A Burial

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Swamp: an illustration from my upcoming memoir, Arrows Axes and Scythes

By A. G. Moore

This selection is adapted from my upcoming memoir, Arrows Axes and Scythes.

Burial

The move from Krumer’s to Lockwood’s necessitated many adjustments, some positive and some less so. The increased privacy and space were balanced by a cessation of food deliveries. The problem of decreased food supply was exacerbated by an increase in the number of mouths to feed: We began to accumulate pets. Eventually, the number grew to nine. Our pet/food imbalance became a crisis as the animals starved.

I can state with certainty that my mother asked for none of the animals. She didn’t particularly enjoy having pets, but was a compassionate person. Once a pet had been remitted to her custody, she cared for it. The animals sensed this, and they loved her.

Our pets were a hodgepodge of pedigree and mutt. Some were strays and some were delivered to our door in a misguided attempt to give the pets a home. One of these charges was contributed by my father. He found a huge animal, a St. Bernard/Great Dane mix, rummaging in the garbage behind a restaurant. This “rescued” animal, Boots, became a beloved member of the family.

Another dog was brought to the home by my mother’s brother, Jimmy. Uncle Jimmy was important to the family because he owned three dry cleaning stores in Brooklyn. He regularly gave us abandoned clothes, in excellent condition. These were the core of our school wardrobe. Uncle Jimmy’s Chihuahua, Chico, was no longer welcome in his home. That’s how we got Chico.

With nine dogs in the home, and no regular food supply, my mother tried to manage. Potatoes, delivered by my uncles, were cooked and mashed for human consumption. Peels were for the dogs.

Because hunger was their perpetual companion, the dogs took measures. They foraged in neighbors’ trash. Complaints poured in, but my mother couldn’t control the animals and she couldn’t feed them. So the neighbors, or at least one of them, took their own measures. They poisoned the dogs.

Dogs began to turn up dead. They came home to die. We discovered them in various stages of decay. It was Clinton’s job to bury the deceased, but since this was a family tragedy, everybody pitched in.

With the earth frozen, burial was a particular challenge. Clinton’s solution? A bog, a quicksand pool, he found in the forest. In the picture below, the scene of a burial is depicted, as I recall it. This memory is clear.

We dragged our dog, Hortense, up to the bog. Clinton threw her, as respectfully as he could, onto the mud and we waited for her to disappear. In a very little while the surface was smooth again and Hortense was no more.

Why Are You a Writer?

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Cave art from La Pasiega, in Cantabria, Spain; Author: Hugo Obermaier, 1913. This work is in the public domain.

 

The human effort to leave a record may be seen in cave art dating back 40,000 years.  What prompted these impulses?  Were early humans teaching a lesson?  Leaving a message?  Were they expressing devotion to a deity or satisfying an inchoate desire for self-fulfillment?  Unknowable as the answers to these questions are, so too, for many of us, is the answer to the question, “Why are you a writer?”

Writing is certainly not the most dependable way to earn money.  And it is a career that carries with it the risk of severe, personal criticism.  So, why write?

I have been writing since I was a child.  For me, writing is a way to communicate.  There are other paths to communication–music, art and dance, for example.  Sadly these avenues are not open to me.  Though I express myself with joy through many art forms, I don’t communicate well through them.  They remain my private pleasures.  Words, however, are malleable in my hands.  I mold them, sometimes nimbly, until they convey my intentions in a way that others can understand.  That’s communication.  That’s why I write.

Was I born a writer?  There’s a school of thought that holds some people are born artists and some are not.  I’ve never subscribed to this view.  Give children crayons and they color.  Read nursery rhymes to them and they respond to the cadence of words.  Creativity and art, I believe, are intrinsic to human nature.  Talents vary, as do life influences and opportunity.  The role each of these played in my choice to write–that is impossible to sort out.

I’m a writer.  I’m comfortable in the role and believe I understand the reasons for my choice.

Why are you a writer?

 

 

Prologue to Arrows Axes and Scythes

 

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Witness: an illustration from Arrow Axes and Scythes

Below is the Prologue to my upcoming illustrated memoir, Arrow Axes and Scythes.  While the book recalls a time long passed, the influence of those years lasted a lifetime.  The Prologue explains the author’s attempt to convey the emotional content of memory without distorting the essential truth of events.

We are all invisible witnesses. If not for this, how many crimes would be reported?

I think we imagine that children do not see and if they see they do not understand. We reassure ourselves, as we carry on in our imperfect ways, that even if they understand they surely will forget. But the mind is not so dependably careless with its impressions. Many remain for a lifetime.

The events recorded in this book occurred more than fifty years ago, when I was a child. Some memories are lost to me, yet many come back. Are these accurate? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Ideas are not preserved in amber. They are subject to the whims of experience and bias.

My childhood was a time of secrets. Much that is revealed here was never meant to be public. But what I could not say then, will now be told.

At the end of the book one of the personalities, my father, offers testimony for himself. A letter exists in which he describes motivation for his actions. Readers may weigh this evidence and decide for themselves whether or not the document supports my value as a witness.

 

 

 

An excerpt is offered in another blog on this site: A Burial