The Bone Church
by Lindsay Doukopoulos

“You must see the bone church,”
a friend told us, “when you go to Prague,” though

it’s not so much church as chapel and far less
macabre than the name suggests. After all

we’d toured Terezín the day before: the concentration
camp from which 80,000 Jewish Czechs were fed

to Auschwitz, Arbeit Macht Frei—and the Children’s
Museum with its sad crayon drawings and tiny

wool coats hung behind glass. Kostnice, the Bone Church,
is kitsch in comparison: a bone coat of arms, a chandelier

of vertebrae, the chalky relics of 40,000 black plague
victims culled in pyramids at the four corners of the stone

alcove. Alas, Poor Yorick! and memento mori: No mass
grave, this. Even the churchyard tombs are whimsical:

the plot of a cab-driver, killed in duty, sports
a steering wheel! Flowering vines garland the yard,

headstones lean on one another’s shoulders like old
friends, like crooked teeth, like any minute they’ll break

into song. And we recognize the cemetery’s levity
as a special wisdom: Even in death, play makes free.

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