Too many petals gathered too tightly,
they hang their heads in lightest rain.
Spider mites feast on wet-feather leaves,
speckling them white and gritty.
And that color,
sun bright but not cheerful like pansies
or winged like butterfly weed.
I will gather them anyway,
and place them on my altar
with sugar skulls
and tumblers of tequila,
and the tiny red-gold crucifix never worn,
given to me as a child
before I knew you took your own life,
before I saw the red spider veins
map my father’s once clear blue eyes.
Dia de los Muertos is siren music
to a godless gringo’s ear—hope
can rise in unfamiliar syllables.
But I lied about the marigolds.
My altar candles will flame for the living,
yellow sun aura, blue heart of sky,
black wick lifeline to hold us here.
Susan Keiser is a fine art photographer (www.susankeiserphotography.com) whose work has been exhibited in solo and group shows both here and abroad. She holds a BFA in painting from The Cooper Union and a diploma from The New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture, and her long experience in gardening and the visual arts is reflected in her poetry. She is looking forward to her move to Beacon, New York, where she hopes her writing will flourish as well as her new garden.