Of Human Skulls

Of Human Skulls

I never knew you, but I cannot bear the thought of you languishing in the dark, doomed to stare forever at rotting things and the dust of what you were. Down in that stale place, beneath the clink of my shovel, you shed your cocoon of wet muscle and became something else, a luminous pearl inside a coffin shell. You were not meant to be shut away like this—forgotten, wished out of existence, too vital to look on comfortably.

Within your sockets I see the blackness of the grave, as if it leached in and took up residence after your eyelids fell away. Were I to light a candle in you, let it flicker from your hollows, it would not banish the shadows that cling there. The mysteries you have seen—you are smug with them. I cannot look away, hoping some small trace of that blackness will leap from your eyes into mine.

I run my fingers over your cool topography, your cracks and ridges, the indentations behind your jawbone. These are the silent maps of your history, your formation in layers that fused and hardened like the calcium secretions of a clam. I feel the bumps of your teeth, splayed across your face in an upward-curving row. I will not call it a smile. A smile is an act of will, requiring the manipulation of at least a dozen facial muscles. Rot has stripped your will away.

Do you miss them, those webs of muscle that once clothed you? Your nose cavity now spread open to every olfactory assault; your teeth with no lips to retreat behind. You are naked, stripped of artifice, yet show no modesty. Your brazen gaze says, This is me. This is who I really am.

I turn you over in my hand, and the crown of you inverts into a perfect bowl. It had a purpose once, that dome, to couch the delicate tissue that made your bones dance. But it, too, has shriveled away, robbing you of function, hollowing you into a receptacle that cries to be filled.

You were meant to be filled, so I fill you, staining your yellow-white with a deep red rivulet.

Blood, cranial fluid, grave dust, the slime of underground things—all these particles that have lodged in your fibers soak loose and mix with the wine that swirls lazily against bone. I put my lips to the rough edge of you, and your surface bumps my barely cushioned chin, recognizes the hard shape underneath. I tip you back, let my throat convulse. Your heady scent washes over me, and I feel in my bones that I am one step closer.


Featured image by Didier Descouens—Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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