The Book of Graves and Memorials

Here is the text of a manuscript file I found on a mini SD card inserted into an otherwise blank smartphone with a cracked screen that was donated to the recycling centre at my local dump. It is listed here due to elements of internal interest, but in the end, perhaps it should have been left to decay in a landfill site, six feet down, amongst the plastic bag, the VHS, and the compact disc, and trays and trays of silver-plated cutlery. – Gapuchin, 2019

0 INTRO

to cope with the private nocturnal terrors I began to revel in them, to smile. To clasp my hands as if in prayer, in a simulation of an older time. I mean, it gave me something to do, which helped. And many years afterwards I began to design graves, in what may be another way of coping with certain facts of living. But what counts as coping?

That we are not here on a certain future date, does not mean we have no stake in what goes on he with us. Of course we have many views of the function of grief and mourning and their socially emergent ceremonies. I don’t really mind about all that.

GRAVES – please select from the list:

i

Calcify my body in the cross of the flames, with a little hinged door. Make sure the door is charred as the abyss on the inside, so even the brightest fire couldn’t light it up even a fraction of a fraction. So that while my body burns, it sees the darkness and remains calm. Then once all is ash and dust you take that ash and dust and sweep it all up with a black dustpan and brush.

iii

Bury me in a coffin with plenty of room. Then, fill the coffin with the greatest works of literature and science the world has produced via a small slide installed at the time of burial, saying a benediction not for my body, but for each volume, even those on which the price stickers remain. Let’s hope they still read in the future. The idea behind this one is that my body will rot and stain irreversibly all of the pages of those great works. After an apocalypse they may well be discovered. And my desiccated self would be remembered as the greatest benefactor the world has ever known. But in fact all I want is that they read the text of my body when they read the text of the world.

iiii

Cast my cold body into a brass clapper inscribed thickly with bodies until it resembles Rodin’s gates of hell. Then install me into a giant bell. This bell is to be rung once when humanity achieves the manipulation of gravity. With the crushing peal, all the broken brass limbs and maybe even my charred shoulder-blade will fall out from the mouth of the sounding bell. But they will no longer fall with the necessity of death.

They may even float above the marbled black mausoleum floor like shadowy fragments of star.

iiiii

You may recognise this one. Take my body and hang it from the tree’s open mouth. Then dig a deep well underneath. By the neck, the rope will entwine my throat and make the connection of the missing voice. My body will resonate with the creakings of the tree as if I speak from above the grave with the voice of wood itself. Then I fall finally with the crows, feather-fall into the mouth of the earth, bird call as the final roar echoing from the black depths.

iiiii i

It’s a club. Cut me into cubes to the beat of the sub-bass. Wrap each piece in light, and distribute me into shoes, handbags, hair. Make sure I flash like a strobe light. Then the dance starts and life patterns death in a euphoria. They will not dance on my grave, because my grave will dance. Mindlessly, and with all the complexity of life the dance falls

iiiii ii

The clearest glass, only the clearest glass. A cage of glass, my body in it, and a vast room so dark that nothing grows except the darkness which grows as the thousands year pass. There is a breeze in here. Where does it come from? Nobody knows*. This mystery, which no one will ever experience, is the refined essence of mystery. It blows through here. In this darkness, the lostness of the past is physical and invisible. And the spiderwebs trail on your face, making you jump. It would be possible even to sit on the smooth surface and never know you are sitting on me. That, that is the physical, metaphorical – now real in the moment – chasm of the understanding. But would it be better if you knew? x

[* One would assume this is why it was important that the overseers of the Gizan pyramids be at least buried within, preferably ground up and made into bricks.]

iiiii iii

Why do we not make graves representing how we died? For example a lithe Giacomettian mushroom cloud is quite an arresting thought. Anyway, say I die of cancer, then my grave will replicate out of control ’til my grave stands between all other graves and flattens all nuance into a darkness ending the graveyard. So there’s that.

