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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.

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