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Good Friday. 8:11 am.
An aged man of laced silver hair and faintly wilted skin entered through the stairhead, and the hearts of all men began to swoon. He arose, his shawl weaving with the draft passing through the doorway, and approached gravely the mass that stood within the room. “Where is the dead?” he directed toward them, “I must see the deceased.” Aside the Bishop there stayed a Priest; he beheld the floor and, set in the glares of the crowd before him, discreetly wrenched as to the sound of the light that clamored from the wall. A Deacon, tall and equine, firstly mounted his collar to his chin and stepped away from the narrow of the room and on into the clearing. “Please, come with me.” said Anna to the Bishop. The man rose slowly, staggered for a moment, and strode towards the mother and followed her hence into the adjoining hall. Perched upon a window sill to the side wall the Priest looked sternly away, unspoken to the men quietly conversing in dark tailored suits and the women sitting neatly in dark dresses embroidered with black suede and fine, black cross-stitching. A man, Joseph, tentatively sat on an oak chair. Joseph wept.
The Deacon approached a child leaning unto a corner away from the group; he looked warmly into the child’s eyes and watched the boy’s breast ascend and fall gently as he breathed. The child lifted his brow towards the man and stared innocently; a golden cross wrought onto the long hanging vestment dawned on the hip of the Priest shone tenderly and reflected in to the child’s eyes. “What is your name?” asked the Deacon and the child responded, “Matthew.” “Matthew”, the Deacon thought, and continued, “Hello Matthew.” “Hello.”
Matthew watched his shadow thrown on to the adjacent wall as sunlight crept briefly through clouds that garnished the sky, where through the cloudbreak the softness of the air coiled into the doorway and carried in from the grayness outside a dull opiate. He panned the floor as did the light slowly, observing the starkly lit leather shoes creased above the wooden floorboards, panned to his own subdued loafers, up the pitch cotton lining of his trousers and ended on the frays of his small worn sport coat; it would sway as he turned and settled the notched lapel knitted into the single breast of his jacket.
The Priest postured across the room, resting his right hand on his leg outstretched from the base of his downy cassock, regarding the world outside a window and gently gnawing the ring finger of his left hand; he wore a light beard that wrapped his chin, nearly completed with a brown mustache above his upper lip, settled beneath a sculpted nose which supported the frames of spectacles sheathed on his bridge. He trembled. His eyes met beyond the window faintly falling rain and falling faintly the tragedies of his vision began to whither; he turned away from the window in remembrance of a great and distant psalm and in him there rung “Non Serviam”. Letting fall from his diaphragm a deepening exhalation the Priest turned wistfully to the crowd, and as they watched him he forcibly engaged them with a stately nod and pressed firmly his ragged eyebrows matching the darkness of his cassock. All throughout the air came stillness of remorse and misfortune, the reckoning of past tragedy and unwanted memory; the Priest lingered still and met eyes with Matthew, who watched him from across the way.
Anna Casey reentered through the doorway right and with her followed the Bishop. She walked gallantly, unmoved by the air despite her gauntness and her posh, and jostling within and without of the thinness of her body and spirit she held both arms to her breast as she made way through the crowd, repeating “Thank you.”, and “Yes, he was.”, to the polite and unctuous inhabitants of the room. Within her the animal of her spirit came to be, that upon grasping the gaze of her Matthew a thousand hands would descend upon her shoulder, unyielding to keep silent the perilous she-wolf of the woman, the tragedy within her.
Martha Mary, sister of Anna Lynn, knelt to the floorboards and gently abraded Anna’s forearm and lightly neatened her hair, enriched in auburn. She looked on to her and caught in her palm a host of teardrops fallen from the salinity and the redness and the gauntness of Anna’s cheek and skin; she gazed, and attending to the moroseness of her love and her fervor she beheld the Bishop sited above them and steadily rose. He said gravely unto them, “We must take the dead.” The mother wrung the roots of her downy she-wolf coat and cried aloud “No!” Moaning, she beat crossly the panels beneath her legs and tore the edgings of her gown in the blackness of her sound, and of her fury, and of the lachrymal name that was hers, Anna Lynn Casey.