iiiii iiii

The room I convalesced in. Unchanged. Musty and dark, the urn hidden in an undisclosed location. Or the ash rubbed into the pillows and duvet. Listen, it might feel a bit weird being in there. Just know I am in there with you, eyes closed under the sheets, or just lying on the floor. Occasionally you will sigh – we will be closest as the dust shifts with your breath.

iiiii iiiii

Sprinkle the dust of my body into the machinery of computer manufacture, as a blessing. The random interaction of small silicates will result in a world-wide sparse event of remembrance as people experience the blue/blank screen of death. But, like all generalisations except one [the on/off distinction] it will only seem to be the same for different individuals (or rather, this solidarity will make us ignore particulars). The dust labyrinth is too deep for human thought, and in the past it is as unreachable as the dirt six feet beneath your feet.

Int.I.

Anger With: Fuck death, death can fuck right off. It’s not fair. How dare it? How dare things do this? How dare they disrespect us?

iiiii iiiii

ii

When it is finished, you will walk into the vast cathedral space, hear the ancient wavelengths of wire twisting and being plucked by the wind. My heart’s stone sarcophagus hangs there, in the centre, under the dome. Its pulse the proof of all the circulations and rhythms of the earth, as it swings, proof of the earth’s spherical rotation, the earth itself pendulum of fate’s manic braiding.

iiiii iiiii

iii

A cold bed. Here I will sleep for an age, slowly decaying in material, but not structure. So slow that my days are part rotations of the galaxy. So soft that the whispering and buzzing of electricity is a high pitched whine heard without ears through my bones. Then, when all technology has jumped to the level of resurrection, and its out of control protocols are keeping everything alive, the rotten trees, the dirt itself, the virus, the gloam bacteria, the sun forever on the edge of dying, then I will thaw and wake, and an entire world in its undeath will be my living grave.

iiiii iiiii

iiii

Place my body in a giant glass biosphere with one oak tree sapling in the well packed dirt and plenty of nutrients. As it grows, and my body sags to the mossy earth, more and more of the tree will be me, and vice versa. When the ripe crop of leaves falls one autumn, crack open the glass and collect them, along with my yellowed bones. Then lay them in an oak coffin, made from that very tree – admiring the pure oranges, pale yellows, woven browns for a while.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii i

A coffin, carved with all manner of symbology from weathered wood. The tall dark figure with the scythe walks amongst all the figures from history, the jackal headed god, the white whale, the dark lord sauron, in a meta-dance of death. The death of all deaths is there, and then in a garish uppercase font, write with red rhinestones the following phrase across the face of the coffin: ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SI-. Make sure it can function as a rudimentary life-raft if required.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iii

Hew a stone from the bare-stricken innards of the earth. Transport it hundreds of miles, and upon arrival polish it so it shines and could be used as a rudimentary mirror. Take gold leaf or a substitute, and after carving the face of this rock with a small phrase, and the dates of birth and death, gild those letters with a fine patina of shine.

Now all this shine, let it rest by the fresh earth, which may just be its absolute opposite. The body, the darkness, and then the opacity, and then the shine, in a rough approximation of life. This shall be the memorial. Repeat.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiii

A grey stone statue of me in foetal position, but with a small water feature – tears run from my eyes forever and pool around my head. If realised properly, the tears will begin to carve small canals into my face. Face which is smiling? Or is it slightly sad?

Int.II.

Sorrow Over: Oh god why why why am I here why would you do this to my friends, my family. Me? What did we do to displease the universe? As if existing things displease the universe, and it does its best to get them in the end. As if displeasing something causes it to want to do anything to you. This sadness is still a self-importance. This is a self-important answer. Because the self is important.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

i

Make me a grave. Due to overpopulation (they say, but of course it’s more to do with custom and distances and the economic system which is the preemptive grave of all human feeling) the rent on burial ground is through the roof, let me tell you. So cremate me. But then hypercompress the ash into small black pearls, so that I can be worn as a necklace, or displayed on a mantelpiece. One by one, you can burn them again in the fire, on a day when it all seems too much.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iii

Build a pub, with oak bar, with blood red carpets, with the deep amber ale in questionable tankards. Fill it full of ancient cigarette smell, craft it from the memories and perspectives of my childhood, recovered through last minute scans of the connectome. It should feel… bad. Those kinds of smells are to do with old people, with the adults and their stale oddities, habits*. Then, surprising in the dark corner, preserve my body in a gigeresque monument of pipes and piped glass tanks, bubbling and whirring and hunched over a table, clutching an empty glass, my pale white flesh just visible through the fogged liquid. No one can drink here without disquiet.

