Day of the Dead.
I love Halloween when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest, when we celebrate the wild of the night and the encroaching dark with yelling, dancing and demanding candy. And I love Day of the Dead, when we remember our ancestors thus keeping them alive and relevant. There is nothing more they ask of us.
Who do you remember? Who should be remembered?
To celebrate, this is a popular poem about the holiday and my own reaction to it.
Write up your own memories!
Day of the Dead
(from Ammonia Sunrise – Finishing Line Press)
Licking sugar skeleton heads
How does a white girl
Enter this place?
We use to ride bikes on the wide asphalt paths
that served the local cemetery
Fine, as long as you’re careful
We read the names and the dates
Long Time Ago, that’s the first thing
1805 – 1873
The beginning and the end – in stone
Then later the cemetery
became a short cut
Watch your step
I counted the time between the dates
How old? How many days did this one have?
How did they die?
so I already know the cemetery
I can come and set up the altar
And bring food, bring old friends
the pine needles are slippery
Over there, to the left is a new stone
with dates I remember.
this is my friend Bubbles
an apt nickname for a round cheerful woman
She collected glass paperweights
that I learned to touch very quietly
her stone says Elaine
apparently her real name
I bring her cookies
and a little sherry
For her tea
I passed by a new stone the other day
now it’s a favorite
It reads: Published
But Perished Anyway
to these writers I leave my incomplete manuscript
and green tea
My father has a stone
with dates I can’t forget
I leave photographs of his grandchildren
and a cup of yellow number 2 pencils
he put them behind his ear
My son did the same thing the other day
I will also bring a loaf of bread and a loaf of holiday Stolen
A dish of ice cream – Tin Roof Sundae
(he not only did not care about the cholesterol;
it wasn’t the ice cream that killed him)
And the books, Charlotte’s Web, The Polar Express
The bell because Dad believed in Santa
My father died years before
Something my mother still
On Grandmother’s grave
over there to the right
I leave a cup of hot coffee
and dessert something elaborate
from the chef at the Club
Grandmother loved the sweets from the Club
I read Eloise at the Plaza to her
the last time I saw her.
My mother gave her mother a sip of coffee
through a straw
not too hot, don’t burn your lips
the last time she saw her
Grandmother passed away on Christmas Day
She didn’t believe in Santa.
So no bell for her
Perhaps we should leave a candy cane
or not –
My Great Aunt and paternal Grandma
are not buried together
even though they are sisters
My grandma had many children
My aunt had white carpet
My Grandma baked furiously all her life
indifferent to the effects of dense calories and high fat
Strawberry short cake
hand whipped cream
Triple layer prune cake
My Great Aunt baked low fat lemon squares
she spent hours brooding over her health
in case she lived forever
Her husband, my uncle
Made a kid’s cocktail of seven-up and cranberry juice
we drank it using both hands to hold the glass
Not over the white carpet
stay in the kitchen
For both of them I leave a pitcher of cosmopolitans
And some of those meringue cookies from
Should I make a list of my favorite foods?
So the boys know what to bring?
Will they remember the only single family tradition
was Take and Bake Pizza on Friday nights?
Bring the one with extra meat.
And a bottle of your father’s wine
It is so reasonable
To feed the dead
It should be just as reasonable
watch the fat percentage of total calories
no, watch the carbs
no, limit the sugars
stay out of the sun
fix the wobbly step ladder
To feed the living.