“You should have come earlier,” Martha said softly to the Bishop, “the boy has been dead for four days.”
The Deacon, standing two paces left of the sister and the Bishop, raised in his right hand a nickel vessel dawned with ethereal engravings and in his left, a metal Thurible suspended by a chain and coiling hence by his thigh. Regarding his wrists and hands in discernment he thought softly to himself, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” He observed the Priest who, postured still by the crevice in the vestibule, clasped in his right hand the Crucifix and faced its head downward to the floor. Beneath the Deacon there lay still Anna Lynn, arms outspread leftward and rightward and her lower limbs extended firmly and straight; she protracted her throat and jaw out above her breast and cried out, “Oh! Oh!” Aside him the Bishop erected resolutely and repeated, “We must take the dead.”
The corpse, the Patrick Darren, was carried silently in a mahogany coffin through the archway right and was laid softly to the floorboards; both coffin and corpse had grown pale since their inaugural demise – the coffin, from a tree, the Patrick, from a life. The seams of the boy’s hair fell bound and in passive curls unto his shoulder and his forehead remained untouched; the color of his locks, multifariously brown, faded tenderly with the decay and the easy deafening of his life. A clean, kempt face was inclined upward and was supported by the lost youthfulness of his neck and the sturdiness of an indulgent, bundled cloth resting beneath his collar. The lips were wrought with finite froth and callousness, pallid and dull, parched in the stasis of his corroding tongue; the flesh, insipid, was scented with numinous redolence. The eyes were fixtures of cerulean discolored with black enmity that pierced the flesh and the furies of Anna, of the Deacon, of the Priest, and veiled in the dolefulness and pennilessness of death they betrothed the world with animosity and execration.
The Bishop came to the coffin and the crowd surrounding, and approaching the corpse he intoned aloud, “Introibo ad Altere Dei.” Matthew Arnold balanced himself facing outward from a corner of the room, settled in the crease of ragged and curious wallpaper that he would peel circuitously to its release. He set his eyes onto the Bishop who mounted his elbows and forearms upward as he spoke and pensively the boy turned to his Mother who, now sitting upright a yard aside from the coffin, beheld the boy with tears and flames placating in the retinas of her eyes. He lost in all the infinity of her doggish rigidity the ardor of his feet, and swooning in to the wall Matthew turned inwardly and slowly descended his head unto his breast. Anna rose, paced among the matted mass of the room and sat, perched upon a chair backwards; her arms hung from a mound atop the fixture, her right turned so as her hand would meet the crease of the inner elbow of her left arm, which draped down the wicker back. Her head rested on the flesh of her right forearm, driven to the bone.
Matthew was quiet then. The darkly reflecting wooden panels of the wall, those that in and throughout the room ran amid the denizens, shone garishly in the corpse light which engaged the room; the boy watched the space unfold and in the great chaotic rush of silence that began to trickle with the Holy Water that descended unto Patrick Darren, he let his gaze traverse through the madding crown about the coffin and out toward the sea, toward the East. There in the East the groundswell met the shore and the rocks and the Patrick with tumult, routed up the sand and the flesh, cascaded on through the land and the eyes and engulfed the world. Our gray, sweet, Mother. From Anna Lynn the rush, sustained in the twilight of her eyes, wandered wantonly. Riverrun, past Eve and Adams… Matthew walked to the windowsill as the procession carried, he rested his arms on to the wooden pane beneath the glass, let exhale a great sigh, and shut his eyes deeply. The sea respired, that in the lasting hint of a full tide and endless froth she would send her attar through the glass, and settle unto the starlight that wrought itself in the crystal of the eye or the rupture of the nose. The sun is silent. He continued to gaze inwardly, in to the furrows of his soul where he saw that his brother had arisen, that in the great exultation of the day the crowd had fallen away and all left was the three crimson eagles smitten upon a shield reading Casey; he let out a main cry, “Patrick! Come forth!” And from the bounty and the darkness of death the young man ascended through the depths of the water and through the shore break, where in the moment of his release he split the water of the grave cloths and lifted the droplets through the air, falling to the surface in the water in the likeness of wings. And they believed in him.
