El Dia de los Muertos
In Frida’s house, it was every day.
She doted on skeletons,
contraptions of wicker and colored paper strung up
with twine, letting one hang alongside her bed
and another recline on her canopy. Mis companeros,
she called them. Compadres.
She’d stared back at Death,
nose to nose,
frente a frent ˙e,
for so long she called him
El Viejo. Just part of
the household. She knew he would
nudge her too soon and say Lista?
Esta lista, mi'jita?
No wonder she scrawled
on the last written page of her diary,
I hope the leave-taking is joyful
and I hope never to come back.
Forty years later,
I almost believe her.
It’s November second again,
and again I imagine her grinding
her teeth on those last words,
(despite being nothing but ashes
Diego sealed into a clay pot)
still trying too hard to resist the fiesta
that’s dawning, its candy skulls hawked
from the corners, the jiggety-jig
of the bone-men in every mercado.
At nightfall, the cities of graves
with their pink vaults and blue stucco archways
will come back to life with the pictures of lost children,
wives, fathers, husbands, while flowers cascade
over gravestones where, nestled in baskets,
pan dulce and still warm tortillas
the living once loved to hold inside their mouths
keep the taste of life fresh for the dead
to come back to, if only as wind playing
over the grass, blowing
out every candle
before moving on again,
not having answered the question
we’re left to ask, begging the darkness
that takes us, Adonde? Adonde?
from Catching Light, LSU Press
|Candied skulls on sale in Toluca in the days leading up to|
El Dia de Los Muertos
The link will take you to a great site on the culture and history of Mexico, with some stunning photos of El Dia de los Muertos celebrations.