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Bright Copper Kettles

October 23, 2017

The sun is shining on bright copper leaves this week in central Ohio; it’s the most beautiful time of year on the Kenyon campus and I am mostly enjoying doing my job, now that I’m being left alone to do it.

It’s also one of the busiest times of year on campus, so naturally I chose this week to start writing an abstract for a presentation I’d like to give next spring at a conference, about necromancy in fiction since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It may not come to anything, but I’m having fun thinking about it.

A friend from Hendrix came to visit on Saturday. His name is Craig and we hadn’t seen him in 35 years, but now he is living his dream—retired early and traveling across the country with his girlfriend in an RV. They said that all their earthly possessions are with them, except for a few in a small storage locker in Atlanta, where they met and got started on their trip. I’ve always associated Craig with riding in cars because he had a convertible when we were in college and would offer to take us on “the last ride of the season” with the top down all fall–many times until the end of November. He is part of why I’m an eternal optimist about how long the nice fall days will last.

22553020_10155929343657652_2331104408595343376_oCraig and Lucinda joined us for our weekly demonstration, Signs on the Square, and then we showed them around Kenyon and cooked them dinner, when our other friends from Hendrix who live here joined us. We had what might be the “last party of the season,” sitting out on our deck with drinks before dinner.

It was a great evening, and Craig reminded me of the group we’d started during our first year of college, when we were taking music theory. Called “The Phrase,” it promised (in type from my portable manual) that “Phrase members are entitled to a sequence of musical fiascos within a designated period and no one will listen. There is no ulterior motive. Special training is not required, although ear training is preferred. Just sign below for your chance to emerge from the practice rooms and rediscover the world!” About 50 people signed up, including a choir director who came through Hendrix for only a year or two and identified himself as “your average everyday music-minded person on the street.” We also had a bit of necromancy on the rolls, as we not only had a faculty sponsor but also a “late” faculty sponsor.

And this week I came across a poem about necromancy which is also full of song, starting with “My Favorite Things” and ending with “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”

Bright Copper Kettles
Vijay Seshadri

Dead friends coming back to life, dead family,
speaking languages living and dead, their minds retentive,
their five senses intact, their footprints like a butterfly’s,
mercy shining from their comprehensive faces—
this is one of my favorite things.
I like it so much I sleep all the time.
Moon by day and sun by night find me dispersed
deep in the dreams where they appear.
In fields of goldenrod, in the city of five pyramids,
before the empress with the melting face, under
the towering plane tree, they just show up.
“It’s all right,” they seem to say. “It always was.”
They are diffident and polite.
(Who knew the dead were so polite?)
They don’t want to scare me; their heads don’t spin like weather vanes.
They don’t want to steal my body
and possess the earth and wreak vengeance.
They’re dead, you understand, they don’t exist. And, besides,
why would they care? They’re subatomic, horizontal. Think about it.
One of them shyly offers me a pencil.
The eyes under the eyelids dart faster and faster.
Through the intercom of the house where for so long there was no music,
the right Reverend Al Green is singing,
“I could never see tomorrow.
I was never told about the sorrow.”

Do you ever dream about dead loved ones? I do. Sometimes in the dream I know they are dead; I’m aware that this is dream-necromancy.

When the bright fall days are gone, I may dream about them, too. A character in Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams says that what we dream about lags a week or two behind what’s going on in our lives, and I’ve found that to be true, although suggestion may have played a part. And I haven’t dreamed about the last ride in Craig’s convertible for years, so I’m looking forward to it… wind in our hair, smiles on our faces.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2017 11:48 am

    Old friends are the best. So glad you got to connect in person with Craig.

    That poem is marvelous. I dream about my dead grandmother and her house all the time. It leaves me feeling simultaneously sad and comforted.

    • October 24, 2017 8:04 am

      I dream about my parents and yes, it does leave me feeling both sad and comforted.
      In the poem it seems like he’s coming back to life after deep mourning and depression (“I sleep all the time”) to where he can’t say the next lines of the song but is beginning to feel that he can “live again.”

  2. October 25, 2017 8:41 am

    It’s always great to see old friends. It sounds like a lovely visit. I want to visit someone who will take me with them to their weekly protest.

    I, too, dream of my father and mother-in-law, both of whom have passed away. It’s an odd feeling when I wake up from one of those dreams.

    • October 25, 2017 8:48 am

      Come visit me some weekend and I’ll gladly take you with me on Saturday! We have a guest room sitting empty except for Thanksgiving week. I’m serious. What greater thing in life but visiting your imaginary friends and making them real?
      It is an odd feeling when you wake up and realize the person you’ve been dreaming of is not alive. It’s like going through it all over again on a very small scale. I did that every morning for a while after my mother died.
      And after last Nov. 9.

  3. October 25, 2017 11:43 am

    I rarely remember my dreams but when I do they either co-workers in them or made up people. I have never dreamed about someone who is dead.

    Speaking of necromancy, I am reading the second book in the Monstress graphic novel series and it has necromancer cats in it! Made me think of you 🙂

    • October 29, 2017 8:45 am

      Made up people! That’s interesting.
      Necromancer cats are a very scary idea. When I think of cats and the story of The Monkey’s Paw, I think a cat would be nonplussed by the body returning.

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