The body lay still. The Priest, displaced from the window sill and unto the coffin, the Deacon, mounting his collar, and the Bishop, grave, stood in a contour in the clearing as the crowd quieted; Matthew did not face them. They began aloud, “Out of the depths I cry to you lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?...”
The Priest reemerged to the window pane upon the closing of the psalm; he trembled. Matthew, stirred beyond the enemy of his control, approached him and sat gently at his side. Their sights met in the vanguard of the singing crowd, where for a moment they betrothed the room with silence and mutual tragedy. The boy said to him, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been seven months since my last confession.” Non-serviam. In great misfortune the Priest closed his eyes soundly, soul wrenching with the Church bells that tolled from Matthew’s lips; he turned slowly to the child and bowed subtly. “Father, I did not cry when my brother died. I did not cry the days after my brother died. I have not cried today. I thought the tall old man was waking him when he let the water fall on his eyes. He didn’t wake. I haven’t cried, I’ve sinned.” A paltry tear carried downwards across the Priest’s skin, rested for a moment on the underside of his chin, and fell quietly to the floor. He rose, laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder, swayed his head delicately toward the clearing, and stepped softly to the procession. Matthew Arnold Casey, first lifting his arms and adoring the furrows of his palms, dropped reverently a silver chain and the stoic cross that hung upon its end.
I sing of arms and a man. The procession lead out, headed by the Priest, enduring a Crucifix, followed by the Deacon, bearing a lighted candle, and trailed lastly the Bishop directly before the coffin. They halted, crowd settling in the contour about the Bishop who intoned loftily, “Exsultabant Domino”. There came onto the air a faint scent of wetted ashes, that in the burning of the Caseys the sea would rush unto them hence, whether to engulf the enemies of all death, or to consume the ignorant armies of all life.
Sing, O goddess of rage.
John Colin McNamara rested easily atop the headstone of a broken grave, staring angrily into the light of a marauding sun. A crowd of believers stood aside the coffin looking onward to the Bishop, who held his head low within the flesh of his hands. John, the disbeliever, began…
Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune… And what a mind is mine. That, the poet’s mind. The grand sculptor of the artifice of time and of word. Patrick Darren, lying still, beyond my arms. Where has he left to? Unto the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory? Or to the little horn, and the flesh of all disbelievers. What sweet, rancorous existence is mine? And whether it to end? Perchance to dream?
The sky lit. Away toward the East, the hounds of Stygian waters drew upon their shoals with pride and calamity, and in their grand division of the Sullen and the Heretics, John Colin stood upon the latter shore, watching as the Boatman toiled in the Tophet of the cemetery. And with his toil he donned medals of servitude on his person, sewn to the double breasted lapel, upright and unchanging, the serpent son of Atreus.
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. The Officer, patron of the draft. Patrick has paid his toll. Embarked. And with the funeral games we watch, fade into the harboring of the horizon. A Turner piece. Atop the altar, placed to burn. Placed between the wicker and the timber to become ashes. Resting as if to die in the punishment and the judgment of life, the disobedience and the soul in the paradise of all that is lost. Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woe, with loss of Eden, till one greater Man restore us, and regain the blissful Seat. Officer, an unfaithful man, to be murdered by his wife upon his return in the hamartia of revenge? I hope it so, he is a cruel man.
The Bishop, holding aloft a chalice that lightly reflected on to the pallid Patrick Darren, began to gently mouth
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…
The Bishop let overflow the chalice as Holy Water descended onto the corpse and, as the Deacon approached, he shut the coffin and poured the residual atop the wood.
