Dia de los Muertos: Arroyo Seco Park: November 1, 2000
In Mexico, children play with death, dress it up.
A big party, candlelit, white skeletons on black paint,
the scent of Kettle Corn, fish tacos and marigolds.
Sugar-topped pan de los muertos, oval-shaped like the soul.
Ofrendas to the dead – to Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Princess Di,
to boyfriends who smoked Newports and drank Jose Cuervo.
People carry their flowers, their children, their dead relatives.
At the first tree we honor los antepasados:
Ben Leaton who avenged the theft of his livestock
with a dinner party, a cannon and excellent aim;
great-grandmother María de Jesusita who displayed
her transparent stomach to her grandchildren, saying,
“Look what you’ve done to me!”;
and, most recently dead, my own grandfather
who watched telenovelas, World Cup soccer and Sábado Gigante
at full volume, fixed everything with duct tape,
and called all the women except Grandma mijita.
At the woman tree people whisper the names of their dead mujeres
Consuelo, María, Lupe López, Coco. The names roll
off our tongues, even mine.
We walk to the tree for los hombres: Papa Chuey, Juan, Victor Trujillo
and then my turn, my name: Frank Luján.
Grandpa Frank is here with us, with me, rattling a skeleton shaker.
He’s glad to be in LA with the Dodgers only a few miles south.
At his funeral, with his shriveled old man’s body laid out at the front
of the church and, later, at the cemetery, his gleaming coffin
on a platform like he wasn’t about to become
part of what was underneath, I watched my family miss him.
Now, almost two years later, my grief comes in a strange place
with strangers who don’t expect me to pull out Kleenex.
This is how Grandpa wants it with me.
Brenda Miller
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