Bone Chapel

Let us decorate a postcard with the faces of the celibate dead who glimmer blue in the lights strung up by a Roman photographer so tall his head grazes teeth on the ceiling. Let us not be afraid of how much death is in the room. Bone stays after flesh melts. The photographer wears a white belt around his antelope hips. Let us get a fucking move on, he says in Italian to the postcard-company agent, who speaks only German. They stand mute before the heaped skulls. One minute, two, while scurrying assistants pull rags across the dustier of the foreheads. All eyes are holes. The photographer keeps his cherry sunglasses on, the better to sneer hidden at the postcard-company agent whose boyfriend in Stuttgart is sticking his tongue up the throat of a trapeze artist who hangs from her toes while they kiss. The postcard-company agent does not know they are kissing, but she feels it. She blinks at the cold oyster air in her mouth, so cold she forgets her purpose and must be yelled at again in Italian. The skulls wait, bone that once carried brains of priests. The trapeze artist, who has heard that the girlfriend of the man she is kissing has gone to Capuchin for a two-day photo shoot of a skull-stacked chapel, yanks her mouth away from the swiveling tongue. Her toes are tired, she says, of holding on.

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Leni Zumas