Sugar Skulls by Chloe Wilson

sugar skull

Sugar Skulls 


Chloe Wilson 

Oh yes, the dead get peckish. Every winter,

they begin to sniff the air,

expecting their levy of tidbits –


they’ve been watching through

hollow sockets – femur crossing femur,

every overdressed Catrina


drumming her phalanges

on the nearest marble cenotaph

as we consider the relative merits


of crèmes brûlée and caramel,

and rotate piglets on spits. They dream

in their tiny plywood living rooms


of milk and eggs, of tearing open

bread loaves, while rats gnaw boredly

on their toes. Then the days


shrink, the moon swings, a hatch opens

and they’re back, shaking

the creases from their outdated finery.


They mill around the ofrendas

we’ve left, testing the ripeness

of pears, gorging on sweetmeats,


measuring love by who remembered

the mezcal and cigarettes.

They outnumber us, and we act


as though we don’t notice, savoring

the tres leches cakes we baked

in their name. We never think to ask


why they return underground

at all, whether it’s habit or whether

the dead abide by a system of honor.


One year, they might miss curfew,

move in, begin to fossick through

our refrigerators, our stores of preserves


and pickles. They’ll find the sugar skulls

on which we’ve written our names

and devour them, stopping only


to offer us a trepanned canapé –

knowing the sugar, set harder than bone,

will grind living teeth down to dust.



Chloe Wilson

Chloe Wilson’s first poetry collection, The Mermaid Problem, was commended in the Anne Elder Award and Highly Commended in the Mary Gilmore Award. She won the 2014 Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award, and was a co-winner of the 2013 Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Best Australian Poems, Award Winning Australian Poems, Australian Love Poems, Meanjin, Australian Poetry Journal, Aesthetica, Island, Going Down Swinging and many other publications. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne.