Saturday, January 10, 2015

Je Suis Curiouser

Nine of Swords

In Admiration of the Professional Mourners

I never remember when to kneel,
Or sit, or stand, (or speak or heel)
Or bow my head, so you assume
I'm new to mourning. Not true.
It's clear I'm not a pro, I haven't
Kept up with the latest techniques;
Neither meta nor rootsy, my grief
Is outsider grief, self-taught. To you
Goes that blessed relief of tribes,
Armies, nations who share your sorrow
And issue proclamations in its honor.
I am alone in mine.
I know a well-crafted fence when I see it;
I can admire a fine machine, and proper
Words and what to wear. But it's a
Rulebook I was never given to master;
I'll show up at the Home
With a tub of potato salad, not knowing
That's just not how it's done anymore.

But like an old woman who dances
On point in her dreams, my nights are filled
With ghosts, with so many dead you'll
Never, never know, so many you've never
Even seen or heard of, but I have, I know
Them all, and through the night I offer
Such exquisite tribute the dead themselves
Are brought to tears. It's simple, as it
Must be. It gets them every time.
Of course I'll tell you how. I give away
My art, I always give it away. Here's all
I have to say: "I realize that you are gone."

1 comment:

Slothrop said...

This one feels defiant, & would move me even outside of the context of current events (always to be current, at this rate...). Feel a real personal connection. My favorite line from Joe Orton's "Loot" is "I'm not a fan of private grief. Show your emotions in public or not all." Behind the paradox is a chilling presumption of a lack of human interiority: all emotions as void outside of a publicly consumable pantomime. Professional / official grieving gives me the same chill. As though we are, down to the tiniest grain of our existence, communal property. Or, at worst, another paycheck. Why is palpably counterfeit caring seen as a show of respect? What did any of those thousands of people really know about Lady Di? "Unacceptable" feelings in search of a safe object? Their displays were like protests against mortality itself.

Grieving obsessed me as a volunteer overseas. "Love" was supposed to heal or comfort shattered people, & it was doled out like rice. How can love have any power when wielded in a workaday, assembly-line style? And the caring was all pragmatic - when someone died (everyday occurrence) there was no pretense of grief. Save your emoting for the living. No time, either: multitudes were swarming in the door.

I felt so crushed when someone I'd bonded with (even just through non-verbal jokes, feedings, exercise or songs) died, always in a kind of pain I couldn't fathom. But there was no outlet. I memorialized all these people in my journal: drawings, descriptions, lists of memories.

And it would have felt squalid to be paid for this catharsis. Maybe the ex-Catholic in me. I always thought John Lydon sabotaged the promotion of "Metal Box" because it drew on his feelings about his mother's death. I think if he read you he would give you all the respect in the world.