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In The Capuchin Crypt

by ricia kearns

They must have loved

their friars, to make this slow art

from mildew and bone—

thirty years buried, no coffin,

exhumed, dismantled, raised

to new life.

In our noses, an odor

both new and somehow known,

somehow, pleasing—

a damp-earth, animal musk,

centuries old—the smell of future us.

The last time you called, Autumn’s sun

was sweet and warm, like your voice,

soon gone.

We are coming to get you,

you camped—

sotto-voce Boris Karloff.

Tiny ghosts and ghouls

flew this way and that,

on our jack-o-lanterned block.

A Viking, a Zombie, a Cousin It—

their parents were transformed,


Two nights later, on All Soul’s,

you went to bed dressed, took

your last moist breath.

On this day, we pray

for the departed / the gift

of eternal life.

Busied by life,

we forget tibia, ilium,

clavicle, rib.

Now we stand face-to-face

with the skull-stacked, bone-wrought,

artful human core.

When I die,

let there be beauty left from me—

my sweat, my tune, my breath!

You have a tidy stone

with ship’s wheels, flowers,

grandkids, the U.S. flag.

For me,

maybe just essence

of an artful soul—

maybe just these words.


Image by Bree Anne
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