My wife, for whom I have many ideas, tells me that I really shouldn’t sew such things together, she says that I should leave them in ‘Bloody peace!’ But I always respond with the same point, which is ‘Hell, you’re a damn mortician! We nearly do the same job!’ And many of the nights are passed in this pleasant way.
Once, I really pissed her off. I crept downstairs and into her prep room and replaced this quiet man’s head with a lion’s. Personally, I think it high accolade to have your head replaced with a proud beast’s once dead. Well, this placed her in a ‘progressive predicament’, as I call them, she could either rip off the lion’s head from the man’s body – now that’s real sacrilege – and leave the man headless for the funeral (I had already connected the man’s head elsewhere) or… Leave him with the lion head.
My wife doesn’t get much work these days. That was say, twenty, or forty years ago. When we look back at those days we don’t say anything. We don’t really need to. Each time a man passes on the street that looks like a particular type of animal, or death in my wife’s old prep room, we’re already smiling, knowing the joke, and laughing between ourselves about it all.
It turns out that after all these years we’ve created our own Gods. Mine, a crazed taxidermist, replacing this and that after you’re gone, perhaps threading your neck whilst your still here, but certainly letting you chose from the selection of animal parts yourself. Her God is a pair of porcelain hands, forever washing in the sink, thirtyish, when I first met her, always flicking around your face with skin coloured clay, helping you to look your best.
Now, the dust speaks in thunder blocks and we’re sat in our favourite places in the front room. And all the Gods let us go. Unable to amuse us as we do ourselves. I take out my sewing needle. She brings out her white powder. And the window blows completely in. Every beast that I have made joins us as we lift through. Ellen’s painted cadavers help us to lift up gently. They are the joyous boatmen, making sure that our feet land inside their ship as they take us. And still, they have faces like the infinite expressions of every animal, creating a soft dance in the river as they move their oars through the sea. Still the moon gate shatters the horizon as we sit in the middle of their steady craft. Our life’s work surrounding us in silent and absolute gaze.
I lean in to you as we sail. Illuminated as we always are, amidst the rushing sound of rowers in the far wings of the boat. And tell you something. Just something daft. That the boatmen cannot hear as they row. The sea moans a particular song. That sounds like everything we have ever said. The boatmen too- need encouragement, as the weight of the oar and the weight of the water lifts our craft up unable to be still or violent, even here they ask us with open mouths how long the journey will be.
Ell and I know little as our hands dive for the bags we were given. And answer these people for the first time, rushing towards the spare oars at the back, renewing their steam with a HAA ROOO HAA ROOO, an absolute pace that spreads out and unites the boatmen together, a sound that rips the sea apart, and sacrifices thought breeding spirit, tearing apart our instincts as our rythm becomes the same, the ship barely a ship, but everything we’ve got agreeing in everyone’s veins, and even if this is a strange place where things seem to dance for no reason, I look across at Ell amidst the same wood and salt water, as she turns and looks at me, and she sends me the reason.
Right on back.