*(But then so is all else)

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii

Is it possible to turn bones into paper? If so, open a great white field for the pen’s plough. And each letter described and corrected a thousand times in half as many drafts, each letter with its final full stop or black letter. Such paper would have all the longevity of dry bone, and folded with gilding into thin envelopes it would create quite the impact when it broke through the letter box and clattered to the floor. Each line would be a scar, and this is perhaps the problem – it would be hard to finish reading such a letter, no matter how many times one were to read it. And so, make sure there is a lesson, there is an edification, a smile, in every line.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii ii

This grave is the reconstituted body made into a group of cats, along with piles of string and treats. So that when they play, the rememberers, they play and heal through the variations of my own self, meowing, purring. N.b. maybe the coffin at the funeral is a decoy, and when people get close enough, touch it, it opens and several kittens are found inside.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iii

A short line on a flat plane, with vectors which swirl randomly until they coalesce in a magnetic field pattern around this line, and after a while the vectors decay until they move on to other regions, perhaps other fields. As the short lines become more numerous, the vectors become less so (each vector being a line in its own plane). In your imagination this was taking place in a conceptual space with black arrows, white expanses; now, grass begins to grow in that whiteness, to flower with all the attendant earthy smell, and the soft seeds are blown with the arrow-vectors like spiderwebs in the wind.

(*Is this what heaven looks like?)

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiii

Imagine the real encounter with death to begin here – enough with these conceptual games. The concrete juts out into the text and the text crashes and is torn. Examine the site of the accident. Is it not, after all this examination, just a gravestone amongst others in a well tended, then by turns less well tended field? With this shock, the rest is burned away as inconsequential. Or do we all encounter our death each day, every moment, if we dwell with it? It can be a renewal, or an absolute disavowal*. Whatever it is, it is a gap. But sometimes we roll over it without stopping. I mean, why bother?

*or, like whenever two terms are given as a disjunction, it could be many other things.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

When antibiotic resistance reaches its apex, the dull mechanisms of evolution will have carved another dead end, as tiny predators starve through lack of prey. Is it possible to create a symbolic graveyard, an opposite to this phenomenon – each grave being the bed of the subsequent oldest human, and as the lifespans rise, and when this graveyard is complete, the human reptilian jellyfish have arrived in a spectacular explosion of holistic intelligence. At this precise moment this graveyard will become the graveyard of all graveyards, resting place and tombstone of natural death itself, and the human. All that is left is death through stupidity, unnatural death, but has anything changed? That is the final conundrum. Fear of death, concrete, abstract, imaginary – immortality can complicate things. I won’t live to see it – but this pure absence will be a concrete memorial in a timeless span.

Int.III.

Despair At: If I were to die at any time, it would mean just as much. What this means is that god has no memory – in fact no-one is even thinking of me now. This is the individual answer. It is the wrong answer. Rise, rise, to herd life as the sun breaks the mountain-horizon, reach beyond, reach to the grasping fingers of the other who reaches for you. They reach for you

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

ii

Sometimes the belief manifests the event that may or may not come to pass. The rarity of flight in a life manifests fear, despite constant assertions that it is not something we should be afraid of. Death, too, has this effect. If we do not believe we will survive, sometimes this leads to it coming to pass. But why not subvert this? I will sit in a field, under an oak tree, until I am joined by others who come to wonder at the noise, music. I sit there longer and longer, and so life and the village grow around me. Each day, sitting under the tree with my books, reading, and carving a gravestone. On the last days, gravestone finished, I will wait. But when I die, you will remove any trace of the stone, the tree and the music, just leaving the new festival, while no one is looking.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iii

