The beheaded agree that it’s painless and to their benefit. No more fussing over foolish little sentiments. Most of their worries about debt and disease have faded away, leaving only the faintest shimmer in the air. No need to solve the conundrum of body and mind, since the mind has withdrawn to a private lodging. The body goes about its daily chores with dumb persistence. Digging holes, writing briefs, teaching classes, tending the sick and elderly. The head, deprived of a blood supply, quickly fossilizes. Its new stony outlook applies itself to the political necessities of our brave new world. It succeeds by ignoring all human concerns. The seas part, the earth opens. The beheaded neither notice nor care. Their pain no longer applies to themselves but to others. To us, who sit in the long, long waiting room hoping that when our turn comes the blade will still be sharp enough to part our hair without stirring the faintest breeze.
Going Bump in the Night
We’re writhing on a blanket spread on the grave of Edward MacDowell. He approves of our midnight exercise. His music often took that form. The sickly August dark thickens with algae blooms. Planets fester in slowly decaying orbits. Meteors flash and die. You reach a moment of truth, your skin too pale to reflect the dark but your mind brimming like an inland sea. Such grist for each other’s mill. I’ve stalled like that famous elephant, the mood draining out of me. The routine dulled me long ago, but we agreed to mutual delving for the sake of our future memoirs. Yet it’s pointless. We should give up as abruptly as we began, fold the blanket neatly, and leave the gravesite grinning with wordless gossip. But no, we have to complete ourselves, the dumpling stars bumping through a silence excited by their brilliance. We gnash and grind and manage to topple each other into darkness much darker than the night itself, or any of the graves it inspires.
Ghost to Ghost
The house we’ve tired of haunting has gone on the market. We’ll have to leave, dragging our chains and informing our linen service. The owner is moving to Paris, where her grandchild is a perfect little confection. Being ghosts, we can read the future, and it doesn’t look so good. Drugs, unwanted pregnancies, and a sneer that will strip the paint from the walls. But we can’t pierce the membrane between life and death to warn our host that she’s on a fool’s errand. Let’s step outside into the sunlight where no one can see us. I love this transparency, don’t you? Having doffed our sheets, we’re as naked as sandstone, but no one can see us. We can wriggle right up to a courting couple and insinuate ourselves. We can creep into church for the noontime organ concert and slip right through the pipes, smoking into musical shapes only we can appreciate. But let’s wander down to the harbor and waft ourselves out to the islands. Don’t you enjoy the sea air? Although we lack lungs, it both fills and becomes us, and we become it. A huge cloud of ghost now looms over the harbor, over the city, over the dimpled little islands. No one sees or feels it, no one believes in it. But we too believed in nothing, and look at us now.