They kneel in the graveyard furbishing plots
of dearly departed ones, adorning tombstones
with beeswax candles, orange marigolds,
photographs, and sugar skulls,
beckoning souls to sojourn briefly among the living.
Twilight plunges loyal scions in crimson hues
as they invigilate overnight with humorous anecdotes
and strolling mariachis strum and serenade those quick
and vibrant with favored cadences under autumnal moonlight.
On this bittersweet night of offerings and local color
they pause and wonder of the sweet hereafter,
shedding tears of joy and sorrow alike,
consoling and condoling friends and neighbors
in a communal rite of homage and reverence
when all souls are recalled as saints
and wished the brightest of afterlives.
Amid the festive clangor enlivening the cemetery,
an orphaned urchin squats before his parents’ sepulcher,
his goosebumped arms chilled by night’s breeze,
his focus unwavering despite eldritch environs
and the guffaws of reminiscing adults nearby.
Before he leaves he places a crumpled paper
on the soil beneath which his mother rests in peace,
inhumed in a coffin not made of candy;
in passing I glance at the Spanish poem
for his erstwhile protectress, an elegy
whose scrawled verses evince a thoughtful spirit:
“Does a grape fear becoming a raisin?
Does a caterpillar dread turning butterfly?
Is the ice cube loath to melt, or water to morph into steam?”
Something in his shrewd imagination suspects
decease is a commencement, not a consummation;
as I roam burial grounds rife with symbols macabre
I ponder the truth interred in his requiem,
contemplating the possibility of death
as an illusive veil, a toothless bogeyman
full of swagger, empty of substance,
just another grinning skeleton in a sombrero.