In nomine Patri, et Fili, et Espiritu Sancti, Amen. Rest, child of God, in the brightness and the fury of our Father who art in Heaven. Let us remember him, Patrick Darren, as the kind and gentle person that he was, and ever shall be. Let us remember not the tragedy of his passing, but the miracle of his rebirth into the Kingdom of Heaven. Patrick, a cherished soul, chosen by God to ascend unto his breast, and live forever in the sanctity of eternal life. Patrick Darren Casey, a good soul…
John Colin sifted his fingers lightly through the auburn of his hair and gently tore at his roots; he pulled from the bounty a collection of strands and as a draught came through the gravesite he let them release, set to dance unto the wind and fade within the fire. Out of the bleakness came the specter from an unseen sense, coiled about the gust and appeared before John Colin, the disbeliever.
John, where are you? I am dead in the sand and still trickling. Make them hurry, I’d like not to stay here in this place anymore.
Patrick, why did you leave? I told you never to go. You left. That Henry…
John, brother, I love my home, I died for her. Do not blame Henry’s spirit for my passing; he called to me to join him fight, and I answered.
Patrick, where will you go?
John, lay beside me, here, when you are fit. I am already gone. I have been gone, into the dark, before I died. I see the Lord, and I have met Hades, god of the Underworld.
John Colin, struck with the sin of vision, called out to his Patrick and extended his arm toward the form; his fingers touched softly the nothingness as he trembled and fell to his knees, and the vision faded. He rose, and lighting the kindling in his eyes he toiled upon the breaking of the Wandering Rocks, the madding crowd, and raged inwardly at the sight of what was now nothing, and everything.
Old age should burn and rave at close of day. My mother is a goddess of the sea. Theresa Susan. My mother is a fish. My father is a breaker of immortal horses. Robert Charles. All branded upon a crimson shield, and a white lion, amid two golden spearheads, calling out Virtue et Valore, McNamara. Whereupon the arms of my family lift the fortress of my death into new life? To live, to err, to triumph, to fall, to recreate life out of life? I see death bounding from the Earth’s fields of red, harkened in wood that is doused so easily with pious water, yet undiminished, and ascending to the cloudbreak and the Purgatorio and the Paradiso. But what is death but new life? Have we died at all…or merely flooded into the great river? Riverrun. Passage of circular life. Lost through the pages, found through the stream. Henry, are you my brother or my enemy? Sitting atop the great city wall, calling your name to deliver you death in deference. Lions and men. The gods cannot save you.
Henry, shepherd of the people, rested bleakly away from John Colin, the disbeliever; where in the eternal torment of the gallant and the reposed, he let his head fall below the broadness of his shoulders, biting at the servitude of his breast and weeping in soft disharmony. He looked out to the clearing of the coffin and the clergy and therein placed his innocent, villainous woe; he regarded the Priest, in quiet desperation, Anna Lynn, Matthew, and in the brave chaotic enmity of life, John Colin. Each held their eyes fleetingly at the other and after a moment, after the calling, and the descent of the wall, and pacts of vengeance, John lowered his eyes slowly, and beheld the darkness of the ground with silence, exile, and cunning. Henry stayed his eyes briefly following the fall, gagged in the remnants of his enemy’s pity, unfurled his sorrow through tears and countenance, and diverted his gaze. Henry, shepherd of the people, slain.
Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize. Kathryn, here, in the second and the sixth circles, let us die and be punished in our arms beside Dido and Paris, and beside Epicurus. Dying and torn in the winds, and burned, in the enemies of our fortune, but in our shared adoration. I would race a chariot for your warmth, and throw aside the ancient poems. May I tell you a thousand sonnets and let the words undo us? And should I then presume? And how should I begin? You are my Goddess of the waves and the stars that embrace the sky as I follow out of Hell. My Kathryn Anne Cleary.
