empty of future, renew the sign: lucent paradox, ineluctable trace ...


whited sepulchres

Recall returning once to Sydney from the South Coast & seeing the towers of the City ahead, rising nacreous out of the grey-green of the schlerophyll forest - like bones afloat on a shimmering haze of gasoline residue. A whited sepulchre ... it's from the Gospel of Matthew, 23:27:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

Probably the most famous literary usage of this motif is in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, referring perhaps to Brussels: In a very few hours I arrived at a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulchre. Yet any City, white or otherwise, might be characterised thus.

Remember, much earlier, my first sight of New York, from somewhere out on the wide polluted lands of the Jersey shore, & being astonished because, in my naivety, I had not thought those towers would all, or almost all, be flat-roofed. Had imagined spires, pinnacles, palaces, not an agglomeration of rectangles jostling skywards.

Another time, summer, down on the harbourside at Elizabeth Bay, after a day of bushfires, the setting sun appeared below the heavy grey clouds over the City & turned everything an unearthly white, some post-apocalyptic light whose radiance seemed skeletal.

And yet ... are we to paint our tombstones black?

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