Taking my Son to an Ossuary

Strange, these cities of the dead.
Makes you wonder what possesses keepers of ossuaries 
to leap from practical to decorative.  
What compels them to go beyond storage to story.

I took my son to an ossuary when he was five,    
to a church in Rome where Capuchin friars 
created six crypts from fellow brother’s bones.
We entered through the Crypt of Resurrection, 
not noticing the painting of Jesus bringing Lazarus 
to life, so quickly were we caught in the thrall 
of the Crypt of the Skulls, the Crypt of the Hips, 
the Crypt of Tibia and Fibula.

We walked beneath a canopy of hipbones, 
my son unfazed by the skeleton bearing 
a grim-reaper scythe watching us from its place 
on the ceiling. He was a boy on the cusp of dinosaur 
infatuation, drawn to bones, to clavicle angel wings, 
shoulder-blade bow-ties and stars and flowers 
fashioned from ribs and vertebrae, 
nothing more. 

Ascending from the dark on worn, stone steps 
into a startling Roman afternoon I asked  “Where next?
The famous statue of Moses?” My son took my hand
and led me to a nearby park and bumper cars and gelato. 

—Gillian Nevers, Madison, WI