Día de Los Muertos

by Denmark Laine

24th & Mission – where virgins appear with bloodied lips lifting their puebla blouses, the Spanish quarters of Telegraph and Castro, as colorful deaths. The Festival of Altars comes gleaming like maharajahs along empty bottle offerings. Mexican lanterns. Holy Spirit. Floating goldmines. Bodies like gnarled caskets raise the 13 Standards while fruit hat chiquitas in suede dresses carry dried flowers to the hooded groom, swinging fuming censers that hint at Orient gardens.

In the streets there are salamanders shedding the dark as they go wanting after the sacred flame. From the Nubian depths – its charnel portals – they step through as mediums down the tunnel of days fed by prehistoric winds that howl with saurian nightmares. The drumbeat. Chupacabras. Below are giantesses who offer draughts of the blue agave that go down like devil’s breath, reeling with dust, with camphor and iodine… yerba santa baptisms.

Call out the flaxen wives of the boneyard with cobweb lapels, black roses in their teeth. Escort them aboard subterranean ferries past bishops and sorcerers and pale little girls with their hair in marigolds, to Aztecs in coyote skin who jostle together to become smoke and joss paper. A link of dancers leads them on to a red mesa, the haunt of the ghast and cold-kissed Persephones, where the hanged kings, the twice-born fathers leave their adobe houses to join the gay confusion hid in Venetian masks and maidens’ kisses.

They bow to the pieces of Osiris found by children, torn apart like piñatas, spices, toys and lapis lazuli, sprinkled like kosher salt over the doorstep. The long road ponders a scythe. Sandmen line the catacombs.

To the Mission Dolores Basilica made of ivory speaking in sutras – carvings – morphs – making love to one another. Your god-bitten towers pointing. San Francisco: a wreckage of gargoyles crashing into the sky. Here there are feasts in the cemetery; the weeping willow women in their red girdles kneel in adoration at the altar cloth, laid with cakes of light and plates of quince and grails of strange wine touched with ash. The olden ones dine upon the gilded tomb. And after their suppers the matadors in their capes, faces as chimney sweeps, lay gifts of Arabian hash and de la Rosa candies at the gates of the soil, a Star of David on the headstone carved with a serpent’s tooth.

And the Witch of Words, one of filigree and manners, spins tales of glamor around her seven pillars, while her handmaids pave the way holding portraits of the blessed: Dred Scott, Cuauhtémoc, Frida Kahlo, Geronimo, Benito Juárez, Gloria Anzaldúa, Katherine Dunham, Josephine Baker and more.

Musical composition by Victor David Sandiego

Denmark Laine was born in St. Louis. A freelance writer, “punk poet” and rock critic for Eleven Magazine, he is the author of Smalltown Kings (a collection of short fiction) and Who Are the Veiled Prophets? (a book of poetry). An alum of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a BA in theatre performance, he became interested in the “psychedelic realism” school of writing after studying experimental drama and reading the works of Jonathan Cott, Frank O’Hara, Jim Morrison and the Angel Hair Anthology. With his visceral force of motion and hallucinogenic imagery, Laine illustrates the emotional pageant between our inner and outer worlds. A place where, as André Breton once said, “the real and the imagined cease to contradict.”