I’m walking on the dead, treading them down to
nothing but the crackling scraps of fiery leaves I

kick to extinguish them. Urbin Fiers    Bertha
Dick    Mykola Markovsky    Pieter Ombregt
Margaret Menino. I read yesterday
their handwritten names on one page of the Book

of the Names of the Dead that rested on a
lectern near Our Lady of Guadalupe

clothed in her blue-green mantle and hood studded
with stars. She was standing on the black horn of

a new moon, borne on the strong, peasant shoulders
of Juan Diego, who saw the sixteen-year-old

virgin in a vision in the desert near
the hill of Tepeyac. Rhiannon McCuish
Joseph Onorato    Connie Ries    Victor
Yew Wei Sii    Clearence Croy. The dead are always

with us. My father bends over the chessboard,
three moves ahead of me, slides his black rook, says

“Check.” I jump my knight from B2 to C3
to shelter my king, avoid checkmate. He smiles

at how well he’s taught me. Know your opponent’s
mind, all the moves he can make, how you’ll answer

each one. In the Book of the Names of the Dead
I wrote his name to honor and exorcise

him. Good ghost, be with me.  Stay away.  You have
possessed me. Now I disown you, must stamp out

the sparks of leaves that are your ashes, grind them
to compost beneath the heels of my mule-hide

boots. You are disintegrating into dirt,
layer after layer. Julie Branson    Claire
Crider    Mary Tang    Rosemary Knowles    Penny
Park—pray for me, though you don’t know me, and I

will pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe
that she may intercede for you whoever

and wherever you are.  I wrote my mother–
in-law’s name in the Book, she who had died from

Stage IV lung cancer, who once taught me to make
a wild-rice salad with halved red grapes, cherry

tomatoes, golden raisins, toasted slivered
almonds, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, all dressed

with lemon juice, ground pepper, cold-pressed olive
oil. Feed me again. Strengthen my bones, dead mother.

Dead father, walk with me through these autumn streets
under the changing leaves’ golden mosaics

that come ruining down until all that’s left
is the bare vaulted nave of sky. Hosanna

of wind through black branches. Dorothy Philpot
Michael Kral    Carmen O de Nava    Edgar
Adriatico    Hope Lynch, you who have walked
on, let me be Soutine’s Man Praying.  That canvas

in flames is kiln for the black-suited figure
with hands together. Earthen vessel that must

be fired to bear water. His head is bald gold
skull. His hands emerge from the sleeves’ black wicks,

flicker like fire. He’s a candle guttering
in the winds of a firestorm. Whatever words

he prays, let me say them too. I keep repeating
the names of the dead to appease them, console

myself. They made it through this life, now know what
we crave and are afraid to know. Nothingness

gives suck to us. Casmiro Santiago
Kathleen Brune    Phyllis Sobotta    Grandpa Joe
Richard Zazmierczak, dip your fingers into
nothingness’s river, asperge us with those

waters. Anne Zord—mother of all alphabets,
A through Z—help me to utter the names of

the dead and the living, to gather roses
and ragweed in winter, like Juan Diego,

carry them home in my cloak, open it to
find your image emblazoned there—a woman

radiating tongues of fire. Everyone the sun
touches burns. Silence, final word, sear my mouth.

Donald Platt
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