Raising the Dead

Yesterday I took a trip to The Cloisters – a part of a The Metropolitan Museum of Art way up in Inwood in gorgeous Fort Tryon Park and along the Hudson River. 
      

One of my favorite paintings is there – The Merode Altarpiece by the Workshop of Robert Campin (or the Master of Flémalle) – one of his assistants was the young Rogier van der Weyden.  I could spend hours taking in each detail of this Annunciation scene packed with symbolism. For example, St. Joseph, in the panel on the right, works in his carpentry shop and has built a mousetrap. The trap  –  an illusion to the Crucifixation and St. Augustine’s analogy of the Cross as the Devil’s mousetrap.

  

And this angel from the north transept portal of the cathedral of Saint-Lazare at Autun. Named for Lazarus – Christ’s friend raised from the dead in a miracle. It is the season of celebrating memories of the dead – Halloween, Dia de los Muertos  – decorations and altars are all around the city.

 

   

Celebrating Dia de los Muertos at El Museo del Barrio.  
 

How will you celebrate the holiday or honor your dead?

I leave you with “Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath
I have done it again.   

One year in every ten   

I manage it——
A sort of walking miracle, my skin   

Bright as a Nazi lampshade,   

My right foot
A paperweight,

My face a featureless, fine   

Jew linen.
Peel off the napkin   

O my enemy.   

Do I terrify?——
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?   

The sour breath

Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh

The grave cave ate will be   

At home on me
And I a smiling woman.   

I am only thirty.

And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.   

What a trash

To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.   

The peanut-crunching crowd   

Shoves in to see
Them unwrap me hand and foot——

The big strip tease.   

Gentlemen, ladies
These are my hands   

My knees.

I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.   

The first time it happened I was ten.   

It was an accident.
The second time I meant

To last it out and not come back at all.   

I rocked shut
As a seashell.

They had to call and call

And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Dying

Is an art, like everything else.   

I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.   

I do it so it feels real.

I guess you could say I’ve a call.
It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.

It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.   

It’s the theatrical
Comeback in broad day

To the same place, the same face, the same brute   

Amused shout:
‘A miracle!’

That knocks me out.   

There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge   

For the hearing of my heart——

It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge   

For a word or a touch   

Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.   

So, so, Herr Doktor.   

So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,

I am your valuable,   

The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.   

I turn and burn.

Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
Ash, ash—

You poke and stir.

Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——
A cake of soap,   

A wedding ring,   

A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer   

Beware

Beware.
Out of the ash

I rise with my red hair   

And I eat men like air.
Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992)

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