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The Ghosts Make Room For Me

white_lady_by_keyacko

There are ghosts behind the ghosts.

There are legions of the dead,

Lined up to peer

Over my shoulder.

They breathe with satisfaction,

Upon the hand

That writes the word

Ghosts.

The millions of departed,

Disturb the air enough,

To stir the hair,

On my moving wrist.

They keep a place in line,

Patiently waiting,

For me to join them.

(Image)Z.bp.blogspot.com/-T5btFt_b_uA/VHJG5Q5FV-I/AAAAAAAAz9w/wZmX3qRC8vA/s1600/White_Lady_by_Keyacko.png

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Is The Dead Man Really Dead In The Graveyard?

Mount Royal Cemetery; Montreal, Quebec, Canada

 

We were looking for a grave, and reasonably sure we were in the right section. But, it was a big graveyard, covering a number of city blocks. Winding drives up and down hills. Full grown trees and distant vistas. And, except for the very ornate ones, gravestones look much alike.

Near one of the junctures of the roads, pulled right over to the side, and as close to being in a ditch as it could be, a car of higher-end wealth was parked. This was not particularly odd within itself, but, glancing around the rows and rows of graves, there was no one to be seen. An empty car in a graveyard. I thought it best to take a look.

Although I assumed the car was empty, I also had thought it possible it was not. And when I got close enough to look into the windows, I understood why I had seen nobody. A thin, elderly man, his white hair mussed, was slumped to one side in the driver’s seat. He had not fallen completely over because he was held by his shoulder strap. I was peering through the passenger side window, and could not tell if he was breathing.

I tapped, louder and louder, on the door window, but nothing happened. Not a twitch or shrug by the man. I still thought he was probably alive, but wondered if he might have had a heart attack or a stroke. Or, he could be deaf. Regardless, my tapping did nothing to him. So I decided to go around to the driver’s side.

As the car was so close to the ditch, I had to stand in it. The ground was wet, though there was no running water. I reached up and started knocking on the driver’s window – no tapping this time. There was still no response, and since I had been at this about three minutes, I did start thinking he was at least unconscious. I kept rapping on the window, planning next to open the door and wondering what to do it it was locked.

The man finally moved enough that I knew he was alive. But I kept knocking on the window until he opened his eyes. He looked befuddled and didn’t move his head. I knocked again and finally he looked in my direction. He seemed dazed but not surprised. He didn’t sit straight but he did reach and open the window.

“Are you all right?”

“What?”

“I want to make sure you are all right. You haven’t been moving.”

“Yes. Yes, I am.”

“OK. I wanted to make certain.”

“Yes.”

I started to move out of the ditch, but he called to me.

“Thank you for taking the time.”

DE

(image)cdn-image.travelandleisure.com/sites/default/files/styles/tnl_redesign_article_landing_page/public/mount-royal-cemetery-outremont-quebec-canada.jpg?itok=H59POlIT

It Is A Grave Thing To Be Dead

 

kafka-photo-grave-300dpi-4c5c1958

(image)http://zeek.forward.com/workspace/uploads/kafka-photo-grave-300dpi-4c5c1958.jpg

I enjoy graveyards, and peruse them with vigour. It’s true I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life in them, but, after that …

So, I have many tales of cemeteries to tell. Hardly any are scary because, contrary to popular depiction, graveyards are not haunted. Unless one happens to die in one (or – worse yet – die after being buried in one), there are no lingering spirits to haunt. Graveyards are a place, however, to go and contemplate those buried there. I am planning for myself a grand mausoleum.

While researching my novel about Franz Kafka, I went to Prague. In those days it was still under communist subjugation, and travel in and out of Czechoslovakia, to say nothing of travelling the country, was complicated and dangerous. I was fortunate to have arrangements to stay with a Czech academic and his nuclear scientist wife while in Prague. They had a social standing which facilitated an easier visit.

Unknown to me upon arrival, the academic was an amateur historian. When he found the major thrust of my visit concerned Kafka, he was full of places to visit. Many of them I did not know about, and others I doubt I would have found on my own. For instance, he took me to the small house where Kafka had lived on Alchemist Lane, which eventually became the setting for half of my novel. Even though Kafka was in disfavour at the time, the house was noted for the fact he lived there, and it was on tourists lists. In a Kafkaesque twist, it was even then a bookstore, but none of his books were allowed on the shelves.

One of the places I was taken was to Kafka’s grave. It is situated nowhere near where Kafka lived his life, but is in a huge Jewish graveyard on the outskirts of the city. It took nearly an hour on the subway to reach the area. And then a walk to the graveyard itself. And then a walk through the graveyard, though the way to Kafka’s grave was signed. I would never have thought of trying to get there myself.

Kafka is buried with his mother and father (though, literally, vice versa, as he died first). It is only years after the fact that I read about the drama of his death, and the drama at the graveside. His young lover, Dora, who had spent the last year of his life with him, attempted to leap into the grave. She had to be restrained by Kafka’s best friend, Max Brod.

I lingered a long time – perhaps a half hour – by the grave. In the Jewish tradition I left a stone upon the gravestone. In my own twist, I also left a pen. And, because there were few about, and I was so moved, I lay down upon the grave itself.

