Literary Calaveras

"Calaveras literarias" is a form of poetry that has become quite popular in Mexico during Día de Los Muertos. These poems range from being teasing, joking, fun, satirical, or critical as the writer highlights a particular quality or trait of the deceased subject of the poem.   Initially, these poems were meant to make fun of death itself but later began to focus on politicians, government leaders, and other public personalities.  Today they are often composed in ‘honor’ of a specific person or famous personality.  

We invited you to participate in our Literary Skull Contest. It seems you had fun with the project; below are the entries.

Two $75, $50, and $25 Amazon card prices for the best Literary Calaveras and three $15 Starbucks gift cards for honorable mention were awarded.

Click here to download the PowerPoint to learn what they are and how to write them.

My Dentist

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Every six months when I visit his chair
Enduring the pain and his critical stare
My dentist says there’s a new problem tooth
And I question whether he’s telling the truth
My insurance is bad, my dentist is rich
So I wanted to look at making a switch
Then one day I saw in the local paper
He had met La Muerta in a crazy caper
I think he might have been mentally ill
Since he tried to swallow his largest drill 

--- Author: Linda Forbes

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Next Door

She shuffles around, yells at her kids
Bangs cabinet doors and sometimes pot lids
She works in the yard with music blaring
Completely selfish, completely uncaring
She uses my waste cans without permission
Doesn’t have any sense of contrition
She wouldn’t pay for the half of the fence
Most everything she does makes me tense
But today it’s quiet on my little corner
Since La Muerta made her husband a mourner

--- Author: Linda Forbes

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Fighting Death

(Honorable Mention)

My old sensei once fought so well
He chose to fight Death down in Hell.
He knew he could beat her, no doubt!
His punches and kicks;
His sweeps and his flicks--
All perfect with kiai (spirit shout).

He fought at his best,
Put Death to sore test,
And had her backed up on the ropes.
But she gave him a smile,
Full of gall, full of guile.
She said, “And now for your hopes...”

“You fought well, mortal man,
Better than most can.”
And then she guffawed with a rasp.
“Your ego, it seems
Has given you dreams,
But your reach has exceeded your grasp.”

“Your time now, my friend,
Has come to an end.”
She said, and touched him with a finger.
He fell to the floor,
Doomed to fight nevermore,
‘Cause Death is the ultimate ringer.

--- Author: Ethan Ireland

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Landscape Noise Escape

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The roar of a leafblower 
In harmony with a lawnmower
Seems always to start as I log onto Zoom
I mute myself since there’s no quiet room
As their operators inhale La Muerta’s intoxicating perfume
They are overcome by their devices’ toxic exhaust fumes
Suddenly both landscape machines fall silent
Relief! I am content with the quiet

Author: Pam Kan-Rice

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The Dead of Non-nutritious People

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MyPlate provide us with good nutrition
Eating fruits and vegetables is good intuition
Whole grains with fiber and lean protein are a better addition.
Meanwhile, dairy puts our bones in strong condition.
Eating healthy is not superstition
Excessive sugar and fat are malnutrition
We must make an effort for our diets to transition.
If not, death will be near you for demolition.

--- Author: Arianna Nava

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Where do Proposals go when they die
PIs hope they can be resurrected and their science can fly
Because other Sponsors have delightful magic on which they can rely
Surprise! It gets funded when all hope was lost, and they are now no longer mourning with a heavy sigh
Celebration is in the air and floats and dances across the beautiful azure sky

--- Author: Kathleen Nolan


El Cerebro 

(Honorable Mention)

We call it el cerebro, a brain,

the noggin,

And work to develop it

and not let the fog in

Entrena tu cerebro

with puzzles and games

Learning and working

‘lest quench its flame!

“But why?” ask mis antepasadas.

¿Por qué todo el trabajo?

“When you visit us

your skull will be hollow!”

--- Author: Jodi Azulai

UC ANR Calaverita

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Estaban los trabajadores de UC ANR haciendo unos videos,para la Universidad.
De repente se escuchó una carcajada y dijo a todos me voy a llevar.
La calaca muy contenta porque a todos puso a temblar.
Ricardo muy valiente le dijo ven acércate más, ella muy obediente,
y también la puso a trabajar.
La calaca muy cansada le dijo a Ricardo,
ya no puedo más,
él le contesta muy contento,
ves que no es tan fácil editar.
Al final todos se rieron y la calaca dijo,
fue un error a ustedes no me los voy a llevar,
porque eso de editar a mí no se me da.

--- Author: Miguel Sanchez

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UC ANR Calaverita (English)

UC ANR employees hard at work are surprised by a loud laughter,
ha, ha, ha, ha, it was la calaca descending from an altar.
She was amused to see everyone running from side to side,
trying to outreach and get their point across.
Stop what you’re doing, don’t worry anymore, I come to take you all.
Everyone was busy working and didn’t hear,
they kept moving without any fear.
A supervisor asked her to move and get to work,
the job was hard but the calaca said “I can do this”
with a confident smirk.
After a hard day of working every spot in the division up and down the state,the poor flaca decided to quit and run away,
people can hear her saying I will leave this group alone
these folks are a wild bunch all its own,
now I know that UC ANR programs
work together for a better California.

--- Author: Miguel Sanchez

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Sleeping with a Toddler

(Honorable Mention)
Dedicated to my niece, Maliyah Sope

She whines and cries until I pick her up,
I give her some juice, but she throws the cup.
She motions towards the bed and tells me she’s tired,
But she reaches for the iPad, what a little liar. 

It’s 11:30 pm and way past my bedtime,
She doesn’t care, she’s little miss sunshine.
Before I know it, Cocomelon is blasting, 

“Can you turn it down?” I keep asking.
“But why?” she moans,
I give up and leave it alone.
At some point, I fall asleep,
Something keeps hitting me, it’s her tiny feet.

I roll over for some distance,
But man, she’s persistent!
My alarm goes off and morning is here,
I feel groggy but my routine, I must adhere.

She’s sound asleep so I move carefully,
I feel something scratchy, I wonder what it can be.
I walk towards the door and turn on the light,
I look at the bed, it’s covered in yogurt bites. 

Where did they come from? I don’t know,
But when she wakes up, she has got to go.
Cleaning it up, I feel extremely bothered,
This is my birth control: sleeping with a toddler. 

--- Author: Saoimanu Sope

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What to say

(Honorable Mention)

I sat with my pen
Thinking of what to say
I didn't know how much time had passed
Until Death came to take me away

--- Author: Selena Syrett 

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Wild fires

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To the table I bring nothing
And with nothing shall I leave.

But what will I not miss the most,
When, at last, I leave?

If we name the things
Whose loss I’d not at all resist,
Why, wild fires would surely top that list.

 --- Author: David White