From The Astrakhan Apples by Marie Lundquist
The dead lie in ancient houses of bone and listen to the drumming of mice inside the trunk of the Indo-European language tree. Their hands are in Danish, a sleep language spoken in fissures, hiding places. Their chests bulge as if they were filled with alphabets.
Death turns up the inside of her wrist, to show me the engraverís cruelty. In order to approach her, I must enter through these carved gates, not allowing myself to be terrified,
The dead yelp like dogs, and dig, and pull, with only one thing in mind. To use my little cave as a hiding place.
The dead drill their way deeper and deeper. You donít notice this, at first. Then you see the small tidy pyramids of sand all over the floor. It is useless to sweep, they are there again the next morning. I recognize them now, they are as invasive as mint, and Egyptian.
The dead speak to me in their soft language which I donít understand. They think I am one of them. Their experience has the same color as my intestines, an inacessible part of me. Out of their purses, they pull swollen hearts and pocket knives with brass fittings. Peels descend in long strips of their feet and surround them like wreaths.
Deathís handwriting is as even as a row of teeth, and I am baffled by all the white, dazzling as christening-robes above deep and dirty waters.
The dead do not speak. They pour their words into espresso cups, steaming hot, and leave them for us who still thirst.
Death makes me clumsier than usual, and I spill my blood on the floor and have to wipe up all the small fern-like stains that stick to my feet like postage stamps. Once more she has shown herself, overgrown with tumors and scales, and I fill the house with winter apples, as if for a funeral, prepare a larder for the bereaved.
I take death by the hand, gently, the way you do with a very small child. She climbs up into my lap and makes herself comfortable. A wish to abstain from life can appear in such a quotidian and natural manner. It is possible that I myself harbor this wish, metamorphosed into care.
The dead need almost nothing. Only a few small seeds and a little water of oblivion to grow in. A thought to be pierced by once in a while, and an interpreter for company at night, when they travel across greater deeps and speak another language, Oceanographic.
At the end of life, people enter the hundred-year-old furnace. Salt is tossed in through narrow slits to render the bodies impenetrable. Language blackens and turns inward, back where it came from. Bones and teeth are gathered up like gravel and sprinkled on the water. When you walk on it, you can hear it speak.
A beetle for example can be made out of copper and immersed in vinegar to acquire a handsome scarab-green patina. Similarly, a person can turn metallic through neglect and forgetfulness and be transformed into a choker with a lock that can only be opened by another, from behind, with a motion that resembles a caress over what we in daily speech call a bodyís pillar.
Whence this longing to merge with another? To prostrate oneself face down in the smallest accumulation of water, so small it fits into the mouth, to set oneself afloat.
One who searches for a language may sometimes find a leftover S and think that it is something a grass snake has left behind on the trail. Certain words break up into pieces on their way down through the air and begin to resemble something other than themselves. Some hang right in front of the mouth and make us look like horses about to be fed. Whenever someone calls my name, I grab the last letter and hang on to it by my teeth.
The study of clouds reveals that they return to the same places to watch over them. In the Stone Age graves, our ancestors lie fettered, surrounded by hedgehog bones. Explanations fill up like sun-veils, cloud shadow. The question why reoccurs even in announcements of deaths. Apples fall from trees and tap us on the shoulder as if they wanted to say something.
For a long time we have made the mistake to believe that the entryway into a person is located on the front of the face. It is the neck that has not been opened for a long time, and whose hinges are almost destroyed by rust, that is the true gate. When you open the trapdoor and climb up the bone ladder, you arrive at the ideas that lie rolled up like rugs waiting to be walked on by the next generation, the one that is still on its way up and slowly bends our spines with its ever-increasing weight.
Translated by Anselm Hollo