The Bishop, standing loftily beside the coffin, lifted both arms in ascendance and in a thunderous main cry he intoned
I am the Resurrection and the Life.
The Deacon doused the coffin with Holy Water amid the chants of the procession and the clergy, they began
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of His people: and hath raised up a horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant…
All said silently the Lord’s prayer. Mounted high above the masses the Bishop beheld Heaven and resolutely spoke
I am the Resurrection and the Life. Grant this mercy, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to Thy servant departed, that he may not receive in punishment the requital of his deeds who in desire did keep Thy will, and as the true faith here united him to the company of the faithful, so may Thy mercy unite him above to the choirs of angels. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.
John Colin McNamara traversed the world forthrightly, apart from the graves of his brothers and kin, and unto the deeps. He began
I departed and sought mountains with my father on my back. It is in the great exhalation of death that I most reverently will tread, whether to love the spears of all injustice upon my own breast and that of others, or to watch the world burn as I play a fiddle, seek out unto the curvature of the Earth, and release my wings through the winds of all life.
BY EAST LAKE AVENUE, EASTWARD OF DEVINE PARK LAKE, AND WESTWARD OF THE SEA THE procession bounded deftly through to the greens and the dead. Martin Finn Balickiej positioned himself at the base of the crowd, walking stately by his cane, and reveling in the leathery groan of his footsteps. Martin, the moribund, spoke to his kind:
– Cause of death?
– In action, I believe. Nathan James answered.
– He was a good man. A fine lad.
– You served Nathan, no?
– His mother would not allow a military funeral. A stout Catholic.
Mr. Martin Finn nodded rightly, placed his cane sturdily to the ground, alternately lowered his left foot, and cleared his throat abruptly. Best keep up. The man looked Eastward as they passed Essex Avenue; from the lane came a clearing to the ocean, and with it the pungency of what was then middle to low tide. He grinned at the scent lightly under his coarse black mustache and the worn McIntosh hat he donned upon his head; adjusting the notched lapel of his coat he noticed a small discoloration upon the cloth of his wrist.
– Nathan, lend me your noserag to wipe my misdeeds, will you?
Must have been the butter.
– Ay. Said Nathan, pulling from his coat pocket a folded handkerchief.
– The great linen of the Irish.
As Martin delicately wiped his arm the procession passed Sussex Avenue, headed by the newly erected Essex and Sussex Hotel. Proper Name. Must stay there before I pass. Morning leap into the sea. Bread and butter and all that. A nice, quiet afternoon by the lake. Have a roast and a pint. Must do.
– Where is the end? Nathan asked.
– St. Catherine’s, on Third and Essex Aves.
– Quite a wind, yes, but it is fitting. A gentleman’s place. Fit only for a gentleman’s death.
– Think it so?
– Oh yes. Only a lad like Patrick Casey would attract the Bishop. Only the best. And Irish! You would have adored the child Nathan.
– Thus spoke the Pole!
– Curiously my good man I am more an Irishman than I am a Pole.
– A fine recipe.
– That it is indeed!
Mercer Avenue right. Right about the shore. I used to walk there. Perhaps should soon. Yes, must do. Lake left. Tomorrow I will throw breadcrumbs into the wind. Watch them fall about the water. What is she that extends over the water gap? There you are, my finest bridge! Wooden, carven, full of life, full of passage and life, over the stream and throughout life. Should I write a poem about her? No, trite to write of a bridge. I will write on a bridge. Do I dare to eat a peach on her boards?
– Nathan, how is your family?
– Oh, right and all, well doing, considering.
– Yes, yes. And what of your grandson, John? Firm young man. How old has he been?
– Twenty-two, this April past.
– Yes, yes. And what of him? Who’s he when he’s at home?
– Studying English, and Philosophy if I serve myself rightly.
– And what of it?
– Law school, I have heard.
– Yes, yes. McNamaras, great Catholic family.
– I fear the opposite for John.
