About the Poem
I’d never heard of New Mexican writer, Pat Mora, until I came across her 2018 book –– Encantado: Desert Monologues –– a wonderful collection of poems inspired in part by Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. She had me at the first two poems, Señor Ortega and Encantado, the poem you’ll find below.
Encantado is a small, fictional city by a river in the southwestern United States. Its name means “enchanted” in Spanish, and its diverse inhabitants include many of Hispanic heritage. Their touching stories are told in first-person, with the themes of loss and departed loved ones running through the poems.
Part of the town’s enchantment is the spirit world, an integral part of the community. We learn about some of the spirits from those left behind, who mourn a wife, a husband, a grandmother, a beloved aunt. In the Day of the Dead poem, we hear their voices, as they return to Encantado — “in we drift …”
They speak of gathering annually at the river, and “later drifting again through familiar dusty streets and rooms … through sounds of the living, patting heads we love, comforting the attentive.”
A Visitation of Spirits
For many of us, the last days of the year are a time of feeling particularly close to special family members and friends, long ago or recently departed, who have influenced our lives in profound ways. While they’re always in our thoughts, we may feel their presence more keenly during the holidays because we have more opportunity for reflection.
My partner vividly remembers his English grandmother leading the assembled family and grandchildren in singing her traditional Christmas song. In her honor we sang it on Christmas morning. The evening before, multi-generational family members, gathered on the other side of the country, surprised us with a serenade by phone.
Whenever I’m happily immersed in cooking, my Italian grandmother, who taught me so much, is there. A favorite memory of growing up is spending time in her kitchen: learning to bake the fragrant anise biscotti she made every Christmas, stirring a risotto, absorbing the approach of a joyful, instinctively creative maker who lovingly transmitted her knowledge and passion to me.
These departed spirits, and several others, were very much with us during our quiet, contemplative holiday time. It kept me returning to this poem and Mora’s book, so fitting for a season of remembrance and reflection.
The last nights of the year,
kind, departed spirits return
to Encantado as stars,
down dark streets and hallways,
peer into windows,
congregate around cribs,
again leave glowing glints
intertwine with our dreams,
shine on bare boughs,
pines, and cactus spines.
— Pat Mora
I hope that your own “kind, departed spirits” were with you at year’s end, bringing happy memories and inspiration.
New Year’s Wishes
Thank you readers, followers and friends for visiting My Eclectic Café last year and for your thoughtful comments and encouragement. I’ve enjoyed discovering and following your work and look forward to what you’ll create this year. Best wishes for all good spirits in the new year.
Copyright M. Vincent 2020. Photos copyright M. Vincent 2017-2020.
Encantado is from the poetry collection Encantado: Desert Monologues, copyright Pat Mora 2018, published by The University of Arizona Press.