Cresting the rugged path, scattered with mountain scree, and under the shadow of the olive trees, you come upon an open square. Under the peaks shifting shadows, this cream stone courtyard seems to arrive as if the house around it simply fell away. In the centre, a simple square stone stands, dappled with sun and in a pink marble, unfinished. No markings other than this – a few drops of my sweat were dripped here years and memories ago. The cool breeze blows fallen leaves out into the valley, as climbers pass on to higher views, dwelling on this simple clearing.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii

A virtual grave, a representation of blistering rock mountains, pine forests, the aurora borealis, and all the deep-cut stars and the great moon herself. You may take a seat on the cold stone sarcophagus in the centre, feeling the snow land on your palms. There plays the song ‘Wind Guide You’ from the popular videogame the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and as the sound goes from soft midday to the great operatic mountain storm of the middle section, from a fading day to twilit warm breeze, the storm whips up, with the aid of augmented reality, and you stride, or run if that is your wont, out across the wide pinnacle of the great dragon, feeling the wind streaming from your cheeks. And know that I would be running there with you, if I could be.

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii i

In a cooled room, marked with a burnt out ice-cream van. Have the gravestone chiselled from crisping ice-cream, in a patchwork of flavour. The good times; vanilla, mint choc chip. The bad times; rum and raisin, sorbet. And a plastic cup of long teaspoons by the door. Each time my rememberers come, the grave will shrink and warp into irregularity. When the licking is done, so too is the mourning, heralded by a heady dawn of sickly calm. Eventually, the cooling systems will fail, and whatever scrap and saliva is on the floor will melt, and drain away to the far sea, whose frothing and frozen peaks caress the melting ice

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii iiiii

iiiii ii

The engineering of glass, of polarisation, results in glass that casts a deep shadow. You immediately imagine this possibility in a hallucination of clarity: A graveyard where every tombstone is made of glass. A moment, every year, when the sun hangs in the sky in the exact place – and shadows align in a field of shadows – each precisely over the grave. But the field seems otherwise empty, as it does in the early dawn, and at dusk. We sit on the grassy hill across from the grounds, reading and feeling the sun’s heat, blinking in its light, and dwelling with this invisible shadow*.

(*shadow which is not cold, not empty, not to be feared, just is)

iiiii iiiii
iiiii iiiii
iiiii iiiii
iii

The grave which comes with a new life. If it comes down to the end of things, consider – this end can have many forms. The house empty with a note – ‘Do not look for me’. The grave which is a house on the Tennessee plains where you live out your days – for a grave need not come with death. Your new life, radically broken from the old, becomes the grave to the person you once were, who could not abide that place. But abiding is almost always possible, if you are willing to strike out into the west*, where the silver ships wait for you. And beyond that sea? All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. We can become new

*or any other direction

CODA TO THE GRAVES

A grave draws meaning from those around it. And in any case, the simplest grave anchors more than the most resplendent memorial palace, knowing that the person whom is symbolised is the source of all this meaning. This fiery meaning which anchors us in turn. The final fact around which all this is hinged is – we make our own graves, always. If we live like a mighty river, if we short circuit the emptinesses in life til they glow blinding – then so will our graves. If we provide solace, and care to the world, so will our graves.

And if we sully the world and hold it as nothing, then our graves too, will be empty, despite the quite significant bone piles. Memento Mori. This we can know. We make our grave the people around us, who we love. Our grave can encompass societies, be placeless, but for a simple forgotten stone. This we can know.

If none of the graves met your needs – please consider a memorial from the list below:

Memorial 1

As time went on, the park benches multiplied til every sight and worthwhile sound was ringed. On each bench a golden plaque, or silver, imprinted with names, phrases, and dates. Because each person loved this place with a quiet, regular love, and all would sit and be bestowed a quiet moment. Eventually the parkdirt buries them whole or in pieces, and more are built on the higher strata, til the earth is full of love’s repose.

