December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

"Gran calavera eléctrica" (c. 1910)

First published at Nevermet Press.

The Mexican Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a day dedicated to celebrating and remembering loved ones who have died. Altars adorned with offerings, called ofrenda, are created to honor the dead and help “guide them home.”

The word calavera, the Spanish word for skull, can be interpreted in many ways in relation to Dida de Los Muertos. Calavera are edible sugar skulls set out on altars, they are also depictions of skeletons and skulls going about daily life and finally are a form of poetry meant to poke fun at the living.

Fall beckons, Winter calls as summer-spring stop stirring.

Great bone spires crooked as the dawn splintered before the fluting pipes of Calavera.

His sleekest flutes dyed purple in widow’s wail, the largest pipes long white with age. Music tilted -discordant – as it rippled through the bending arches of calcium. The affected masses of late mortality behind him wore rags and riches faded, but not too faint. Their eyes wore well wrung memories of livelihoods established by ofrenda and tall tale. With a haunted urgency they pressed forward, hands all pushing forward at their skeletal portrayal of a saint.

The road they found was lush and lit by candle-flames playing out upon paving stones of marigold.  In the distance they spied fallen spire-ways and blackish fire, all leading down and merging in one lane. The mundanities of familial trust walked forward, each following Calavera which wrought them free.

Each step-ward home brought on the scents: ofrenda. They’d died one way and another, but from the final death they clung by ropes. To the hearth-homes of their living loves they hoped to set them, to hook them in and earn one further trip along the flower’s path.

The trudge, the monotony of afterlife, was not something that they cherished or held dear. Each spirit-soul felt alter calling, the reason for their dance. But they also felt another tugging right below a place inside their hats. Between the eyes they felt a space awaking, tugging hard towards dust and at their weariness.

They ignored this call with the tugging of their ropes, with the memories they called their home. They danced on further through the night.

Cloth-paper thin as a whimper shattered into oily melting fragments before marching candle-light and the waking jigs of Calavera.

Dancing behind him souls grew vibrant and strong, as they had when first darkened years gone by.

The first through were brightest, the newest well-remembered. As they stepped through cascades of colored liquid-paper they felt false bodies dissipate and no calling but ofrenda.

For that night, they felt alive.

In the morning they hark back through spires, before they seal again and leave them hungry. They are drunk on living bread and wine and soda-snacks.

Beneath the only tree in sight lays calavera, dead to all the world. His hat is pulled to peeping, as the lifeless go to sleeping.

And seasons pass.

First published at Nevermet Press.

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