She is making something new from her own body, lying on a bed of ash. A negotiation of wet and dry, form and hollow. She needs to be low, under, down, where the sounds are smaller and can crawl into her ears. She will forget her own name. Like a gourd. Like an embryo, the red tent of the womb. Like a babe in a cot. Like a woman in labour. Like a crone on her deathbed. In her coffin, on a pyre, in the oven, under the earth, out on the water, back to her mother, the sea.
Her grave goods are her beautiful scars; her body, a hollowed-out canoe, a shawabti; her vulva, a fish. She wears a breastplate of glazed scales. Eyes shadowing, the O of her mouth, the roots of her lungs, the saw teeth of a spine. Unhinged. She doesn’t need to stay closed any more. Going back to bone, she is a frog in a collar, cracked and swimming, travelling back to water, to land after all these years. Her amphibian nature. Warrior, water dragon, bird woman, urn woman, cave woman, avatar, wrapped in leaves for a shroud.
Nothing is an accident. Everything is an accident. She will die between everything and nothing, where she lived all along. She does not need to be saved. She wants to be ready. Who of us is ever ready?
She will be fired into clay and become what she’s been working on all her life, beetle or scarab or worm, wing-footed, burnt. For her downgoing now she has everything she needs. What she is and what she isn’t no longer her concern. She’ll find out what happens when she can no longer reach out and touch a living hand, feel lit up by someone else’s eyes.
She is going home to the unsaid. Her thumbprint, dust in the clay.
– Linda France
And for some reason, as I hold that pitiful body in the palm of my hand, I think of these lines from the Old English riddle-poem:
Gehyrest þu, Eadwacer? Uncerne earne hwelp
bireð Wulf to wuda.
Hear you, Eadwacer? A wolf carries
our wretched whelp to the woods.
A weight in my hand less than an apple core. What strange tree will grow if I plant you here, in the darkening undergrowth?
You have finished your breathing in the green room of the wood, in the blue room of the air. You will rest here in the brown room of the earth. You have finished your breathing. I will cover you with soil. I will cover you.
By the side of the road as dusk fell, a gesture. Small, perfect, inviolable. Great mourning of the world for the bird now gone. Great singing silence of the trees for the youngest child. Smallest of the litter. Birthed to a wretched fate. A bird so light it barely registered in the scale of my palm.
You have finished your breathing, your singing, your needle-noted song. A voice so strong and clear in the green room of the wood, in the blue room of the air. I have covered you with soil.
And as I leave I feel the warmth of you in my palm, still. A warmth that – as the hours pass – does not diminish, but which burns indelibly.
A heat in my hand no less than the earth’s core. Its bright inner substance.
And the land in the morning, in the first fires of the sun, a great wing extended in a gesture of care.
Troglodytes. Cave-dweller. Singer in the hollow of my heart. I have covered you with soil.
– Richard Skelton
IMAGE: Death Throes I by Kathryn Poole
Pen and ink on paper
I am interested in dissecting the boundaries between life and death, and how one sustains the other. In my drawings there is always a remnant of life glimpsed through the frame of the corpse. Although the physical specimen may rot and fade away and my memory becomes unreliable, the representations remain as a testament to my subjects’ existence. My archive began with observations of roadkill, drawn in the liminal space between death and disappearance. The time spent observing the animals becomes a funerary rite, with the finished artwork granting the deceased eternal life.
‘Death Throes’ come out of my project ‘Bypass Wildlife’ – a survey of animals I encounter on my daily commute, the ‘pests’ that are the result of dense human populations.
Kathryn Poole is the Intaglio and Lithography technician at the University of Central Lancashire where she earned her MA in Fine Art: Site and Archive Intervention. Focusing on documenting the loss that occurs in unnoticed places, she dissects the boundaries between life and death, and how one sustains the other, through drawings, paintingsand animations. kathrynpoole.com
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