They Sleep Until Dark

by hellorousseau

Heads up: This post is not about body positivity. Sometimes I do things for school. This is one of those things.

Mount Zion cemetery is the perfect metaphor for Baltimore, Maryland.

It’s an overcrowded, messy, sparatic, “… hallowed ground.

Bullshit, thinks Waltemeyer. The place is a small stretch of barren wetness running down…” (542)

Waltemeyer digs up one body, and then another, both times excavating graves of wrong randoms. Their only similarities are that they’re black, male, and they’ve been in the ground over the winter, but it doesn’t stop the cemetery manager from insisting it’s the right guy both times.

The faces of Mount Zion are interchangeable and fleeting, some coffins piled in mass graves, others shoved in cheap boxes before being covered in dirt. In death, their decaying bodies are cheap and disposable, the same as they were in life suggests Simon.

In the midst of Mount Zion, bodies of both victims and criminals, law abiding and breaking citizens, men and women alike, mingle and mix in the dirt of Baltimore.

“Here is James Brown, Gilbert’s murder, that kid who got stabbed to death on New Year’s.

And Barney Erely, the old drunk Pellegrini found bludgeoned in the alley of Clay Street a few weeks after Latonya Wallace, the derelict killed when he chose the wrong place to defecate.

And Orlando Felton, that decomp from North Calvert Street, the overdose that McAllister and McLarney handled back in January…

Eddie Brown’s fatal shooting from Vine Street…

This one was Dave Brown’s, this one was Shea’s.

Tomlin handled this one…” (548)

Although chapter ten of Homicide touches on rule ten of the homicide handbook, some fresh new murders, and a tense, nail-biting concluding interrogation with the Fish Man, the most captivating, interesting images from the chapter come from its first few pages.

Simon describes Mount Zion as a black hole; a toxic entity that surrounds itself with clutter, and sucks in all odds-and-ends around it. Very much like the city of Baltimore, it is enveloped by low-income housing, convenience stores, and surrounding polluted nature (542).

Mount Zion cemetery is where the people of Baltimore clammer to find rest. Mount Zion cemetery is the messy, jumbled, end-of-the-line for faceless, anonymous victims and suspects that run through the filing cabinets of Baltimore’s homicide unit.

The cemetery is yet another pile of lives that have been abandoned for someone else to sort through; to clean up after. Just like how the homicide detectives spend their sleepless days cleaning the blood off the sidewalk, so too do they spend their time sorting through bodies in the ground.

As Simon shows us, a homicide detective’s work does not end with the freshly deceased.

They deal in all that is dead in their city.

“These were the lives lost by the city in a single year, the men and women who cluttered crime scenes and filled Penn Street freezers, leaving little more than red or black ink on a police department tally board.

violent death,

then an anonymous burial in the mud of Mount Zion.

In life, the city could muster no purpose for the wasted souls;
in death, the city had lost them entirely.” (549)