By Mandy Coe
where nothing happens.
that fill our lives.
Not the field bright with poppies, but
the times you walked, seeing
no leaves, no sky, only one foot
We are sleeping
(it’s not midnight and
there is no dream).
We enter a room – no one is in it.
We run a tap,
queue to buy a stamp.
These are the straw moments
that give substance
to our astonishments;
moments the homesick dream of;
the bereaved, the diagnosed.
Stanzas about the Death of his Father by Jorge Manrique
OH let the soul her slumbers break,
Let thought be quickened, and awake;
Awake to see
How soon this life is past and gone,
And death comes softly stealing on,
Swiftly our pleasures glide away,
Our hearts recall the distant day
With many sighs;
The moments that are speeding fast
We heed not, but the past,—the past,
More highly prize.
El Alma Dormida (The Sleeping Soul) is a photograph taken by Cristina Garcia Rodero in 1981 in Savedra, Spain. As Garcia Rodero was traveling around the country photographing Spanish festivals and traditions, she came across this little girl singing and jumping in front of the cemetery and quickly pulled out her camera. Now the moment is immortalized in this mysterious photograph. The title is inspired by the poem Coplas por la Muerte de su Padre by Jorge Manrique
The origin of this poem is uncertain, though some attribute it to Jorge Luis Borges.
If I could live again my life,
In the next – I’ll try,
– to make more mistakes,
I won’t try to be so perfect,
I’ll be more relaxed,
I’ll be more full – than I am now,
In fact, I’ll take fewer things seriously,
I’ll be less hygenic,
I’ll take more risks,
I’ll take more trips,
I’ll watch more sunsets,
I’ll climb more mountains,
I’ll swim more rivers,
I’ll go to more places – I’ve never been,
I’ll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I’ll have more real problems – and less imaginary
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives –
each minute of his life,
Of course that I had moments of joy – but,
if I could go back I’ll try to have only good moments,
If you don’t know – thats what life is made of,
Don’t lose the now!
I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umberella and without a parachute,
If I could live again – I will travel light,
If I could live again – I’ll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I’ll ride more carts,
I’ll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live – but now I am 85,
– and I know that I am dying …
In this painting, as well as others, Frida’s preoccupation with death is revealed. In real life Frida did have a papier-mâché skeleton (Juda) on the canopy of her bed. Diego called it “Frida’s lover” but Frida said it was just an amusing reminder of mortality. Frida and the skeleton both lie on their side with two pillows under their head. While Frida sleeps the skeleton is awake and watching. The bed appears to ascend into the clouds and the embroidered vines on her bedspread seem to come to life and begin to entwine with her body. The roots at the foot of the bed appear to have been pulled out of the ground. The skeleton’s body is entwined with wires and explosives that at any moment could go off… making Frida’s dream of death a stark reality. In this painting and in others, Frida uses the “Life/Death” theme…the plants representing the rebirth of life and the skeleton representing death.
Text from FridaKahloFans
By Paul Eluard
I have not always had this certainty, this pessimism which reassures the best among us. There was
a time when my friends laughed at me. I was not the master of my words. A certain indifference, I
have not always known well what I wanted to say, but most often it was because I had nothing to
say. The necessity of speaking and the desire not to be heard. My life hanging only by a thread.
There was a time when I seemed to understand nothing. My chains floated on the water.
All my desires are born of my dreams. And I have proven my love with words. To what fantastic
creatures have I entrusted myself, in what dolorous and ravishing world has my imagination
enclosed me? I am sure of having been loved in the most mysterious of domains, my own. The
language of my love does not belong to human language, my human body does not touch the flesh
of my love. My amorous imagination has always been constant and high enough so that nothing
could attempt to convince me of error.
In her performance piece Nude with Skeleton, Serbian artist Marina Abramović uses a replica skeleton to symbolize confrontation with death. The work refers in part to an ancient Tibetan tradition in which Buddhist monks meditate on life, death and mortality by sleeping with skeletons of various stages of decomposition on consecutive nights. Abramović explains, ‘The work is really about facing your own mortality. It’s something that in our life we fear the most. It is about fear of pain and fear of dying”
by Anne Sexton
It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you’ll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you’ll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you’ll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.
By Jorge Luis Borges
(Translated by Stephen Kessler)
Zeus himself could not undo the web
of stone closing around me. I have forgotten
the men I was before; I follow the hated
path of monotonous walls
that is my destiny. Severe galleries
which curve in secret circles
to the end of the years. Parapets
cracked by the days’ usury.
In the pale dust I have discerned
signs that frighten me. In the concave
evenings the air has carried a roar
toward me, or the echo of a desolate howl.
I know there is an Other in the shadows,
whose fate it is to wear out the long solitudes
which weave and unweave this Hades
and to long for my blood and devour my death.
Each of us seeks the other. If only this
were the final day of waiting.
‘We are kneeling face to face, pressing our mouths together. Our noses are blocked with cigarette filters. I am breathing in oxygen. I am breathing out carbon dioxide.’
In their performance piece Breathing In/Breathing Out Marina Abramovic and Ulay blocked their noses with cigarette filters and clamped their mouths tightly together, breathing in and out each other’s air. After seventeen minutes they both fell to the floor unconscious. The viewers could sense the tension through the sound of their breathing, which was augmented through microphones attached to their chests. Is it a beautiful romantic gesture or a comment on how relationships absorb and destroy an individual?
“Something tender and violent at the same time emerges from the performance: the couple are decided to stick together despite the effort, the danger, the damage; but as is the case with human relations of this kind of intensity, they end up with violence, pain, and a part of each other ‘dead’. It is the idea of interdependency portrayed to its extreme.” Interartive