Death: letters


I found this child’s glove on the lawn after the snow melted. I’m not sure where it came from. We don’t get trick-or-treaters here.

A is for Absence, which we are unable to imagine for ourselves but all too ready to visit upon the world.

B is for Bones, which grow and break and knit themselves back together, but mercifully do not feel.

C is for Carcass, or Carcase – in either case, the body turned into burden, a dead weight.

D is (of course) for Death, which we can only understand by reference to life, which we cannot understand at all: thus, it is a mystery of the second degree and not the first.

E is for Eater, or Earth, which rhymes with mirth for no particular reason.

F is for Fate, curator of retrospectives.

G is for God or Gangster, Google or Ganges, Gog or Gag.

H is for Hell, which used not to be so Hot before the Christians conquered it and turned it into a penal colony.

I is for Iconoclast – the most precise job description for Death that I can think of.

J is for Jack and Jill, who went looking for water in high places rather than in low, and suffered the consequences.

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I almost stepped on this doe skeleton down in the marshy corner of the field yesterday – probably a winter kill from 2004.

K is for Knack, the one thing we can neither take with us nor pass on, as Zhuangzi noted.

L is for Languor, which seeks to escape but manages merely to omit.

M is for Motive, without which Murder is truly a Mystery.

N is for Narcotic: henbane, thornapple, belladonna – plants that remind us that death is a form of ecstasy.

O is for something Other than what you think.

P is for Post or Pillory, the original way to spread news both Public and Personal, where all letters arrive marked current resident.

Q is for Query, a kind of minimized Question that permits a sleight-of-hand substitution of words for bodily presence.

R is for Return, a logical impossibility (see Heraclitus).

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Also yesterday, I found this dead fish in the woods. There are no live fish on the mountain. All I can figure is that a passing osprey dropped it.

S is for Snake – or rather, S is a snake, whose hiss must be one of our favorite sounds. It makes the blood race in our snaky veins.

T is for Test, a Terror-ridden, Terrible justification for child sacrifice, both in Abraham’s time and in our own.

U is for Uncle, the ugly one that children make other children call them, on pain of death.

V is for Vault, a place to store money or bones.

W is for Want and for Worm: the price of admission, regardless of the show.

X is for X – anything you want (see W). It signals openness and cancellation both, a friendly kiss and a pornographic rating.

Y is for Youth, when immortality and tragedy both seem possible.

Z is for Zest, the merest smidgen of which is proof against Zero.

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