Guernica Magazine

Morbidity & the Miniature

I don’t want my child to be my miniature—I like discovering each day how much of a stranger he is. The post Morbidity & the Miniature appeared first on Guernica.
"Pink Bathroom," from Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Credit: Lorie Shaull


Death is the grand finale—and if it is also a beginning we don’t know it. It is the end not only of living but of dying, too. If there is another world, death is the entrance, the bridge between the soul within and the soul without. Body and not body. Kafka wrote an entry in the Blue Octavo Notebooks: Dread of night. Dread of not-night. Death is night and not night. Death is a worry even before life begins. We dread our own death and we dread losing those we love. We create art, fantasies, babies in order to ward death off. We even dread mass or singular losses of the human race. Of strangers. Death as a result of illness. Of violence. Death as Tragedy. Death as the start of rot. Death as emptiness and lack of reciprocal feelings. Till death do us part. Death as what separates us in life. “Tis like the distance on the look of death.” Death as the fear of surviving. Death as container. Death as shroud. Death as nakedness.

I used to have nightmares of my body exposed for my whole family to examine and identify on the autopsy table. To think it would not be me receiving the results. Morgue from the French verb “to stare.” Death as costume. Death as reason to live. Death as memory. Death as sex. Death as genderless. Death comes differently to children. To those of us who have children, who were and are ever children. Death is always wed to chance, and by wed I do mean they love and tire of each other, eternally. The chance of outlasting, of beating the odds, of healing, of faking out, of coming back. It is, until the very last rattle and breath, the possibility of haunting.


“Promise not to haunt me,” I tell my mother in a dream, when I am sixteen and she has broken her hip, refusing joint replacement then blood transfusion. Before we go to sleep I am spoon-feeding her lentils then peeling my father fruit in silence as if it is now my duty. To love him. To thank him for loving her enough to make me. “Promise not to haunt think,” she asks, and whether or not she listens or understands me, she does defer. She assumes I know better. The beginning of the wish to escape my own brain. The beginning of death as possibility. Of pressure.

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