Catacombs Know No Smiles

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Catacombs are full of bones

snuggling in the disgrace of others.

Hipbones piled on top of skulls,

the absence of lower jaws

denying the departed a smile,

the eternal existential joke

of insulting the living

with the knowledge

of their ultimate end.

 

Femur, skull, femur skull

is the monotonous pattern

of the Paris catacombs.

Two hundred six reduced

to two, an afterthought,

ossein denied an ossuary,

even the unity of skeleton.

 

The Capuchin Crypts at least

grant a molecular dignity.

The entrance mummies

are part of a gruesome holy décor

draped in the faux pas of passé styles,

yielding room after nauseating room

to the essential two of Paris,

femurs/skulls clustered

in paisley amoeba patterns

projecting snaking vertebrae

of dendrites, of life replicated

with the cross on the wall as

the ultimate center and end.

 

Did their former owners

know that death would

be the end of bodily control?

That for a ghastly and sacred art

they could be united forever

in indiscriminate unity

with their enemy or lover?

Would they have opted

for the grave knowing

that their ashes could

easily be blown into

the breeze that survives them?

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