Sunday, November 01, 2015

You Bring Out The Muerta in Me: A Collective Poem For Day of the Dead

Olga García Echeverría

This past week, I invited a small group of women to conjure up some verses for Day of the Dead. Who wants to write about the dead on Day of the Dead all by themselves? Not me. With Sandra Cisneros' poem "You Bring Out the Mexican in Me" as inspiration and with La Muerte in mind, we came up with about six lines each. The intention was to play individually and then create a poetic capirotada to share here at La Bloga. In typical 21st century estilo, we did this via email. The participating women sent me their lines last night and instead of trick-or-treating, I stayed home and strung our verses together like stringing marigolds on thread.

Gracias to Sandra Cisneros for the poetic springboard and to Iris de Anda, liz gonzález, Rebecca González, and Amelia M.L. Montes for collectively birthing this poem.


You Bring Out The Muerta in Me

You bring out the calavera in me
the white painted cheekbones
the black rounded ojos
la boca abierta de la muerte
sonriente, llena de dientes

You bring out the trenzas in me
braided in yellow orange yarn
el pelo suelto y greñudo you bring
out La Pelona, La Catrina, La Huesuda

the papel picado hanging above the altar in me
the tequila shot overflowing the llorona
the calavera and cempasúchil lover
the agua dulce y ardiente pouring vida in me

You bring out el veneno in me--brilliant green,
white, and red, La Tierra natal
making mis huesos move en ritmo con tus gritos

You bring out the dead in me
the güero, hazel-eyed daddy roaring his chopper down Rancho Avenue in me
the cotton picker boy on the El Paso border
the Grandpa's teeth in a glass on the bathroom sink
the Santa Fe clerk typing love letters during breaks at work
the San Francisco del Rincon dirt in shoeless feet

You bring out the Grandma dancing in the kitchen with her granddaughter in me
the teen all dolled up walking ten blocks in heels to see her sweetheart
the softball before school girl in me

You bring out so many ghosts in me
the swelling blue crystal waves of nostalgia
the unearthed poetry of ash and dust
el canto del llanto transformed into a sugar-skulled fiesta

Under flashing lights and between the swaying and sweating bodies
You coax me on the dance floor
strengthening my balance while guiding my hips to the chaos

We play at night, you and I
in the alleys of this old noisy town
picnics at “El Pino” with a bottle of Malbec
under moonlight you offer serenatas from the neighbors' radios
spilling out Jose Alfredo Jimenez and Dinah Washington
resting your kiss on the nape of my neck while we slow dance
our bodies never too far apart

You live on my breath and I in your bones
You bring out the Muerta in me.


Amelia M.L. Montes is a Los Angelena from East Los living in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her Xicana name is “roja.” She's a profa at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, teaching Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino literatures. She publishes critical work, fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.

Iris De Anda is a writer, activist, and practitioner of the healing arts. She is a native of Los Angeles with roots in Mexico, El Salvador, and The Cosmos. She believes in the power of Spoken Word, poetry, storytelling, and dreams. She is a member of the poetry community Poets Responding to SB1070 and her poems have been featured here at La Bloga numerous times. She is also the author of Codeswitch: Fires From Mi Corazón.

Cultivated by the sun and moon peeking past the shoes dangling from the phone lines, Rebecca Gonzales was raised and resides “one block East of El Pino” in East LA. Rebecca’s work has been published in various literary anthologies and journals such as Issue 1 of Dryland Lit., Brooklyn and Boyle, Hinchas de Poesia, the Mas Tequila Review, Cipatli and others. As a mother she is humbled, as a poet she is obedient, and as a woman she is unapologetic.

liz gonzález's poetry, fiction, and memoirs have appeared in numerous literary journals, periodicals, and anthologies. Recently, an excerpt from her novel appears in Inlandia: A Literary Journey and her poetry appears in the anthology Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond and in Silver Birch Press's Series. She hosts, curates, and organizes UPTOWN WORD Reading Series, is a member of the Macondo Workshop, and works as a writing consultant and teaches creative writing through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

Olga García Echeverría is dead tired.
Sending love and good wishes to you and all your dead.


Anonymous said...


Sonia Gutiérrez   said...

¡Que bonito Olga García Echeverría! Love how you can orchestrate poetry!

You bring out the chispas en mis ojos calculating your resting spot.

And the “It was an accident” and “Era tan bueno—no merecía eso”.

The muerte holding your lungs tight as your lips turn a purplish blue, ¡Y pácatelas!

Viva Liz Vega! said...

Beautiful work by beautiful women!

Alexis Krasilovsky said...

Wow! What a powerful idea of collaboration, and what a beautiful poem!

msedano said...

This poem makes my month! Muchas gracias and many thanks, too.