This isn’t the usual practice, but as it’s Halloween, please find below Helen Kitson’s ‘Day of the Dead’ from her collection The Family Romance (published by Indigo Dreams and taken from their website). Enjoy!
Day of the Dead
Mum chose my best dress, the blue one with lacy sleeves.
The arms were too short and crimplene made me itch.
She polished my shoes and I rubbed them on my socks,
Where they made pale grey stains, like shadows.
We held hands as we traipsed to the cemetery.
Someone had polished the marble till it shone.
Every grave had a fresh layer of glass chippings.
Mum filled our jam jars from the tap near the gates.
I spread the checked tablecloth on the grass
While Mum arranged the flowers – red, orange, bright pink –
Between three graves. Our family. Grandmother, grandfather,
Uncle. Three dates, separated by ten years, by twenty.
We unpacked fruit pies and cheese sandwiches, and apples.
Mum told me stories and sniffed the air.
Can you smell them? Can you see the pollen,
Dancing? Close your eyes…
I shut my eyes and felt someone blow on my eyelids.
A tickly kiss on my cheek. A tug on the hand that held the apple.
I took a bite and it tasted of honey.
There was no breeze but the yew trees shivered.
Mum passed me a skull made of sugar.
I tongued the eye sockets, felt the gritty sugar erode
And melt away. Sweetness filled my mouth.
Mum shook the tablecloth, scattering crumbs.
The graves opened up and took back their ghosts,
Each one tucked neatly beneath dark earth.
The smell of wormy soil lingered in the air.
It rained pollen. Mum held my hands and we danced.