Here, Emily finally meets her perfect consort. Her courtier. Death pauses in his carriage to bring Emily to their wedding feast. This is not their first date. They have been long acquainted and proceed toward the consummation of a mutually agreed-upon contract.

She goes to him gently, discreetly, as to her lover whom she would have as her husband. He escorts her with the unhurried courtesy of a mature, thoughtful man about to take a wife, not the passionate, rock-and-roll boyfriend. The two of them move carefully toward their sacred union, crossing the threshold by slowly attending to all the relevant details. She soaks in the gradual pace of this journey, as she leaves her father’s house, so that her new husband may bring her to the house he has made for the two of them.

This is the courtship of Emily. No other man would do for her. Any earthly marriage would just be a preamble, and she doesn’t have the patience for that. She was born to wed Death. That means radical honesty, accepting that her life is a trajectory toward that union with death. For her the honesty is the lure, the attraction to Death. All the love affairs in the world are just a shadow play before the main event. All the lovers are merely straw men, stand-ins for the one true mate she knows is waiting for her.

I can see Emily freeze and choke at the prospect of an ordinary, human love. She has to save herself for the real thing, if for no other reason than she just doesn’t have the stomach for pretending. Perhaps Emily is not entirely human herself. Or too human?

Last night Geoff and I read The Marriage of Heaven and Hell aloud, alternating each section in the manner of our “slow reading” of The Symposium. Among Blake’s many trippy insights, the one I held most dear was an observation his speaker made in one of the sections titled: “The Voice of the Devil”. The speaker offers an essential truth that contradicts the incorrect belief promulgated by scripture, chiefly that we must expunge the false notion that Body and Soul are separate. Body is simply an aspect of Soul that can be perceived with the five senses. How New Age, really. This physical life is not fundamentally divided from the life of the spirit, rather it is the concretized portion of it. Whatever we touch we receive through our hands some aspect of an immortal force. Continuing from there, when we depart our bodies, this so-called death is not an end, but a re-working of a thing that remains fundamentally whole. Neither created nor destroyed, but simply changed in form. And a happy Easter to you!

Then we read the best part of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell which are the Proverbs of Hell. My favorite: “Shame is Prides cloke.” Also: “The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.” Geoff’s favorite: “The nakedness of woman is the work of God.” Or maybe it was: “Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.” So many to choose from. In any case, you can see where this was going.

Next Week: Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. Do stop in.

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Death At The Birthing Bed

Again, Emily concerns herself with potential coming into expression.

#952, c. 1864

A Man may make a Remark —
In itself — a quiet thing
That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
In dormant nature — lain —

Let us deport — with skill —
Let us discourse — with care —
Powder exists in Charcoal —
Before it exists in Fire.

Here the potential is a fire, which may be productive or destructive. A fire may warm you through the winter and cook your food. Or it could destroy the whole village. Pure potential is morally neutral. It answers only to itself when not directed toward any goal. The fire doesn’t care if it burns down a village or warms the nourishing soup. It’s all the same to the fire.

Em says we are shaped or our potential is ignited at various times in our lives by outsiders. A chance remark made without explicit intentions could start a fire that burns down the village. We don’t know what we possess until we are forced to react to random intrusions from the outside. We can’t know the breadth of our potential (or the moral content we may give it) until irritated into a response. We won’t know if our fire is that flame of inspiration, a cheery warming force that feeds us and others. Or if we contain the earth-scorching force that brings down the foundations of our structure.

That’s the test for evolving beings. How do we direct our power as it explodes from potential into expression?

Emily points out that this is a dangerous test. She cautions care because many have failed. None of us knows what we may be setting in motion either within ourselves or others. That unrealized darkness is exciting because it contains everything in potential. The movement into expression, like birth, contains many perils. The angel of death always perches over the birthing bed, waiting and watching. The result is not certain or safe until it arrives in sensible hands. Even then . . . who knows.

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Death and the Fairy

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.


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