By Nicky Beer
To me, you have bequeathed
apple, a spider,
and three crescents
of your fingernails.
A large Y of black stitches
has split your trunk into thirds --
a child's rendition
of a bird migrating
towards your feet.
The arc of the scar
on your right calf
reminds me of a hooked trout
I once saw leaping
from the surge of a stream,
a curve of light shaped
by the moment between life
and the infinite space
just above it.
Smoke-browned fish on a white plate,
dawn-grey body on a silver table --
we do not like to linger
on how the dead may still nourish us.
Later, I will tell your family
what no one ever knew,
but you may have suspected:
you had two exquisite,
lustrous and faultless
as the surface of a yolk.
"Several years ago, I saw a fascinating documentary about medical cadavers called 'Still Life: The Humanity of Anatomy,'" writes Beer in The Washington Post Book World. "I was particularly touched by how the students endeavored to be respectful to their subjects, even going so far as to have a memorial service for them at the end of the year. Around the same time, I had to get an ultrasound of my kidneys. I remember vividly the sight of my bladder, ghostly and greenish on the monitor, and realizing that even though it had been working tirelessly on my behalf for my whole life, this was the first time I had ever seen it. These two experiences made me consider how relative the idea of intimacy can be. On the one hand, those medical students, necessarily, will never know the names, occupations, passions or fears of their subjects, but they will relate to the bodies in a way that is completely unique, inaccessible even to the subjects' loved ones."
We spent Halloween afternoon at Scott's Run, just as we did five years ago. The weather was gorgeous, quite warm for the season -- nearly 70 degrees. The leaves are just past peak here, still plenty of gold and orange on the trees beginning to turn brown, and lots on the ground with even more falling every hour (we had to sweep the porch twice before evening) so it was a perfect afternoon to spend in the woods and looking at the trees flanking the Potomac River. We saw many dogs, since this is a dog-friendly park -- it was at one time a private estate that the citizens of Fairfax County wrested away from a developer who wanted to cut down all the trees, voting to raise their own taxes to buy and protect the land -- and a heron on an island in the river. Then we came home to carve our pumpkin, which we hadn't managed to do earlier in the week, and Paul made tamale pie for the Day of the Dead. I ate only one single square of Dove Chocolate, so I am feeling virtuous, though I hoarded some Junior Mints for later.
Daisy, of course, had to keep up her tradition of "helping" to carve the pumpkin.
Here is how it looked fully carved on our porch at night fell.
Adam went as a hippie (that's a Peace, Love & Penguins shirt he's wearing). I am not sure what his friend is supposed to be other than menacing.
My neighbor, who grew up in Greece, is wearing a vintage European Carnival mask. I am wearing a $6 witch hat headband from Claire's.
These are some of the decorations on their porch...
...and in their yard.
This is the mother of Adam's good friend as the Cat in the Hat with her two little boys as Thing One and Thing Two -- she made all the costumes.
These are the decorations in front of their house, including a giant spiderweb, fog machine, strobe light, and her mother -- who recently moved here from Venezuela -- in the witch hat.
We always end Halloween at my parents' so they can see the kids' costumes, even though Daniel decided he was too old for trick-or-treating this year and didn't want to dress up. (The hat on Paul belongs to my mother and was stuck on his head for display purposes only.)
When we got back from trick-or-treating at my parents, it was only a bit after 9 p.m., and we remembered that we were going to have an extra hour of sleep because the clocks go back, so we put on the 1931 Frankenstein with Boris Karloff as the monster. This bears very little resemblance to the novel, which I shrieked to see was attributed in the credits to "Mrs. Percy B. Shelley" -- oh, but her mother would have been displeased -- but it's the basis of nearly every ripoff and parody ever filmed, which makes it both unintentionally hilarious in places and unwittingly epic in others. I hadn't seen it since college, so had not realized how much "The Mob Song" sequence in Disney's Beauty and the Beast owed to this movie when I saw that. I suppose we really should show the kids the Branagh film but I find I'm more in the mood for the Mel Brooks version of the story now!