Walking through the soft moss-covered terrain, one is overcome with a sense of haunting. The leaves scattered all around illuminate flecks of greenish decay mixed with coffee-coloured brunette sediments of nature. As I walk through this creation of Mother Nature’s I cannot help but wonder about the bodies that have trodden on this ground before. The Sephardim Jews that abandoned their homes in the search for a better life abroad – a people expelled from their comfortable place of residence and coerced into migrating to London only to die here and never return to their homely pastures.
I can imagine the rotting flesh of each life gone by, the ants that are drawn to the sweetness of a sugary life now extinguished, the moths consuming the rich lustrous robes of a victim whole, the worms drilling through the skin and into the heart of each unfortunate soul. I imagine the robes these bodies could have worn: enamel silver lining of a king’s indulgent purple and lilac attire, the pure alabaster white of his fur – could someone regal be buried here too?
The tomb stones in Novo Cemetery are all the shape of boxes encasing the bodies. They lie horizontally in these prisons – their eternal morgues. The corpses are shelved and stacked like tin-canned goods in a shop storage facility, they are then taken out of their holding cells, stone cold, and dumped into the abyss that is the soil to be decomposed there and disappear into stale, rotting, odorous, and ruinous ghosts of who these people once were.
There is no respite, no breathing space, once trapped in these hollow nightmare containers there is no escape for the poor worm-eaten body. Even if these soulless figures of former human beings could rise up and walk the earth once more in their dilapidating state, they still could not break through the crude boxlike apparatus that now keeps their mortal remains. These bodies, if they can even be called that now, have not an ounce of human life remaining in them. They are gruesome, grim, ghastly – anything but the elegant floating figures that pass by them daily.
People walk past the cemetery every day and do not think of the remains of human flesh that are decomposing into nutrients under their solid feet. The silhouettes meander by and go about their usual business, no one gives thought to the ghosts that haunt the cemetery. No one remembers.