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by Charles P. Ries
I sit with the dead tonight. I have
brought my father's tobacco and
my grandfather's beer. Between
their tombstones, I light a sparkler
and (with eyes open) imagine them
standing and dancing before me.
So I get up and dance with them,
turning, spinning, and falling to the
ground. As I catch my breath, I look
up to see their smiles shine down
like porcelain stars. They point at me
"There's our boy, he's come to
drink and smoke with us. He loves
the lost ones with a heart as big as
heaven and inhales our graves as if
they were fields of red roses."
The beer widens my eyes, makes
the deep night opaque. Revealing
a tribe of dead lovers who protect
us from devils and demons, insuring
our first communions and last rites,
ready to welcome us back home
with cold soft hands.
The graveyard is full. The living
and their dearly departed sit in tight
family circles telling old stories that
recall ancestors whose names have
now been given to babies.
We pass funeral cards, rosaries, and
wedding rings among us - tiny monuments
to people whose portraits hang along the
stairs leading to the cellar where we make
our candles, crush hot peppers, and shed
We slice lemon cake, eat chicken breasts,
and drink tequila in the Cemeterio de Santa
Rosa. The ghosts are all brown, except mine.
Pale faces who've passed over - German,
pot bellied, serious white people, who,
in life, had things to accomplish.
We sing and dance to all the dead gone.
Mock death and remember a cast of bit
players who slip into our dreams with
whispers just before dawn.
As I pour my tequila into the earth I see
their spirit mouths open and skeletons
rise to dance three feet above the ground.
White vapor swirling like clouds. Sweet
misty blankets that embrace the tombs
of my family.