My First Kiss on the Day of the Dead

Catrina! Dia De los Muertos by EYKFAN

By Camille S. Campbell

My first kiss was on the
Day of the Dead,
Dia de los Muertos (1),
as Abuela (2) says,
tying marigolds
into her sombrero.
They look like the
only living thing
on her skeletal body.
She thinks of this day as
a time to greet old friends,
like a high school reunion.
She slaps white paint
over my face, and it smells
like class art supplies.
We sculpt sugar into her
agelong molds of a skull.
Hermana (3) and I sprinkle
glitter sugar and swirl frosting.
The festival begins with
skeletons strumming guitars,
singers roll their r’s.
Abuela (4) joins in the dance,
swinging her skirt of flowers,
waving her parasol of bones
into the night sky. She hands us
candles to wave through the air
as if they were flags,
a protest on another culture gulping up
our own.
I didn’t tell her,
but I invited a boy from school,
who stutters on Spanish,
who I want to teach another
part of me,
who I think I like.
I splash water
onto my face to wash off the paint.
Princesa de los Muertos, (5) no longer.
He and I dance as much as my sombrero,
roses, tassels, feathers, and wildflowers allow.
His jeans, like the ones I wear to school,
stand out in a crowd of skeletons.
We laugh, as I press on blanca (6) paint
over his evidently pale skin.
His white splotched skeletal hand
in mine, under the light of candles,
his breath the smell of home,
pan de Muerto bread (7),
we kiss,
and on the Day of the Dead,
I have never felt so alive.

Translations:

1: Day of the Dead
2: Grandmother
3: Sister
4: Grandmother
5: Princess of the Dead
6: White
7: Dead Bread, traditionally eaten during the Day of the Dead

Reflection:

Having grown up in the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico, I have been exposed to different cultures and their unique holidays. I once witnessed the colorful celebration of the Dead of the Dead in Santa Fe. From the glimmering candles to the festive outfits people would wear, the Day of the Dead has always intrigued me. On my birthday, the idea of a poem called “My First Kiss on the Day of the Dead” came to me. I wanted to highlight the unique traditions of the Day of the Dead, such as sculpting skulls from sugar and wearing marigolds (the symbolic flower of the Day of the Dead). In the poem, I also wanted to include a multicultural romance, where one character would share her culture with a boy that she likes from school. Throughout the poem, I contrast the feeling of being so alive when you have strong feelings for someone with the celebration of the dead. “My First Kiss on the Day of the Dead” connects death with life and love.

Camille’s poem won a Gold Key in the 2020 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Southwest Region-at-Large.

Camille is the award winning author of the fantasy book series the Wishner Prophecy. She loves writing poems that tell a vivid story filled with emotions and paint a picture in the reader’s mind. When she’s not writing, you can find Camille painting on silk, playing classical guitar, and reading mystery books.

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