The procession followed northward past Warren Avenue; approaching the men there came two others: the first, Mr. Simon, whose head was topped with a silk hat, and the second, a man, Gabriel. All shook hands heartily, polished the brims of their hats in courtesy, and turned silently West on to Passaic Avenue. The elderly gentlemen, walking gallantly, watched the procession of the world unfurl, and in the enmities of their dying vision they scorned the Earth, the present circles, and the sinuous white beard of Hades.
– Simon, Nathan began, how is your son? Stephen?
– The boy is a right and deserving fool.
– Oh my, Martin said.
– Yes, coiling about writing poetry and making foul friendships.
Stephen is a good child. I knew him once, when he was a boy. Writing poems on the shoreline and the fading tides. I liked them. But what is this politic and cautious Simon? You, Simon, too foul a friend of Arthur! Stephen, like John. Fear the opposite? I remember when I departed. From all the faithful and devout. A poem of it. A doleful day when men are cast in veils, that each will fail to light the world with love. What savage beast does shroud his ship? In which a ruin born from water’s heartless hold, is sun a haze? And spangled soft and dear, does life go forth with turbid stroke, en route to nearing shores? I tremble at this sight. Of fight! Oh nearing ship! Sift bold through love and canvas strewn, in golden light and mist. A question this, brought madly through – as to where a good man makes his fight? Is he a prince of former ages? Or does his God say to him so: “aged men are paltry things”? I hope it not that goodness is a sin. I hope it not that man is fast to yield. A question this? Is this a fate? Does God embrace a fallen soul? Oh woe is me if God has strove to write the world with men of no contempt. A flawless soul is that of he who burns the world with sin, yet he is who will heal the wounds of flames of his humanity. I see beyond a crest of sun that hides in peril’s haze. I see the shape make sudden leaps and crawls throughout eternity, with fallen light and fallen love and all which makes him man. His gaze is blank, just as his verse, with cruel mistake and question. He is God of shore and sill, and shadowed rips of current. This, the war, the blaze of sky and torment, this, the war, is where our goodness follows, here beneath the falling sky, which burns the day and sears the man but does not claim his life.
– Where now? Gabriel posed.
– South…west. Onto Fifth. Martin answered.
– Right. Martin, good man. Tell me, Martin, have I not seen you at Mass each Sunday? Or do my ripe old eyes miss you?
– I…Well I’ve taken personal time you see. Time to…revel in the sanctity of my own church.
– What church is that, if I may ask? Asked Simon.
– The church of myself I suppose, Martin said.
– Why that is blasphemy! Gabriel announced.
– Well I shouldn’t call it that. I’d rather call it–
– What would you call it, Martin? Nathan interrupted.
– I’d rather call it a self-choice.
– Blasphemy, said Gabriel.
Patrick was a fine child, he was a good soul and heart. Put these men to shame. Simon, the drinker, Gabriel, the tyrant, Nathan…the “gentlemanly”. Eastward on to West Lake Avenue, church in distance. Patrick Darren, taken from us.
– If I cannot move Heaven, then I shall bend Hell. Martin said unto them.
– From whom? Simon asked.
– Virgil, Nathan answered.
As the crowd neared its end, whereupon the Matthew Arnold Casey, the John Colin McNamara, and the moribund, the Martin Finn Balickiej, the Nathan James McNamara, toiled in the deference of their own creation and destruction, and the sun bounded unto the clouds, wrought in the memory of such grand life and death, engaged . Should have poured whiskey on the boy. As they did me. Finn again is wake. They came to the Cathedral, and in the fading of the forms the procession broke hence, sifting deftly into the doorway of the holy ground. What a boy Patrick was. What man am I? What life is this? To end in such rueful death? What salvation may I claim? What beast does such leopard that trots across this Earth serve to kill? Am I the dead? Yes, besotted in the love of all that is ruin, lost beyond Stygian wakes and without the starlit furies of a Heaven, enduring in the brave chaotic tragedy that is all the dead, the faithless.