DE

A Grave Beast Crosses My Path

 

victorian-cast-iron-grave-monument-lg

(image)http://www.cultofweird.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/victorian-cast-iron-grave-monument-lg.jpg

One sweltering day, which August sometimes keeps in reserve, I still desired a walk. However, there was no mad walk in the noonday sun for me. I waited until a semblance of evening appeared before I went outside.

It was to be a brief walk, twenty minutes or so. Through a graveyard, along city streets, crossing a pedestrian bridge over four lanes of traffic, then to ponder the broad river. After which, as slow a return.

As I walked through a historic graveyard (more than two centuries of the dead) I saw an animal deep among the grave stones. Larger than a cat, smaller than a dog. I went to investigate.

I was reasonably close when I realized it was a badger. Not a beast to toy with. They can be vicious, so I was careful to keep my distance. Feet and toes in sandals might be too inviting. The badger kept a close eye on me as we approached each other.

I reached the point where I had decided to go no further. When I stopped, the animal made a quick run and disappeared under a gravestone. It was a long stone, flat to the ground, covering the length of the grave. On closer inspection I noted burrow holes at either end of the stone. Entrance, and escape when necessary.

I had the desire to investigate further, but good sense – and the heat of the day – dissuaded me. I listened a moment for any rustle underground. To ascertain if there was any gnawing on bones. However, I wanted my own fingers and toes intact.

I left, pondering what its burrow might consist of.

DE

Caught Dead In A Place Like This

If I were going to visit my mother on Mother’s Day, I would have to visit a cemetery. Same for my father, as they are side by side. I have done so before – the last time to make sure their tumbled gravestone had been righted. It had.

I have a friend – still happily above ground – who had once been admonished “… not to walk on graves.” She wondered why, as she said it would give her pleasure if she knew people were even dancing upon hers, and enjoying themselves.

And what’s a graveyard if you can’t enjoy yourself?

I have sometimes pondered whether it would be pleasant to live beside a graveyard. It makes great sense to me. That would almost be a guarantee of peace and quiet.

For myself, I had plans for a grand mausoleum. There was to be a reflecting pool and mourning benches, with ornate gargoyles around the sarcophagus. And a whole lot of other things. Wind chimes, for instance – there should be wind chimes. And treed arbours where people can gently weep.

However, my friend (not the one who wishes cotillions stepped-out upon her mortal bones), who was helping me plan this grand memorial garden, has – alas – herself died. And since it was she who was the mastermind behind my final resting place, I am somewhat at a loss.

As it is, I will be going to see her planted, with no mausoleum in sight. I suppose the irony is lost upon her. But maybe not.

So the reverential repose I wish is now up to me. I hope time doesn’t run out before I do.

DE

Exterior of Milton Mausoleum, Markham Clinton, Nottinghamshire. Photo by James Darwin. Not to be reproduced without permission.

{Yeh – something like this.}

(image)

http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Completelistofchurches/Milton-Mausoleum-Markham-Clinton-Nottinghamshire/

To Find Rest In The Graveyard

(image)

I http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/227/cache/saint-magnus-cemetery-richardson_22760_600x450.jpg

I enjoy graveyards, and peruse them with vigour. It’s true I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life in them, but, after that …

So, I have many tales of cemeteries to tell. Hardly any are scary because, contrary to popular depiction, graveyards are not haunted. Unless one happens to die in one (or – worse yet – die after being buried in one), there are no lingering spirits to haunt. Graveyards are a place, however, to go and contemplate those buried there. I am planning for myself a grand mausoleum.

While researching my novel about Franz Kafka, I went to Prague. In those days it was still under communist subjugation, and travel in and out of Czechoslovakia, to say nothing of travelling the country, was complicated and dangerous. I was fortunate to have arrangements to stay with a Czech academic and his nuclear scientist wife while in Prague. They had a social standing which facilitated an easier visit.

Unknown to me upon arrival, the academic was an amateur historian. When he found the major thrust of my visit concerned Kafka, he was full of places to visit. Many of them I did not know about, and others I doubt I would have found on my own. For instance, he took me to the small house where Kafka had lived on Alchemist Lane, which eventually became the setting for half of my novel. Even though Kafka was in disfavour at the time, the house was noted for the fact he lived there, and it was on tourists lists. In a Kafkaesque twist, it was even then a bookstore, but none of his books were allowed on the shelves.

One of the places I was taken was to Kafka’s grave. It is situated nowhere near where Kafka lived his life, but is in a huge Jewish graveyard on the outskirts of the city. It took nearly an hour on the subway to reach the area. And then a walk to the graveyard itself. And then a walk through the graveyard, though the way to Kafka’s grave was signed. I would never have thought of trying to get there myself.

Kafka is buried with his mother and father (though, literally, vice versa, as he died first). It is only years after the fact that I read about the drama of his death, and the drama at the graveside. His young lover, Dora, who had spent the last year of his life with him, attempted to leap into the grave. She had to be restrained by Kafka’s best friend, Max Brod.

I lingered a long time – perhaps a half hour – by the grave. In the Jewish tradition I left a stone upon the gravestone. In my own twist, I also left a pen. And, because there were few about, and I was so moved, I lay down upon the grave itself.

DE

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