Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ashes and boxes (some notes on death)

I'm thinking of Alice B Toklas in her seventies, and similarly an old friend, Val Herbst, trudging damply around her dry garden, fat fag smoking from her lips, high cloud drizzle falling on dying perennials, drought around, drinking coffee through unwashed glass alive with unnameable film, Alice, tasting her oldness in everything, listening to her thongs slapping the peddles of the baby harpsichord, punching out Scarlatti, lionising him while attacking the polite memorials, her mind that brave, her bed dank, a cat's bed under the Murrumbeena bowls and foxing shelves of printed thought. A lifetime corroding in full view of my early twenties, drawing her pictures; her decomposition a gift reversed.

Instead we burn our dead or box them tight from soil in coffins – the pollutions of avoidance. Val insisted on the right to be buried in her half dead garden and years later the same spirit home-birthed Zeph; the stuff of common substance becomes an argument with the fearful. 
The one thing that everybody wants is to be free...not managed, threatened, directed, restrained, obliged, fearful, administered, they want none of these things they all want to feel free...they do not want to be afraid not more than is necessary in the ordinary business of living... Gertrude Stein, 1943

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