The mouldy jack-o-lantern already trashed,
the excess candy optimistically hidden away,
the two smiley-faced ghosts still flutter about
in the cold breeze of morning punctuated
by birdsong too cheerful for a dirge.
Halloween’s a big deal here, though seldom
a serious one, with candy bags and fancy-dress
(admittedly fetching on small boys and girls,
but somehow rather sad when sported
by adults carousing drunkenly through the night,
drinking too much pumpkin ale as the children
gorge on candy and pass out into sickly sleep),
and from time to time, a report of genuine
devilry spoils the holiday for all, mostly
it’s all good, sugar-rushing fun.
Given the holiday’s origins, though, I can’t
help wondering how literal the epic battle is,
whether good and evil warriors roam about
for real on the eve of the commemoration
or inhabit only the landscape
of a convenient mythology.
And, watching the cheap cloth ghosts
swirling around on the porch in the aftermath
of the secular party night, on the morning-after
of the feast day that never seems like one,
I wonder whether the spirits of saints and martyrs,
and of the ordinary dead, the friends and family
that we miss, daily circulate unseen among us,
re-entering this world at the point where
my theology and my skepticism collide.
Though I find it difficult to believe they do,
along with their companion devils,
I burn some incense just in case
and think fondly of them.
T. Allen Culpepper