Saturday, May 28, 2016

May 28: Gene Autry, Claudia Emerson, "Animal Funerals, 1964"

As I sit here, typing this second post, I am listening to Christmas music,  Gene Autry singing "Up on the Housetop."  I am still at McDonald's, so I tend to get looks from people walking by, as if listening to Christmas music on Memorial Day weekend somehow makes me suspect.  I want to tell an old gentleman who just shuffled by, pushing a walker and staring at me, that I do not suffer from any form of serious mental illness.  That the music just helps me concentrate, makes me feel happy.  Of course, if I try to explain, I might seem even more unstable. 

I also just discovered, while looking for a Claudia Emerson poem to post, that Ms. Emerson passed away in 2014.  She was only 57.  As I read her New York Times obituary, it made me incredibly sad.  So young and talented. 

Now Bing Crosby is singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas."  It's such a melancholy little tune.  Wistful.  Nostalgic.  It sort of increases the feeling of loss over Claudia Emerson.  No, I didn't know her personally, but there's something incredibly intimate about reading a person's poems.  Like you're reading letters from a really close friend.  And now that close friend is gone.

This Memorial Day weekend, where the dead are honored, I am thinking about loss a little bit.  (Don't worry, I'm also thinking about barbecue and bratwurst.)  And now, I'm adding Claudia Emerson to the list of people I've lost this year.  Loss is a big part of living.  I know this.  I'm just not happy about it.

Maybe Saint Marty should do something to brighten his mood, like watch Terms of Endearment while thinking about the music he wants played at his funeral.  Planning ahead is always uplifting.

Animal Funerals, 1964

by:  Claudia Emerson

That summer, we did not simply walk through
the valley of the shadow of death; we set up camp there,

orchestrating funerals for the anonymous,
found dead: a drowned mole—its small, naked palms

still pink—a crushed box turtle, green snake, even
a lowly toad. The last and most elaborate

of the burials was for a common jay,
identifiable but light and dry,

its eyes vacant orbits. We built a delicate
lichgate of willow fronds, supple, green—laced

through with chains of clover. Straggling congregation,
we recited what we could of the psalm

about green pastures as we lowered the shoebox
and its wilted pall of dandelions into the shallow

grave one of us had dug with a serving spoon.
That afternoon, just before September and school,

when we would again become children, and blind
to all but the blackboard's chalky lessons, the back

of someone's head, and what was, for a while longer,
the rarer, human death—there, in the heat-shimmered

trees, in the matted grasses where we stood,
even in the slant of humid shade—

we heard wingbeat, slither, buzz, and birdsong—
a green racket rising to fall as though

in a joyous dirge that was real,
and not part of our many, necessary rehearsals

Couldn't find Emerson's gravestone, but this one makes me sad, too

1 comment:

  1. I can picture you sitting in McDonalds listening to your Christmas music; you're completely within the realm of just the right amount of reasonably disturbed. Well done.