Day of the Dead . . .
fresh marigold blooms
in my garden
I’m humbled by and appreciative of the outpouring of poems and images collected here, especially because I put out the call to friends and fellow haijin in such a last-minute way. After researching the traditions surrounding Día de los Muertos celebrations, I discovered that, in addition to the altars and graveside visits normally associated with the observance, there is a precedent for composing small poems called calaveras (“skulls”)–epitaphs “describing interesting habits and attitudes or funny anecdotes” that capture the essence or character of the honored dead. How fitting that seems . . . and how in keeping with the haiku spirit!
It’s great to see others getting into the spirit of this Day of the Dead tribute. Thank you, all, for these small calaveras, and for the opportunity to remember those who are very much with us in spirit, if not in body. I hope you enjoy these tributes as much as I do. Felicidades. —Maggie
in her rose garden
a wild poppy
a year after your death . . .
(for my father)
what would have been
his ninetieth birthday
worn like an old world crown
by the Oklahoma sun . . .
dust clouds swirling, rising
the longing missed
on his epitaph
from thousands of miles
the shirt he wore the last time
appears in a dream
his scent floats
we too live/on borrowed time/autumn leaves
wet leaves blot his name
on the headstone
fallen leaves skitter
into a solemn dance
on his grave
i can’t replace
her old wedding band
with its makeshift sapphire–
the faceted glass
wrapped around my finger
all her dreams . . . all my dreams
this vanishing . . .
the godwit’s light
(for Svetlana Marisova 7th September 2011)
where the space between worlds
is a wingbeat
the shadow of a swan
above the windblown reeds
my grandmother’s ring
on my finger
trying to remember
grandma has us wear
uncle john’s winter coat
he died in ‘43
My son died in March
His corpse unfound for six days
Like him: runaway
you could only flutter
in my gilded cage
your one brush with summer
was the bliss of unborn skies
I could not see you–
she told me to remember you
as you were . . .
decades later, I still turn
to see who wears your fragrance
(Red Lights, January 2011, vol. 7, no. 1)
My Mother’s Grandmother
Almarintha Cowart Brantley
Mother of Grover, Minnie, LaFayette
(March 19, 1859-October 6, 1888),
firstborn of Eleazar Lewis Cowart, Jr. & Eleanor Hendrix
You were the first born. When seven,
your father gave you a heifer, saying
all of her calves are yours to care for,
your dowry when you marry. “Marintha,”
he said, “Rinth—‘Cowart’ means ‘cowherd’.”
And you did it well. When you married
Joe Daniel, his son drove the herd from home
t0 the next county and your seven step-children.
Your younger sister, America, came to bury
you with your baby, when your only living
daughter, who saved my life, was seven.
At thrice your age, your half-grand-niece,
showed me where you were buried. “Grover
visited years ago,” she said. He was nine
when you died, became superintendent
of schools, then moved to California.
He found you where I did—a clump of trees
protected by strong, thorny bamboo vines.
The vines take care of you there by your two
earlier stillborns, the third’s small skeleton
cradled in yours, far under this bed of leaves.
You died at 29, having worked dawn to late night,
your step-children’s mother’s stone by yours.
You birthed six, and three lived to old age.
Your successor hit your children too hard.
made them a bit deaf, Uncle Grover said.
She’s by the new church, Mt. Gilead, beside
your husband. You stayed home. Your daughter
read books, painted, had four boys, six girls,
many grands. None died young, all graduated,
some from college, married, stayed sober, hardly
knew your name. This is for you, for us.
(LIGHTERED: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS,
Anhinga Press, 2005.)
–Van K. Brock
This grandmother had seven children in ten
years and died trying to have a difficult son.
Her wedding photo hangs inside the door
to my house. Under the bride’s lace collar,
a corsage was cinched by her graceful fingers
I at first had thought belonged to a concert pianist.
I didn’t know her then, but in her face I sense
my niece walking to me at nine months,
who in college sang to her guitar in a pure voice
when not using her fingers to paint in gouache
pigments of spice and plants from the swamp’s brake
made long before marriage on emptied flour sacks.
She now sits by my tall grandfather, looking, each,
seriously at his cousin’s camera that joined them for us
forever, except like another unknown grandmother,
she died too soon, young, leaving life to others.
How can I possibly not love her, wishing she might
have known her importance to those who can’t quite.
(Image & poem copyright ©2011,
online or in print reproduction by permission only.)
–Van K. Brock
I made an altar
For Day of the Dead this year
Starting to lose friends
what will happen then
when I can’t see myself here?
she asks the mirror . . .
I tell her nothing, knowing
that there are no simple words
(from my sister’s world, a tanka sequence,
Atlas Poetica, no. 8, Spring 2011)
day of the dead
silence of the crows
on cemetery wall