Dia de los Muertos
Graveyards bloom. Families in fiesta dress
picnic with loved ones
among tombstones and chamisa.
Skeletons grace my sill:
papier-mâché guests in tuxes,
folkloria ruffles. My prize:
prima dona with swollen belly
(Imagine! A pregnant skeleton!)
tilt-chinned, mouth a large O.
Marigold petal confetti
lead the dead to a small altar—
his favorite pipe,
pouch bulging with cherry blend.
Sugar skulls weep humidity,
We pick up where we left off
a year ago—retell tales,
old jokes, share cabrito and sopapillas,
cinnamon-dusted pillows where his soul,
in not-yet-fully-gathered dusk,
rests this early November day.
Dusk is redolent with perfume, spices, and blood.
A waxing moon pales, seems to portend endings.
The witch's incantations turn into lovely rhyme.
Ritual and superstition - parsley, sage, and thyme.
Little old ladies sit at a table; they’re little old ladies.
(They’re not me, I’m the same age I’ve always been.)
Youth flakes away, creates a sort of pentimento.
Something far older, hidden beneath, is revealed.
My dressing mirror is long and narrow as a coffin.
Nobbles of spine stand out like white knuckles.
* * *
Here and there lie rosaries, well-thumbed beads.
And I fade, melt slowly in banks of whirling fog.
There are rattles, beads, a mask hanging by a string.
Bones and bells clink as night breezes twist them.
They vanish amid subterranean notes of conch.
Bless foxes and coyotes, maggots and beetles.
Breathe deeply the acid tang of moldering leaves.
Bury me beneath stones, rough hewn, lichen-laced.
I’ll become part of yesterday’s ten thousand years.
Footprints on a frosted lawn are all I leave behind.
Ann Howells has edited Illya’s Honey for eighteen years, recently taking it digital: www.IllyasHoney.com. Her publications are: Black Crow in Flight (Main Street Rag), Under a Lone Star (Village Books), Letters for My Daughter (Flutter), and Cattlemen & Cadillacs an anthology of D/FW poets she edited (Dallas Poets Community). Her chapbook, Softly Beating Wings, won the William D. Barney Memorial Chapbook Contest,and was published in June (Blackbead Press).