An interesting challenge from Björn Rudberg at the d’Verse Poets Pub came my way yesterday. he offered a line of from Louise Gluck’s poem All Hallows and asked us to write a prose piece of no more than 144 words, incorporating, This is the barrenness of harvest or pestilence.
Halloween always reminds me of an amazing night I spent in a graveyard in a village near Oaxaca, Mexico with a writing group led by Donna Hanelin. The word ‘Halloween’ actually comes from an abbreviation of All Hallows’ Eve. It is the night before the Catholic celebration of All Saints’ Day. Traditionally, the population of the faithful held vigils that evening, in honor of the saints, their own ancestors and the unburied dead. The unburied dead were no small thing in the middle ages when a pestilence like the Black Death could sweep away entire villages, leaving no one behind to bury the bodies. However, like most church holidays, All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day date back to much more ancient festivals celebrating the harvest and the end of the pagan year. Continuing this lineage, these three days are still celebrated as religious holidays in Mexico, and Central and South America.
My night in the graveyard was marked by drinking tequila, singing and pitching in to clean family plots and share picnics spread across the graves. No one could have offered greater hospitality than those villagers offered our odd band of gringo poets. Now when Halloween comes around it’s them that I think of first. Naturally, Oaxaca became the setting for my story.