Otherworldly Words: Charnel House

What to do with the dead? A charnel house is one answer to that question. We place the remains inside stone walls and sarcophagi to rest.

But the real charnel house is in our memories, where the dead live on. Our minds keep the dead alive every time we think of them, speak their name, and conjure up their image.

As I say in my poem, behind the cemetery gates, “hauntings frighten us, because they are the true echo of loss.” The charnel houses that decorate our landscape are a place to remember not only those who have died, but to reflect on our own mortality. In a sense, the entire planet is a charnel house as we wait to pass on to whatever lies next in our journey through the cosmos.



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