Monday, October 31, 2011

A Halloween curse

Somebody cover me. Don't pay any mind to the ravens clucking, their greedy eyes looking down at my body from the oak's bare limbs. And the turkey vultures, wings outstretched, gaily hopping about, the scent of putrefaction exciting their dance -- they're only birds: they'll scatter when you come near. I want you to come near so you can detect the last of the warmth leaving my body. I want you to sense how thin is the thread that keeps us alive.

Hold your breath or wear a mask. Look down at this body. If you press on the chest, ash will come out of the mouth and dust out of the nostrils. A foul odor will follow. If you press hard enough the sternum and ribcage will splinter and crack. There is nothing of me left inside this body, just soft tissue in the first stages of rot. The hollow gurgling noise you hear is the sound of escaping gas.

Even so, it will not do to leave me lying here, exposed to the elements. I walked this earth like you, my head full of questions that never bore answers, fully human. Let the birds, the coyotes, and the rats feast somewhere else. Let the insects lay their eggs in another creature's corpse. I would not be food for scavengers. It was this body that served me well. Though it will never dance again, or savor a meal, or ejaculate in the early morning, or dive into the surf on a perfect July day, it deserves honor for the many good years when it did all those things and more. This body was me, inseparable from the thoughts and feelings I harbored. I was not a machine -- I was flesh and blood. So please cover it with the soil of my native land.

Like so many of my fellow citizens, I stitched together a life from necessity and luck and called it grace. I put money away for retirement, stayed on this side of the law, and never deliberately hurt another person. Wasn't that enough to warrant a decent burial? Why should I decay in limbo? My body was not meant to be left on the side of the road like a animal carcass. It belongs in the cemetery with my forbears who came over from Europe and now lie under Long Island sand and Brooklyn loam. There is nothing left of them except the stones that mark their graves.

If you can't cover this body, then cremate what's left of it and scatter the ashes to the wind. Let a nor'easter carry my remains far out to sea. Whatever you do, do it quickly, before this body disappears. If you don't take care of it one way or the other, the memory of my final agony will haunt you till you die. Then your body, like mine, will be cast away like garbage.

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