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,
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