Their First Day of the Dead

by Joan Wiese Johannes


My nephew’s blond daughter beams for the camera
next to her kindergarten teacher, Señora Romero,
in front of La Calavera Catrina, Grande Dame of the Dead.
The skull-faced mariachi band strikes up a spirited tune.

Next to her kindergarten teacher, Señora Romero,
a dark-eyed child smiles from an etched-silver frame.
The skull-faced mariachi band strikes up a spirited tune
beside a plate of M&M’s, a toy truck, and little sneakers.

A dark-eyed child smiles from an etched-silver frame.
The Virgin Mary is decoupaged on a tortilla
beside a plate of M&M’s, a toy truck, and little sneakers
draped with a string of black onyx rosary beads.

The Virgin Mary is decoupaged on a tortilla.
A photo garland of 43 children kidnapped on their school bus
draped with a string of black onyx rosary beads
hangs above an altar decorated with sugar skulls.

A photo garland of 43 children kidnapped on their school bus
in front of La Calavera Catrina, Grande Dame of the Dead
hangs above an altar decorated with sugar skulls.
My nephew’s blond daughter beams for the camera.

* * *

Joan Wiese Johannes’s third chapbook, Sensible Shoes, won the Alabama State Poetry Society’s John and Miriam Morris Memorial Chapbook competition, and her fourth chapbook, He Thought the Periodic Table Was a Portrait of God, was published by Finishing Line Press. She co-edited the 2012 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar and the 2019 Winter issue of the literary journal Bramble with her husband Jeffrey. She lives in Port Edwards, WI and loves retirement after teaching high school English for 34 years.


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