And it is at that precise moment that you step out of time, that you feel alive in the company of the dead.
Life flows rhythmically in time, and while it is intrinsically different for every human being due to their geographical whereabouts, age, culture and several other factors, it can be said that time is subjective. And yet, by understanding the importance of the measurement of life, a more or less universal, objective unit was established, thus leading human beings to drag themselves relentlessly, feeling a constant ticking, an equal ticking, the ticking of life passing by and consuming itself in their guts. And yet, there is a place where that noise cannot be heard or rather yet, is ignored by our ego. It is where everything seems to stop, or at least move ever slowly, and it is found in cemeteries.
Cemeteries are a repository, a dumping ground for things that no longer work, and yet, to my eyes, they seem to be the ideal place to forget everything while wandering among the forgotten, I forget.
I never liked to look for the decaying bodies of people I met in my life, they are no more, graveyards for vainglory built by idolatrous humans.
And so, we rebelled against God when he told Adam: By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.
Never would God have thought that we would do anything in our capability to return to the earth; that we ought to shut ourselves away for the vanity of being immortal.
So I am the idol of myself, a God and a pagan, an atheist; I find no comfort in wandering among the graves, but only a mixture of curiosity, indifference and complacency. The lonely man without a purpose is equal to the man who has struggled all his life to achieve his own goal. Once all this is understood, the necropolis loses its sacredness and becomes an ideal place to wait for time to pass without realising it.
I have, therefore, decided to wander among the graves of the dead unknown to me around the world. I do not converse with them, I only observe the name often composed of indecipherable letters whose form and memory have been eroded over time. Perhaps I will be able to catch a glimpse of my name one day, broken down into primitive sounds, which may have been forgotten.
Curiosity is what drives a man to madness. I was born mad and became curious, thus in every nation, I seek the peace of the dead and observe human compositions in memory of the dead: from the most majestic creations to the most subtle and, finally, those of the peoples who lay the dead at the foot of a sacred tree, and whose decaying bodies, bones pervade the most hidden self that slowly reconstructs fragments of its own body in putrefying flesh.
Cemeteries pulsate with life, with colours, and they too are slowly subject to time however eternal they may seem. They never appear the same and some are cut out for the night, such is the case of a cemetery in the prefecture of Wakayama whose tombs are an integral part of nature. In the depths of night, without gods, one can wander among humid tombstones, illuminated by faint fireflies that glimmer and vanish in the mystical dance of mating in which they become fatuous fires. And if sight is deceived, one’s hearing perceives a faint rustling, a crackling, a whispering that slowly becomes a murmur so we are laughed out of our brains or perhaps witness a unique Hyakki Yagyo.
Instant as memory
Their eyes caught fire
From cell to glassy cell
The sky was thronged with thriving
And earth was pre-Galileo
Flattened to infinity
Covered with mythologies
A diamond angel shattered the windows
The corpses accosted me
With otherworldly looks
Until their faces
Earth and sky losing
Their fantastic look
The cemetery is a place to look for our multiple selves, formed by an unknown past and an uncertain present, the object – of the search – is different for each of us; and if loneliness can be finer than sorrow, the projection of it, in my case, is joined by the shadow of a tombstone.
It was the words of a living poet that made me understand part of my pursuit, that which goes beyond ethnological curiosity.
Most of the dead are silent. Not a word is uttered. A corpse has – literally – already said it all. For poets, it is not so. Poets keep talking. Sometimes they repeat themselves. This occurs every time someone reads or recites a poem for the second or hundredth time. They also speak to the unborn, to those who were not yet alive when they wrote what they wrote.
While we stand there in front of their graves, we are surrounded by their words. The person is no longer there, but their words and thoughts still remain. The least one can do is exchange the thought. A visit to a poet’s grave is a dialogue in which the answers precede anything we can say. It is a paradox. Something has been said, but no question has been asked. We came here to manifest our agreement, to be in proximity to those words that had already been spoken. The person who wrote those words had already died, but the words still live on. Being able to recite them aloud, as the other pronounced them. That is why you have come, to hear those words again in the silence of death.
I have listened, and the words take shape in my mind: at first, lonesome but faintly they slowly compose themselves letter by letter. They then get faster and, finally they take over and powerless you cannot help but be overwhelmed by them. And it is at that precise moment that you step out of time, that you feel alive in the company of the dead.
This is how I became overwhelmed in front of Keats’ grave where I remained for some time without even feeling the beating of my heart. This is how I felt despondency at the sight of Pound’s grave, almost erased from the memory of those who do not think, those who took away his dignity of life and did the same with his death.
Since then I have wandered, aimlessly, deluding myself to escape the ticking of life, finding refuge among the dead, and stopping in front of the tombstone of a man who, with words of that time, communicated to the world the same pain that I also feel. That is how I take refuge among my fellow men, waiting for the day to pass, hoping that there will be no tomorrow, waiting for the sweet cold embrace of an almost gentle death.
I have committed the worst of sins
One can commit. I have not been
Happy. Let the glaciers of oblivion
Take and engulf me, mercilessly.
My parents bore me for the risky
And the beautiful game of life,
For earth, water, air and fire.
I failed them, I was not happy.
Their youthful hope for me unfulfilled.
I applied my mind to the symmetric
Arguments of art, its web of trivia.
They willed me bravery. I was not brave.
It never leaves me. Always at my side,
That shadow of a melancholy man.
 Guillaume Apollinaire, Alcools, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut, pp.47
 Cees Nooteboom, Tumbas
 Jorge Lui Borges, Remorse
Illustration by Valentina Cima