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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Easter. Calvary. A Little Ku Klux Klan

                                                                 STEPFORD CATHOLICS                                                    "So where do you think they are all going" my husband asks for the umpteenth time "I mean where? And what for?.  I mean some of 'em seem to br carrying their shopping!. Are they shopping!"  We are sitting outside a Bodega,  at the apex of two narrow streets in Seville at two in the morning, in this week of Semana  Santa drinking Jamaican Rum, talking, talking, as the People walk down towards us, veer around the table where we sit, and  up to our right.  A surging and ebbing sea of souls  increasing in speed and mass as the night lengthens. We, he and I,   absorbed in our habitual  never ending conversation  give scant attention to what we have observed  for hours, days, nights now  in Seville, until the dark energy in the mass of people jerk us from our cocoon, our  rum fuelled talk. . "Not  going anywhere"  I murmur , "Processing. They are in Procession after some...some Totem Pole, some standard bearing Priestly One long gone by. Massing. Mindless. Stepford.  Stepford Catholics."

                                                                  A LITTLE KU KLUX KLAN                                               We arrived in Seville as Semana Santa, the Spanish holy week, kicked off.  We knew we'd witness all that jazz, but really didn't know at all. It's sum of parts, a mystery.. We schlepped around in the light and heat of day,  doing holiday things, remarking on the people out on the streets, the women in lace mantillas headdress, the frocks of  formal black short enough for showing of elegant leg, arm in arm with the sharply suited men. They glide in and out of churches, walking, walking , always on the move. They  mingle with  the pointy hated Nazarenos, (Capirotes)  cloaked from head to toe, sinister in the cone like hat with slits for eyes to see, obscuring  the face. A little Ku Klux Klan. A little carnival.  All day Tuesday, Wednesday, we watch the smiling people. At midday they  gather  at  the Bodegas for beers in the sun  before or after observances. We are charmed, yes, and only slightly discommoded by the crowds.

                                                       SHAKE  ROLL AND SHIMMY                                                          It is for us a series of vivid visuals adding up to something only these cool and fined boned people understand. We are content to marvel at its stately unhurried progress, the richness of the costumes concealing the sex even of the wearer; a little unsettled on coming on the silent  lines of  of faceless Nazarenos in Procession  as the evening wore on;  a little melancholy at the dolorous brass band play:  astonished and giggling at a large square float  carrying effigies of  Christ on the cross and  Mary the Virgin. The float is supported and propelled underneath by unseen Spanish men. We get this, as we see it bopping at the entrance to one of the myriad churches as plentiful as pubs in Ireland, watched by a tense expectant crowd.  The thing dips sharply  and slowly slowly enters under  the ancient arch. " Oh hey, they have to get it in! they must be on their hunkers. No!  no,! on  their knees! to get that great edifice under the broad stretch of the arch". The crowd roar triumphantly as the the float shimmies monstrously into the dark space beyond.

                                                          GET ME ANOTHER RUM FOR THE LOVE OF GOD             And so to Thursday, Maundy Thursday and the early hours of Friday.  The massing crowd, marching now in increasing urgency, children among them, till they flowed behind and before us on their way.  I ask my husband to get me one more rum for the love of God, disturbed. unnerved. .

                                                          NEVER SAY FOREVER DONE                                                    "It was a procession babes!" I assure him, later. "I looked the whole thing up on the internet!. The Counsel of Trent, you know,  dreamed up the entire thing. to draw in the People"  It was Good Friday evening, Christ crucified at three o'clock, and the people fallen away. " I guess we just don't do it any more in Ireland, not really, no,  never did this version  anyway, but  still here...I mean  what about the paedophile priests?, the affluence?.... but..but you know when we did do it,  we did it good and dark and now we are forever done.

