How the Skull Is an Ally in Art

When the Ultimate Symbol of Death Serves as Muse, It Can Force Us to Confront Our Own Mortality

You walk through the darkness of the crypt, with choral music playing from hidden speakers. All around you, human bones are arranged in patterns, tiling the walls, divided by femurs, skulls, hip bones. Skeletal arms are crossed and nailed into the wall, making the symbol of the Franciscans, normally painted, out of the real thing. Even a child’s skeleton has been strapped to the ceiling, like a fleshless cherub, but decked out as the angel of death, scales in one claw-like hand, a scythe in the other.

The scariest place …

Li Po of Topanga Canyon

     for Daniel Arthur Kleiss (1949-2010)

I never bought it—the one about the Chinese poet drunk one night, leaning out of a boat in
order to embrace a watery reflection …

The Pair

       for Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan (1969-2016)

Don’t eat the spaghetti, she whispered. It’s funny
spaghetti
—her hand raised to one corner
of her mouth, speaking out the other side,
conspiratorial grin …

Why Is It So Hard to Stop Rave Overdoses?

Heavy-Handed Calls to Ban the Music Events Have Done Little to Curb Their Drug-Related Deaths

When the music comes on at a rave, a synergetic feeling of mass escape and euphoria runs through the crowd. But this unparalleled collective high has come at a cost. …

Song of the Humming Drumlins

I got to get, to get, to get—no
to return the ice cubes I found
in my pocket to the freezer.

Time passes: closets, mirrors,
laundry, arguments, secret
hiding places. Bottom …