• laurie

St. Louis #1

A grey & brisk morning. Damp breeze like a scrub brush on my skin. The right weather - and the perfect light - for visiting an old friend. And still, a sad reunion.

For years and years I came from away, hours and miles away, to find this place. Slip through the laissez welcome of the gates. Wander at will - and almost entirely alone - through the crumbling necropolis. I shot expensive, secretive spools of film here, back when film was spooled, and expensive, and the images waited to swim up at you in the red dark of a small, sharp-smelling room hours and miles away from where they were taken. Back when, if I missed the shot, I didn't know it until too late to rectify... I still mourn shots from almost forty years ago. Endlessly composed and re-composed in my mind but nowhere else.

I sat on these stones in companionable silence with those who would never speak again. I smoked endless cigarettes. I meditated. I cried. I brought journals but never wrote in them. Not here. Here was never for words. It was for the dance between the lens of my eye and the lens of the camera. For slow-pacing feet. Long, easy waiting for the light to change. Once I waited so long that the gates were locked by the time I ambled back to them. There's a ghost of me, just there, see her? Sitting on the top of the wall on the Basin St. side. Pondering how to jump off without sacrificing her knees or her camera.

Now I live here. I can walk to these gates in less than an hour. But I can't slip through them. Now there is money, and paperwork, and filing inside in a line under an awning that makes me think of street fairs, in a clump of people tracing a brisk, abbreviated and circumscribed route through the cemetery, bouncing off of, trailing and avoiding other clumps like bumper cars.

Our guide is a shape-shifting goblin king on home turf. He serves his ancestors well, and introduces us to them with mirth & reverence. He, too, remembers a time when this ground was no less sacred, but less sacrosanct. When the walls between the quick & the un- were much more porous, when that meeting was a common, friendly, casual thing. A family affair. When children played here and young lovers snuck kisses right alongside the old ones tending to their people with whitewash and swift-wilting flowers.

I guess even cities of the dead can die.


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