Day of the Dead Word Festival | poems

Arnoldo Guadalup Arturo ghosts

Every day is the day of my dead


I harvest their suns

and their pleasures erupt on my tongue

My dead are troubled, always asking for more time on earth,

Rebirth without redeath

Love without betrayal

Fire without water to burn alive

They are not ghosts who inhabit the stairwells of my brain

They do not possess anything

They didn’t possess nothing to begin with but their lives

No land, No capital, No real estate,

No gold, No banks, No trust funds

No human and nonhuman slaves

They were born with only their bones and their laughter

And in death they do not even want to possess you


My dead crawl around in my skin

My dead do not let me be still or dream without dreaming with them

My dead surround me

I am in a constant state of siege

Ancestors, relatives, neighbors whose deaths demand life and memory

Damn ancestors can’t get their own lives together


So they persist and insist on remembrance

When I hum on maize, beans, squash

and the communal table of our graves

They stand and sit at my side

They dance and grieve when I am sad or complain

They know being alive is sometimes worse than being dead

but being alive is always better than being dead, they sing.

Especially the dead who have no one to remember them at their side and insides,

they holler and roar in the shadows and in your future grave


Look at yourself in the mirror of dust,

pass some of it through your fingers

Put a pinch of dust in your coca cola like a Mexican migrant

Take a swig of the sweetness of the earth

Burn some copal

Or a cigarette

if your grandfather or grandmother dug that


I know my abuelita liked her coffee black

sometimes with sugar, sometimes without,

depending on her mood and yearnings

She would dip cookies, pan dulce or white bread in her cup to balance the bitterness

I know my grandfather liked his camel cigarettes

and his ration of one beer a day after work,

but nothing else pleased them more than their family and their daily roar of songs and story


I take care of my dead like piles of books,

files full of stories and poems and important dramas in our lives

I have their unemployment records,

their wedding photographs,

their unfulfilled dreams

and their way of living that never dies…



I don’t celebrate my dead

My dead celebrate me

My dead have a hard time being dead

(Just like sometimes I have a hard time being alive)

My dead love being alive

My living abhor death

Life banishes death

Death accepts life

My dead and living love each other

A clacking embrace of skeletal desires

We each practice sleeping without breathing

We each practice breathing without sleeping

We each practice holding each other

We lie and live in a bed of blues

The skin of dreams is black

Our words are our memory of the first kiss

Our lips glazed with blue rouge offering an eternal kiss

I honor my dead by staying alive beyond my means

I carry my dead

in my love,

in my hair,

in my eyes,

in the palms of my blood

I am my dead

I am alive through them

My dead sway in the maize stalks

My dead roll around in the dust and the rain and the mud

My dead flirt, fool around, make fun of the living, they say:

You haven’t lived until you’ve died!

[November 2, 2013 — Oakland-Mictlán]



Our dead will never die

Our life will never end

We carry each other into

the blue and brown realms,

the red and black songs

the yellow and the milky ways

We embrace and trade places

to reach the edge of space

I accompany the migrant ghosts

on their viaje/trips

to drink together

from the wells of light and heart

We are the belly-button people

howling at the earth


Our words are

the oceanic umbilical waves

nourishing us

as we gestate

the passing

from one side to the other


Life is death’s contractions

Death is life’s compact

to keep the others alive


The constellations pock-mark my skin

The rain pierces my body,

flesh offerings,

liquid suns,

oozing from my lunar wounds


My dead will never die

My living and my relations bind us

In a whirlwind of tenderness…



Nuestros muertos nunca morirán

Nuestra vida nunca terminará

Nos cargamos unos a los otros

a los reinos celestes y terrestres

a los cantos rojos y negros

a las vías amarillas y lacteas

Nos abrazamos y cambiamos de lugar

para alcanzar la orilla del espacio

Acompaño los espíritos migrantes

en su jornada

para beber juntos

de los cenotes de la luz y los corazones

Somos los pueblos del ombligo

aullando a la tierra

Nuestras palabras

son las olas umbilicales del oceáno

dándonos el pan de la tierra


la transición

de un lado al otro

La vida es la contracción de la muerte

La muerte es el compacto de la vida

para que en todas sigan vivas

Las estrellas agujerean mi piel

La lluvia perfora mi cuerpo,

ofrendas de carne,

soles de agua,

escurriendo de mi herida lunar

Mis muertos nunca morirán

Mis muertos y mis relaciones nos tejen

en un remolino de ternura …

[21 octubre 2018]


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