My two gals, Alison Alexandra and her friend, Amanda, had a sea voyage. It was a voyage via a freighter, and not a cruise ship. They stopped in the ports where the freighter stops, and they took visits of the town if they so desired.
On one of their times on shore, they decide to visit a Police Museum. One of the exhibits is a Death Mask of a hanged murderer. They take great interest in this, noting the repose of the face.
This incident is based on an event in my own life. I melded parts of my experience into my characters afternoon visit during their day ashore. This had not been on my mind when I started this particular chapter..
I once taught a workshop on Supernatural writing. For my workshop I took advantage to take my students on a field trip to see the death mask of a historically known poet. The death mask was conveniently on view in a display case in a near-by building. The poet was Bliss Carman, and among the tales told of him, was that his death mask was the only thing remaining of him in this city of his birth. His ashes, buried with great pomp, were actually the ashes from a railway, gathered by his lover who wished to have his real remains stay with her.
None of my students had even heard of ‘death masks’, let alone seen one. I invited them to
incorporate the idea into their writing exercises. Some did, some did not.
However, it’s possible this visit to Death elicited the following story from one of my students.
My student and her husband had purchased a new house. Cleaning and renovations eventually took them to the back loft area, which was piled high with decades of accumulated detritus from a long life.
They cleared out beds and boxes and newspaper piles and magazines and bundles of clothes and on and on. Near the end of this process, my student noticed a “clump of something” on one of the wooden beams of the loft.
Getting ladder and flashlight her husband climbed to see what it was.
It was the end of a number of knotted bed sheets.
And, since Death can lead its merry way in so many ways, here is a segment of a Bliss Carman poem which sums up to me, oh, so much.
Bliss Carman (from) Across The Courtyard
Somehow she had acquired the chill
Of worldliness; I missed the thrill
Of eager radiance she had
When we were comrades, free and glad.
Some volatile and subtle trace
Of soul had vanished from her face,
Leaving the brilliancy that springs
From polished and enamelled things.
The beauty of the lamp still shone
With lustre, but the flame was gone.