Death's Garden Excerpts

Death's Garden

Relationships with Cemeteries


From "Who Fell Asleep," by Christine Hurt


You can't go to a cemetery and not think about death, but lately everything reminds me of death, my own, my friends'. As I walk on, I remember one time in college, when I was on acid. It seemed insane to me then that, with nuclear holocaust a very real possibility and completely out of our control, we could even think about anything else. Actually just the opposite is true. It's the same now. If you tried for a moment to comprehend fully what AIDS is, where it came from, and what it's doing to us, your mind would snap. I have felt my mind bend, a few splinters give way. Yet I'm practically unaffected by the disease compared to many.
On the left I find another grave to study. The rectangular stone plot encloses a mound exploding with forget-me-nots, the most common wildflower in the graveyard. I love the tiny, perfect flowers, pale blue petals around a yellow center. I am surprised to see that this is George Eliot's grave. Her real name was Mary Ann Cross. Her inscription reads, "Of those immortal dead who live again in minds made better by their presence." I wonder if it was her idea to put up this penis-like obelisk.




From "Cemeteries I Have Known: Europe," by Claudius Reich


While on a wander down around the southern end of Kreuzberg in Berlin, I stumble across this long gray-green cemetery. It's a profusion of monuments and arches, family plots circumscribed by wrought-iron fences and crowned with stone angels. Even the largest and most conspicuous of the monuments are very quiet -- grandiose, not garish. Whole place has a white-gloves air to it, like those tiny tree-lined streets you find sometimes in the center of a large city, where everything is quieter, cleaner, and little old ladies walk down the street carrying white string bags. Toward the far edge of the cemetery, in a squat stone building, is a room filled with carved stone figures, a mob of angels and Saviors and blank headstones, staring out through the wavy panes of glass.




From "If I Ain't Dead Already...," by Jennifer Behling


As far as I can think back, cemeteries have intrigued me. The tall silver fences and bold white tombstones... Over the years, I always stretched my neck to see the mystical grounds as our car zoomed past.
Finally we moved next door to one. As soon as we had unpacked our necessities for the night, my younger brother and I explored our new neighbors' land next door. They were our neighbors, even if they were long dead.


It began my sophomore year of high school. I was physically unappealing to those I lusted over. I knew no cure could mend my low self-esteem. I wanted to die. At fifteen, I could barely survive taunting from my peers. I had no comebacks for the degrading names I was given. Just ignore them, folks would tell me. Yeah, you try it.
But I had an outlet. With actual people I could fit in with. At first I stuck mostly to the dips in the earth of the ones that couldn't afford a stone. Ones freed from having a name. I screamed and tore at the earth around them, releasing the day's pent-up agony.
When my sixteenth year rolled around, I'd visit the Flint Cemetery more often, for longer periods of time. Because of my terrible shyness, it was easier to talk face to face with a slab of stone. That's when I'd drifted to the headstones with names and dates carved into them. The grandmotherly types, I figured, were deserving of the green Styrofoam pots with bright plastic flowers. To me, they represented permanent devotion between the living and those waiting in afterlife.
When I died, I wanted tons of mourners. That was a childhood fantasy. I wanted to be like the famous poets in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey in London.

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