Horrorthon 2022 Banner © TJ Edson



I buy a pink skull candle
for Dîa de los Muertos
hollow empty brow, crown of lilies
a look of long sleep
death eyes
like a marionette with no strings.

Warning: Flammable Keep Away from Children
yet they’re the ones who are curious
about injuries, autopsies, blood in its innocence.

I set the candle on my bookshelf where cremation
urns hold cats, grandparents,
a dead infant.
I should have buried them in a wind tunnel.

I pry open the jars and mix ashes
over the sink like a drug deal,
cap them up, place them in my vitamin box,
travel thousands of miles, and spread them
on generally windy days—

Monet’s Garden, Pont Neuf over the Seine,
a fishing dock in the Bay of San Tropez.
Who knows where the dust ends up.

I dream of my brother’s coffin,
the lid crumbling like woodshop waste.
I imagine my family on a rainbow
waving me forward

no need to wear black
no need for polished shoes
I dress in bare feet
costumed like a penitent.

I light the skull
its face melts
like a choirboy candle on Christmas.


Bill Ratner is a 2022 Best of the Net Poetry Nominee with poems published in Best Small Fictions 2021 (Sonder Press), To Decorate a Casket (Finishing Line Press-chapbook), Fear of Fish (Alien Buddha Press-full collection), Missouri Review Audio, Chiron Review, Baltimore Review, Feminine Collective, and other journals. Bill is a 9-time winner of The Moth StorySLAM, and earns his living as a voice actor.