Saturday, August 13, 2005


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Went to the Strand bookstore ("Eighteen Miles of Books") in the city and was captivated by a book of lynching photographs. Hundreds upon hundreds of sepia-toned and black and white photographs of that "strange fruit." Often they were young black men, their necks stretched long and thin, their heads at an awkward angle, hanging singly or in pairs from trees, streetlights, bridges. Some women. Some white men. Kids. Many were tortured before and during. Lit on fire. Whipped. Dragged through the streets. Sometimes there were explanations "Killer of Judge Stanley" or "Raped a woman and stabbed her baby in front of her." On a few occassions there were photographs of the person while still alive, the mob surrounding them, then another of them dead in a tree.

I looked closely at each photograph. I read each caption. I saw one from 1964, the year I was born.

I don't know why but I am drawn to death in all its particulars like a moth to the flame. Something deep inside me is fascinated, can't look away. Doesn't want to. Won't.

I'm all eyes.

It's why I do what I do, I suppose. The ultimate witness. Standing around in the rooms where death has just visited. Looking at blood trails, trying to unravel the exact dance the dying performed. Here's where she put her hand, trying to keep the door closed as he smashed it open. Here's where she rummaged through the bathroom drawers, bleeding to death. What was she looking for? A weapon? A band-aid?

And then, my head still full of these vivid and disturbing images, its off to the autopsy. Where I can really get an eyeful. Get my hands dirty. Poke and probe each wound. Hold the organs in my hands. Map bullet trajectories. Twist arms and legs to get wound to align. Work through various scenarios. Until we're left with an empty shell and we drop the red bag of guts back into the chest cavity and plop the chest plate on top and strip off our gloves and paper suits and call it a day.

Strange fruit.

I suppose on the simplest level I just can't believe that I'm going to die. Okay, this guy's dead. He didn't see it coming. This lady's dead. This kid got creamed. Those folks over there? Dead as shit.

Not me, though.

Not yet.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

indelible. carries the crazed truth of a nightmare, and all the more powerful for being in black and white. jim

8:20 AM  
Blogger Radish King said...

I feel the same way about engines, I mean, I feel the same way but transfered my curiosity (curiosity is my driving impetus, it drives me as an artist) to engines, car, motorcycle, airplane and little engines. I have 3 dismantled alarm clocks from 1959 on the desk on which I write. I think if I can figure out how things work, take them apart, then put them back together in exactly the right way, I can save them, and therefore save myself.

Are you familiar with the photographer Sally Mann? If not, please check out her book What Remains.

I love this post, really love it.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Radish King said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:13 AM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...





Thanks for this.

Yeah, it's probably much the same thing, the fascination with how things flesh and blood or in gears, steel...

When I was in the Coast Guard I worked electronics on the HH65 Dolphin helicopter, but we were all crossed-trained and did maintenace on power plant, airframe, hydraulics, wiring, etc.

Those big engines always blew my mind, and caring for them when you know that your life depends on them is a beautiful lesson in paying attention.

All the best to you.


9:18 AM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...

Oh, and Sally Mann.

My God.

thanks. again.


9:22 AM  
Blogger LKD said...

First, Rebecca, I echo Scott's wows both for your poem and for Sally Mann.

Next, did you buy the book, Scott? Sounds like you were rapt.

64? What month? I recall you saying we were both dragons.

And finally:

I Know it Sounds Silly But

I thought I would live
forever until
the day my grandmother died.
It was Christmas morning
and I was twenty-five
when my mother woke me--
I was sleeping in, I was
an adult, I didn't give a damn
about Santa or my stocking--
and told me without warning.
Like that silent crow
flying suddenly up from the pine,
actually, a hemlock,
there was no caw, no audible
flap of wings, black black
black, no sigh
as the branch eased up,
released from the weight
of that omen and loosed
the snow that fell
down upon me. Okay, okay,
so no snow fell down,
no crow flew up, no pine--okay, hemlock-- unloaded its coldness.
I was not blinded, I was not
buried by white and white
and white. That was Frost.
And I shamelessly stole it,
lifted those lines,
enfolded them into mine
just so I could tell you this:
I believed I would live forever
until I was twenty-five.
I know, it sounds silly. But.

That's the truth. I really truly wholly believed that everyone else was going to die except me. The realization of my mortality on that day combined with the totality of my grandfather's grief with consumed him--he pined away for her and died within the year--made me feel like a zombie, like I was already half-dead.

I'm sitting here smiling, shaking my head. I really thought I was eternal. I did.

12:01 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


Wonderful poem. Thanks for sharing it here.

I don't know. For me I have to prove my own mortality to myself every day in order to keep it fresh and alive in front of me...

And still, part of me can't believe it.

3:07 PM  
Blogger OrphanedPoet said...

death underscores every moment helping to squeeze out the impermanent sweetness-- so death has a profound purpose in our lives while we live them. like don juan, we should allow it to sit on our left shoulder whispering its name, so that we may savor each moment as we live it.

today i came across a quotation--- one of those lines that resonate and fill the soul with recognition of its truth:

"While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die." ~ Leonardo da Vinci

- that's it. he had the secret.

our lives are series of goodbyes each and every instant, and it's no wonder you are fascinated with inner-workings both of body and experience, even in the instances of violent death--it's in details, that we are enlightened suddenly with seeing the whole.

the disturbing image you've created above happens to be one of those i carry in my bag of nightmares: that hooded presence we've seen so often on the news--that dealer of death- no angel, that one. that one's a monster- crude, destructive and obscene, but it shocks, and so the image served to awaken me today.

welcome back, scott. your trip has both rested and enriched you-- and we are the happy recipients of your travels.

9:58 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


Thanks for stopping in and sharing your always wonderful and always moving thoughts. You make
this a richer place.



3:55 PM  
Blogger djuana said...

Tristesse Confesses

Yes that's me – canary
in the coal mine
of mine own digging

into, out of
light in flight like
who would be sounding the alarm –
who would be saving grace.

This is not everyday, not even most days,
what with the way I remain foreigner
to all but the virtual lives being lost, product
of my oh ca na da & the inner
wresting away from east of Eden –
the bad nights I talk in my sleep
of all things in grinding particular
worrisome to no one.

The walls cave in, I shine.
The song I didn't write
tells it baringly exact
& broken heart/mind lovable, frightful.

Canary in a cage, heightened alas, cream
colours of tricky antecedents
a storm, a blank storm, whirring about intolerably
in these mazes of sad form…

Ah, a difference in temperament Scott, as in: rather than me needing to prove my own mortality to myself everyday, I need to deal with the way it insists on proving itself to me everyday, often multiple times...This is a wonderful collage, the text revealing & interesting.


7:15 AM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


I am showered with riches!!!

What a wonderful poem, wonderful, powerful images,

I think even though we may be dealing with our own mortality in flipside ways, like yin and yang they are joined into one way.

All the best, and thank you.


6:33 AM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


THIS IS NOT ONE OF MY CREATED IMAGES. It's a pic I took in NYC down in the Bowery. Artist unknown.

I just loved it.


6:32 AM  

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