Crossposted from “The Daily Tombstone“
I have an unholy interest in gravestones and grave markers, as well as other forms of remembrance of the dead, whether ornately carved stone or homemade roadside memorial. I’m rather fond of cemeteries, too. Burial grounds are generally quiet and uncrowded…by the living. Usually, you can cut the solitude with a knife, and I like my solitude. The dead don’t talk. Much. At times, one feels as though one is having a conversation, but those murmurs are simply the voices inside the head. A cemetery is like an outdoor library, with stones to read instead of books. I skim the inscriptions like the text on the spines on books; title, author, publisher, the explicit temptation to take a book from the shelves and open it. You can’t open a grave like a book, but you can open your mind to the dead and hear the whispers.
I take lots of pictures of grave and memorial art. I do this for my own delectation, but in these latter days of supra-narcissistic social media, why not share? I am you and you are me and we are all together, and one day, we’ll be dead. Memento mori. Ars longa, and all that. Art for the dead is a kind of popular art, and can be folk art, but is also art that lasts–not always, not forever, but a gravestone is generally more sturdy than most contemporary forms of popular art. Conversely, it is an art that is also allowed to decay–out of doors in all weathers. As I have said elsewhere, I think many ruins look better bleached and broken than they did when new and whole. The power to conjure the ages withstood, to ensorcell the imagination as one walks among carved stones, lies in decay. Rock of ages, cleft for me.
Homemade markers weather fast, and that rush to entropy interests me also–and the visible efforts of family and loved one to arrest that entropy, decorating, cleaning, keeping house for the dead. Tokens to conjure, to police the deviations and deceptions of beloved memory.
The inaugural photo of this little blog is the memorial to Edgar Allen Poe in the Westminster Burying Ground in Baltimore. I was playing tour guide to a friend last May and as she is a (published) writer, I took her for a visit. It was blustery day, and the grounds of the dark little church were suitably spooky. For some reason, people leave pennies tipped against the stone. The daily tombstone will not often be that of a dead “celebrity,” but the Poe stone is appropo, is it not?