Friday, November 3, 2017

The Dead

3rd November 2017

When I walk through my stable of dead heroes, feeding to them their allotment of ghost hay, what strikes me is how fleeting is the whole farm and stable thing, those plowed fields of names and numbers, our own personal historical landscape. We preserve it because some of these phantoms have laid their stamp on yonder hill, on this hollow and dip,  on that line of trees punctuated across the horizon. Most of us are chaff and get tilled back in, and it is this prospect of anonymity that keeps us moving through our stables of the dead.

I suppose different stalls in that stable have different functions: there's the one of dead ancestors and family, the ones that have to stay with us because they were too known, too much a part of the measure of ourselves. We go into that stall and pull out the ossuaries, the clean white bones of the dead father, those other bones that go back further and are almost turned to stone by now: the great-grandmother after whom you were named, the great-grandfather who took a bullet in the neck at Flanders.
But the place I spend the most time is in the stall of those people we never knew but whose lines of thought and speech still make the world for us a warmer place. These bones came to us like collectors pieces, across the counter of ideology; we have taken them out often and polished them. Some we don't even look at anymore, because they belong back in the days of being young and easy. But we still like to know they are still there.

This is where we come in the lonely hours of night with our swinging lanterns. As we grow older, the hay in this stable doesn't smell so fresh anymore, but if we stay very still, we can still make out the faint aroma of movement, of horses flashing into the dark, of the turning pages of our numberless dreams.

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