                                                                    CALVARY                                                                          And so we go home to Ireland and off to see the film Calvary on Easter Sunday night, and hey we have our holy week anyway. It was a flaying, shattering heartbreaker of a movie. Christ was good and agonised,  condemned, tortured, abandoned, and nailed to the cross, in all  terrible beauty. It's cast of unforgettables,  Developer, Publican, Doctor, Guard,  Lost woman, Suicide, Widow,  Murderer, Priest, snatched you up and squeezed you relentless  for it's duration..  The people cynical braying victims, flagellating church, state and bankers, shapeshifting into the mass, blame shifting the despoiling of children onto to the priests. Until, finally,  the sweet and exotic concept of forgiveness. We are where we are.  God in art.

                                                                 GOD IN ART. GOD IN THE PEOPLE.                                 In Spain I saw him, God. The people laughing, drinking beer in the sun, taking photos on mobile phones of their little lollipop sucking  infants, cutely got up in miniature priestly robes."Look! To me! Look!. look to me!, Angel." Elegant, joyous. God in the people.  I  saw the massing mindless power the church had chained, as here in Ireland, Calvary, the unchained lost, the haters mocking, despoiling what had been venerated and gladly given steam. On Easter Sunday night at Calvary, God was. Go figure.  God in art.  God in the people.


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Side Shows and Fairy Tales/ Sexing up the Dead

The light is changing,  soft air expanding, buds pushing out far enough to insist on spring. I tell my husband how I was willing to wait a few weeks more,  and now you know here is, like a reward for patience. Everything new again for Easter. The world dying, rising, coming one more time for the people.

I think of childhood Easters, chocolate,  daffodil blaze, church obligatory  every evening with your mother, so that you oscillate between happy and melancholy; standing like stone before the bloody stations of the cross, drowning in the priest chant.   This Easter season I am reading,  reading,  about Grief,  Bereavement, Loss for a course assignment. About Death, which is apparently almost always denied, and we adepts at throwing up barriers, getting up side shows of Sex, Fairy Tales, Religion, between ourselves and it. Good for us. Teenagers in particular, already in the hormone storm,  suffering " Terror of Life"  when dying  is badly handled by hopefully cavorting adults.

In the kitchen. the boss makes a birthday cake with her very best friends, the buzz and noise lapping softly against my thinking. The Beautiful one lies above on her bed engaged in intermittent studying, facebooking. The boy is abroad with his mates. I track him in my mind,  a quick inventory against loosing anybody here. Bereavement.

I remember one such, when I was not yet a teenager, maybe seven, eight years old? A school  girl dies and we are dispatched to her funeral, required to do a guard of honour over the short coffin, stand and say the prayers at the yawning grave. I am a fumbling participent, distracted.  She was naughty, that one, in your face, and so it seemed that death came for the troublesome too. Only the good go early people said . I relied on that. Terror indeed, as I watched the small thing being lowered in the ground, the clods plopping quick to bury, thinking how it cannot be that they will really put her down there, leave her down there. Will not, surely. Leave her..

I hear yet another reading of Oscar Pistorius's love texts to Reeva SteenKamp on the evening news. Oscar Pistorious crouched legless and  bloody over the dead girl, begging, demanding that she live  again, that she be given back to him again. Their everyman  texts of endless for always and ever love belong to the rest of us now  she is dead in time never mind what he did forever her dark  troubling love her own  grim est reaper.

And so to bed, and I lie,  book held loosely in my hand, hearing my husband locking doors, flicking off lights, chatting  with  the dog as he puts him to bed. I have not spoken to him all evening on a point I will not yield, cannot, essential to me. I have not looked at him either least I weaken at the sight of the small  suffering boy  he, like all men puts on like a coat at such times.

I think of how I tumbled after Geraldine, in a way. For a few years into the heavy earth. Into the chilly grip of fear, caught inside a coil of snaking apprehension. And when I emerged, somehow, the dying thing had lost its power to paralyse forever. Yes. Or migrated perhaps to other places.  And so it goes.

I hear him coming up the stairs, the boss now singing in her room, the beautiful one sleeps. The boy still out, I text to tell him  stop! doing what he keeps on! doing, come home!, come home.! He texts to say he's on the way. .All live, all safe, for this night here. I wish good night  to husband, daughters, dog, to sweet Geraldine down there where she lay with me for all those years.  Good night , goodnight, sweet girl, may angels be.