Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 4, December 2011

Marie Lecrivain
Los Angeles, California, USA


Art of Decay

To entertain ourselves, my best friend and I decide to attend an art exhibit at La Luz de Jesus Gallery. Tonight, there is a book signing and photographic exhibition of ossuaries and charnel houses. Having visited such places on trips to Europe, we're both curious to see what kind of art can be crafted from demise. As we drive through the worn out streets of East Hollywood, searching for a parking place, I look through the window for signs of the familiar places I used to know.

the old neighborhood
has been adorned
in neon lace and jewels
an artful illusion
to hide decay

As we make our way to the gallery, we find ourselves surrounded by multi-generational goths. I glance at one woman, about my age. She has bright red hair, ghostly white makeup and dark-smudged eyes. Under the streetlights, I can see deep lines carved around her mouth and eyes, as well as the crepiness of her neck.

a young girl's desire
an old woman's reality
are both welcome
at the moment
of Death's embrace

We make our way into the gallery. The photographer is in the corner, surrounded by admirers. The photos themselves are stunning: a Swiss saint's bones gilded with gold; a mummified infant swaddled in blankets forever sleeps inside an iron cradle. I find myself looking into the hollow eyes of a 19th century Bavarian skull, with the name of the deceased artfully written across its brow. This is my favorite. It speaks of veneration, of reverence. The photographer and the unknown artisan have transformed this icon of death into a symbol of hope.

as long as love
and skulls and bones
and names remain
no one will ever
be forgotten


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