For Jerzy Popieluszko & Pier Paolo Pasolini
Benedictus qui venit in nominee Domine
A breath splits the air at the reservoir like a gunshot.
Laughter floats across the foamy surf like cigarette smoke.
Mute faces, pressed against glass, pass by in an old Polski
Fiat, a Polonez, or Audi. On soundless televisions, moustachioed
men of impossible ethnic extraction—sifted from the Nemen
River, dug from the mud at Katyń, or rounded up in the mountains
of Friuli—smoke disinterestedly. Images flicker. They drag the reservoir.
Young lovers stumble across sodden bundles, tied with twine
like parcels of old clothes, or blood-smeared, sand-caked forms;
mulched eyes and pulped tongues, gruesome death masks.
Once the death rituals have been observed, the purgatorial
are moved, wrapped in plastic; newly-made martyrs,
raised overhead like a chasuble. In death, photography,
though an art and easily replicable, is not simply a diagnostic,
or forensic tool. It fixes you both in time in similar ways,
though you held differing moralities and might not have mourned
each other’s passing. Each photograph taken is a step, or a word;
a poem, or a sermon; a film, or a Mass. Magnets for hatred, what
is not understood, certainly by you, Jerzy and Paolo, is that being
tainted by Original Sin is not the worst thing imaginable. There is no
sin in knowledge, or wisdom—in being a heretic, one who seeks
knowledge. The sin is often in truth, though the truth is: a man
will give up his life happily, once he knows what he is dying for.
Consider the word mass, from your differing perspectives: mass
consumption; mass media; mass market; Mass as mystery; Mass as
consumption of the body; the body and blood transformed into edible
mass. The body subjugated through dogma, religious and political;
the spirit subjugated through ritual. The arm raised, extended, then
beaten against the chest, draws automatically to the sign of the cross.
Listen to me now, you shades in the corner: walk with the wind.
Your hearts no longer beat, are no longer fuelled by human passions;
the heart’s windows are no longer battered by storms; you no longer
feel the pain and passion of struggle, the very human struggle for
dignity, you two saints. It is said you looked for death; courted it
as one does a prospective lover; danced with it as one does a virginal
wife on her wedding day. And the parallels? Protest; the fight for the
freedom to enslave yourselves; the closed coffins; the beating of chests;
the crowing from the balconies of Europe, that justice was done. But tell
me this, if you will? Where is the justice in mother’s outliving their sons?
On your graves, wild thyme flowers. The past is the past is the past.