Day of the Dead . . .

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 doFelicidades. Maggie

Rick Daddario

Remembrance Day–
in her rose garden
a wild poppy

          –Pamela Cooper

first light
a year after your death . . .
     (for my father)

          Claire Everett 

sturgeon moon
what would have been
his ninetieth birthday

          —Cara Holman

daddy’s homburg
worn like an old world crown
by the Oklahoma sun . . .
dust clouds swirling, rising

                          –Margaret Dornaus

the longing missed
on his epitaph

from thousands of miles
the shirt he wore the last time
appears in a dream

empty room
his scent floats
with me

(NaHaiWriMo, 10/31/11)

Alegria Imperial

we too live/on borrowed time/autumn leaves

–Johnny Baranski

cold wind
wet leaves blot his name
on the headstone

Grant’s tomb
fallen leaves skitter
into a solemn dance

on his grave
Casablanca lilies
i can’t replace

Alegria Imperial

her old wedding band
with its makeshift sapphire–
the faceted glass
wrapped around my finger
all her dreams . . . all my dreams

          –Margaret Dornaus

this vanishing . . .
the godwit’s light
(for Svetlana Marisova 7th September 2011)

        October’s end
where the space between worlds
is a wingbeat
the shadow of a swan
above the windblown reeds

  –Claire Everett

daisy chain
my grandmother’s ring
on my finger

low clouds–
trying to remember
her face

                   –Cara Holman 

grandma has us wear
uncle john’s winter coat
he died in ‘43 

          Jim Sullivan

 Sanjuktaa Asopa

My son died in March
His corpse unfound for six days
Like him: runaway  

          –Katherine Shurlds

little bird
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)

–Claire Everett

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.

Anhinga Press, 2005.)

–Van K. Brock

 Molly 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

          –Katherine Shurlds

 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)

               –Margaret Dornaus

day of the dead
silence of the crows
on cemetery wall

           –Sanjuktaa Asopa


About Margaret Dornaus

I’m a writer and a teacher, as well as a haiku-doodler. I live in a beautiful woodland setting, surrounded by native oak forests, that inspires me to record haiku snapshots of luna moths and our resident roadrunner, and even an occasional black bear as it hightails it across the top of my road, my mongrel dog barking at its heels as I watch with wonder. My work as a travel writer has appeared in publications from The Dallas Morning News to the Robb Report. You can find examples of my travel writing–as well as excerpts from a travel memoir I’m working on–at my other WordPress site, Travelin’ On. What more than that do you need to know? Only that I started this blog with an eye toward collaboration. Got a haiku? Send it my way. . . . I’m all about new visions & voices. Best, Margaret
This entry was posted in All Souls Day, Atlas Poetica, Autumn, Day of the Dead, Haiga, Haiku, Haiku-doodle, Tanka and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Day of the Dead . . .

  1. On the day of the dead, life, through the words of my wife.

  2. Claire says:

    What a beautiful tribute! Thank you for taking the time to do this and for including my poems alongside the poems, pictures and memories of others.In one post, I ran the gamut of emotions, but I am left with a great sense of peace. Lovely to think who might be looking over our shoulders as we read. Thank you again.
    Claire (Everett)

  3. sanjuktaa says:

    Amazing post! There couldn’t have been a more perfect opener than the one by Rick Daddario. The haiga by Johnny Baranski…WOW! Alee’s “Papa…” and Katherine Shurld’s “runaway”…i almost cried. Cara’s “sturgeon moon” and “all her dreams…all my dreams” by you -BEAUTIFUL ! Then, of course, Claire Everett and the other longer poems. Thanks, Margaret! I’ll be back again later.

  4. Pamela Cooper says:

    Beautiful collection, breathing life into death. (My poem was a tribute to my late cousin, who had passed away on All Saints Day)

  5. Jim Sullivan says:

    Excellent tribute to those on the other side. I enjoyed the poems and the comments, Margaret. I especially liked your “her old wedding band.” I forwarded it to my wife who I know has similar feelings and affection for an old wedding band.


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  7. Aubrie Cox says:

    Beautiful collection. I didn’t get time to sit and think about it until now, unfortunately. Though this did come to mind while reading…

    the grave
    no one remembered
    to clean
    in moonlight

  8. alee9 says:

    What an exquisite page, Hermana! I can’t pick any one haiku or poem over the rest; I think each is a gem. What an honor for my tributes to sparkle alongside them. Calaveras, I think, draw out emotions from depths much deeper than waking moments can plumb, which is why, perhaps, these poems stand out. Before I wrote mine, none of what came out, had been conceivable.

    Mil gracias otra vez!

    • Thank you, Alegria. I’m glad you liked the post. I love the way the page turned out as well. And your poems! They work so beautifully here–individually and as a whole. Gracias, hermana . . . hermana di mi alma . . .

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