La Toussaint

I.

We drifted about in cemeteries, pulled weeds from overgrown graves, burned white, anorexic candles for the dead, prayed, laughed.

Remembered.

We made balls of candle wax that would always fall apart in chunks of gray and black and white. Gold, dried grass failing to bind them.

We learned pain, then—palms burning. As if, in play, we learned something about life. Something ritualistic. Something about death. But what we learned was always harder to recognize through laughter and tears, innocence and idiocy—always harder to cross the gorge between age and youth—even with candles burning:

See? There’s a femur.
An uncle, perhaps?

The ball of a hip, mixed in with heavy mud. Grave mud, thicker than the other kinds, clumping hard on forks, foot soles, fingertips. Sculpting, for us, dark models of our own impermanence. We gathered there, among the bones and flickering flames, our stories mixed into a din of a cemetery alive with survivors. Cemeteries we cannot outlive.

Paradise.
Broadway.
La Peyrouse.

Wherever, laughing giddy without rum or smoke, or fear. Fingers cut. Remembering before leaving unceremoniously.

II.

I never visited Noel’s grave.
Two decades dead and not once visited.
An unmarked grave somewhere in Siparia.

I say La Toussaint,
all sinners, hands still warm, a stone’s throw
from St. Gabriel’s and the Convent it fed.
A train.

Promenade. Gandhi. Garvey.
Irving Park. Attong’s Bakery. Steve’s Bakery.
The Market. Hobosco. Globe. Rushworth.

Penitence.
Lord.

A police station once gutted by fire.
A row of attorneys in shacks.
A lion’s head. A gazebo.

The living things that spring from our boneyards speak but do not move.

I say La Toussaint.
I remember candles and the dead, but what do I know of ends?
In San Fernando, a candle sputters.

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