At the party on Day of the Dead, a table spills over with marigold, pomegranates, votive candles, a life-sized, white chocolate skeleton that we cannibals feast on as though on our own bodies. The spine climbs into the ivory patina skull—one’s kingdom—filled with scripture, shared blood, echo of Chronos. The teeth, a harmonica of bone glints. The eyes, an absence, two deep wells for field mice.
In a corner, ghouls and witches smoke cigarettes. Dead brides and sorcerers read horoscopes, stealing futures. The historical rise from their coffins. Penelope of Ithaca, Nero from Rome. There is a man who never slept and a woman named Zero. Victorian blood spilling from corners of the mouth. Sisters of vampires and a priest give a eulogy on la vida. Seek your ancestors from the family album and ghosts will whisper from their photos. Nostalgia. Nausea.
What I find so interesting here are the multitude of couples dressed as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, so many that I wonder if there is a look-a-like contest for the two artists from Mexico City. And there is. All those women sport knitted brows and mustaches. Their hair, a sculpture of braids, knotted ornaments. The photographers shoot miraculous blue flashes as each image of the impersonator holds herself like a statue in the lit air against a mural of tropics. They wear long, colorful skirts, peasant blouses embroidered with crimson hibiscus, but not to disguise disfigurement. Or embarrassment. No one wears a necklace of thorns and hummingbird. No monkey rides the shoulder through the jungle of suffering. No one here born in la casa azul, stricken with polio, born with spina bifida, spina diablo, spine of the devil. Back then, time was told by a rooster under a tree full of mangos. In media noche the sky surrenders the moon like an eye, through the window, closer. Pain does this—burns you through nightfall as you lie cursing the teeth of stars.
The girl was adored by her father who entertained her with strings of marionettes. The aorta, that island inside of his chest, sank with her happiness. In the accident, a whole century swam by—sepia photographs, x-rays, surgeries, resurrection, ashes to birth, ailing for a new milk in the let down, algunas palabras, the few words of encouragement, faith—the great exorcist, the will, healings, failed, failed again, a haunting.
She would move next door to the old hotel of revolutionaries—their cause. But how do you fall in love with a man who is al fin de todo, the end of everything? How do you love a sister who sleeps with your husband in the middle of October when the air is so still and full of poetry, the simple-minded condemned to a lack of mystery?
Some believe the body is an empire filled with yourself; one last king/queen in your suitcase of a castle; a packhorse to carry you through your destiny; chica loteria of the living. Is the body a public office or sanctuary? Could it be a panel of seraphim and devil, flurry of natural disasters sifted with saints and monsters, fate, unblinking beauty? Here, at this party, there are canciones spilling music of mi amor, drummers beating rhythms like cicadas, guitarists strumming wooden instruments with gut and gold strings. I dance with a man named Orpheus whose steps divert our departure from this poquita vida, this muerte, inflicting thorns, the hummingbird forever searching nectar of summer, this dervish of breathing. Then at once, not.