(June,1943 / Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada)

Cappichini Catacombs

[Palaremo - September 1988]

Greeted at the gate
By a squat old Friar in brown
Whose task it was
To discretely solicit a donation,
The amount of which
Remained at one's discretion -
' To assist in defraying
The upkeep costs ',
An old sign read.

Down one flight
Of cold stone stairs,
And then a turn to the right.
Down another
Flight of stairs
Then, then, what a sight!

A hall of corpses -
Rows upon rows,
Each housed in a grotto
Carved into the stone.
Some wired up straight,
Some lying prone -
Each dressed in best finery,
Awaiting God's throne!

Such a view
My eyes had never seen,
But it was clear
That death had not been thwarted:
Decay delayed, yes -
But death, death had played its tune
And all there
Except the visitors
Had long since cast aside
Their mortal coils -
To dance where 'ere its music led.

We mortals marveled
At the remains
In their various states
Of dry decomposition -
The bones, the skin, the hair,
The costumes and accessories.
Grotesque in a way,
Yet oddly beautiful!

How vain
We mortals be
In our attempts
To freeze things
As they are -
In our attempts
To stop time
In its tracks -
For is it not
Life's nature to progress?
And if this progress
Calls for death
And then decay,
Can we change this?

Fear not this point of view -
For progress comes
Not solely from
What our bodies are
And what they've done for us -
Progress also comes
As our eternal knowingness grows
And we in consciousness unfold.

Go visit this place -
And tell me then,
Were you shocked?
Were you amused?
Were you frightened?
Were you blessed?

Be careful though,
Your words reflect
Both your understanding
And your knowingness!

© M. Barrett – all rights reserved

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