Memorial 2

Here fluent hands and gentle light built a garden within two ovoid halls, themselves resting in the corner of a larger garden. And the lilies (and water?) built a peace here on a larger, unstable pacific moment. You swim from room to room, smell the pond’s heady aroma and dwell on a lost chance, of the lives under the water, and how the sunset like tears had built up in the pools of the artists eyes. A memory of a garden encased as a memory of peace.

Memorial 3

The sun caught the newly born insects shifting and searching the currents of the air, wobbling slightly. And the seeds from the trees drifted down towards the houses, as if they were draped along spiderwebs caught in the wind. And it made space perceivable in a very tactile way, to the extent that moving through it felt like learning to swim again. Distances opened up to seem massive in the sunlight. A magpie flew by, silently. In the house humanity unknowingly became heir to the duty of placing a glass and a card near each window, shepherds of the insects stuck behind shards of air that seem too solid. An aid to memory, and a symbol to insect life.

Memorial 4

In an ancient garden, tealights float. The hands that set them there have gone, perhaps inside the house at the end of the long pool, whose trickling noise fills the humid air. Every few metres along the stream, a small ledge creates a plunge, where the tealights meet a challenge – land upright and burning, without the touch of water. Each is marked by the ordeal, if it escapes, or finds itself snuffed and flowing in the deep clearness of the mossy pool. But one person waits, handling each tealight in turn, if they are reachable, and cupping them, carrying them to the next tier, til the tier is reached where the dark grate of the outflow blocks the last. The sky is blue and deepening, and the thin rings of candlelight cast of the pool floor have a fidelity to the its debris which is greater than any spotlight or sun. Sometimes the candles fade away as the fuel is spent, sometimes wax floats on the water, separate, dragging other lights down. All this is as inevitable as a slow motion volcanic eruption. I watch, and think – this is our life. The night comes, and I join my friends and lovers in the old house, where old letters hang on the walls

Memorial 5

It doesn’t matter if you disbelieve, the spirit of nature will come upon you one day when you least expect it, like a small purely white butterfly alighting on a fern, in the gully with the falls and the ancient palls of grass. Like a sudden lull in the soft wind, it will come upon you. And you will notice the newly borne spring flowing over the hillgrass. You will tramp across the great bowl of a glacial mountain, and feel the bog reeds crumble beneath you. Then it will leave, and you will stand in the queue for the shower, and realise that the spirit of nature is like a solid ore that runs through your life, you strike it seldom, but each time it leaves a great vein of what is or could be called love for you, like the warm love of the man in the queue behind who suggests to his partner over the phone that she should go see the bold and messy paintings in the town gallery, where they do a coffee, and a bun or something

Memorial 6

Why do I see my dead friend turning up one day while we are packing the house to move, walking out of the garage smiling a smile, a knowing smile, as if nothing has happened as if the time between was nothing to them. And listening to Burns – Edit by George Fitzgerald, we drive through the dales and hills as the voice pulses, each moment another death, another birth, and he smiles at the bright sun and nothing needs to worry us on that day, the day when we stand on top of almscliffe crag and the world just impacts up into us as if immortal life had fallen from the atmosphere and just now hit the ground and our bodies turn to golden glitter and blow away in the warm breeze.

Memorial 7

On the winding mountain road you come across me and my family statuesque, hewn from mountain rock – the sun is setting, the statues run down the curling roads in the warm wind, smiling big smiles towards the sea across the scrub foothills. A slight shine in the eye allows the twinkle of real joy. We are so proud of each other. In our hands, phones set to selfie mode. And this is love, this makes it all worthwhile.

Int.IIII.

Acceptance Of: This never really happens. Or perhaps it does, given time. Then, if we accept ourselves, it may come to be that we struggle to accept our friends. Now, if we accept our friends loss, then we too are lost. But there is the ancient metaphor of light to guide us, which comes to deliver us from time to time, not like rapture, but like a small and welcome parcel dropping on the mat, heard from upstairs. We can only live in hope’s answer. It is the right answer. Getting along with our ends, without end,