Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Three Day of the Dead Poems

You walk along shoulders…

You walk along shoulders of bamboo groves,
Starlight treads in your footsteps.

You go forward with shifting seasons,
Summer ghosts are left behind.

You rise as the wind of briefest memory
Pushing shutters gently open.

You arrive, fresh rain at the door ajar,
Softly rustling dry silk.

Your spirit rests in tranquility at table,
Folding itself into a napkin.

You dwell in silence in the deepest part,
Inside there is only silence.

You sleep illumined by the guardian moon,
Windless, the stilling doom.


The day of the dead is short respite for the living.
The tumult of life is stilled by the remembrance of the dead.
The living remembers the dead as the silence of the grass.
The grass is the dead ever present among the living.

The dead have not forgotten that life is breath and water.
They hover in the air, waiting for rain.
Water is the prayers of the living for the thirsty.
The living sometimes forgets, the dead ever remember.


What is the color of death?
In the West many say black,
Some in the East say white.
Devout Muslims enshroud the dead
In white cotton or linen,
Depositing bodies in graves,
Heads pointed toward Mecca.
Protective white paper encloses
Household shrines in Japan,
Sealing against malignant spirits.
Blue is the sadness of death,
Color of mourning in Korea.
Thai widows mourn in purple,
Same color chosen by Roman Catholics
During Lent to drape in reverence the cross,
Instrument and symbol of the universal death
Of the Son of God.

Those whose livelihood is the dead—
Morticians, coroners, embalmers—might say
Death is gray, cadaver pallor.
Hacking, slicing, packing
Dead animals,
Slaughterhouse workers might say
Death is red, fresh meat.
Buddhists who cremate the dead might say
Death is yellow and orange, purifying flames.
Distant heirs of the ancient Egyptians, or of
South Americans of old—Mayans, Aztecs, Incans—might say
Death is gold, everlasting raiment of the sun.

I say death is multicolored—
Sundry motley opening leaves of a fan,
Forward tumbling acrobats in rainbow costumes,
Multihued children’s picture books,
Mobile animal figure whirligigs,
Variegated wallpaper prints,
Van Gogh sunflowers,
Brazilian toucans,
Australian parakeets,
Octopuses, neon-like, bursting with emotion,
Pendant festival lanterns,
Brass bands marching holiday parades,
Fighting kites flashing ribbon tails,
Tibetan prayer flags streaming.

Day of the Dead skull


  1. Credits – original publications:

    “You walk along shoulders…,” The Furious Gazelle (October 30, 2014)

    “All Souls’,” Anak Sastra (October 26, 2014), page 83

    “The Color of Death,” Progenitor Art and Literary Journal (2015), pages 13-14


  2. Image courtesy of shutdown

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