Tuesday, June 24, 2008

origami rose

A keepsake: the white, folded paper
petals that curl into a rose
your fingers curl around it
as you pass it to me,
this creased imperfect
symbol of
our love.

Monday, June 2, 2008

green graveyard

Pere Lachaise cemetery, eternal home to some of the greatest people that France has ever seen. Even the trees seem dead – their bases ground into the gravel, the cement thick to crush the fumes of the deceased, to keep them firmly buried underground. A river of faded & gnarled leaves, like souls of the dead in the river Styx, floats permanently between the tourist-pounded pavement and the silent graves, between life and death.
Cemetaries are a nightmare for unwilling symbolists. The dead are around us here, stillness, faded leaves are amassing on the sides of pavements like graves or souls. Yet – the trees here, green. Living people parade the pavements, their speech forms pyramids risen from the dusty silence. The green leaves are a reminder that life goes on and on and on and on, that new lives are exploding on the world scene in maternity wards and bathroom floors everywhere.
We like to keep birth and death separate from ordinary life, containing each earth- shattering crunch in hospitals or cemeteries. And yet in this cemetery, the leaves are stirring green & vivid above the graves – perhaps there is life here after all.
"they gave birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more" Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

This cemetery is a tribute to some of the great thinkers and movers and creators of our time. Yet it is also a silent tribute to those whose lives will not be remembered as moving through the world stage. Their lives had meaning for those surrounding them, loved ones, and as part of the patchwork of history.
No life is without meaning.

This tourist attraction seems inappropriate somehow. The pleasant aesthetic of blue sky, green trees and shapely graves is jarring in contrast with the reality of death, the slow disintegration of the old, the sudden lightning stop of the young, earthshattering bottomless breaking night.
Some would argue that the beautiful graves and carefully engraved names are a tribute to former lives – not deaths - after all. But I I would suggest that these beautiful gravestones are a pleasant sheen over real death and an inadequate tribute to life. I don’t want to be blasé and relaxed around these graves, strolling gently to the next famous name. I want to confront life and death, stare them straight in the mouth & try to comprehend the mystery inside.