vejiga – bladder
gigante – giant
a figure of carnival and other festivals
wearing a clown-like, blowsy costume
& horned mask, often carrying
an inflated cow bladder.
vejigante: big old bladder-whacking clown

These aren’t the masks that lie
with grins.
They grimace, gnash fangs.
Giant lethal toothpicks sprout
out of their heads.
Leering in shop windows,
sneering from walls inside,
spotted as leopards from some other
universe, black on blue,
Ponce red and black, Loiza
acid yellow coconut, chiseled lips
and jutting tongues:
I want them on my side.

Horned weirdos in Spain
masked those devil invaders, Moors.
Shoe’s on the other feet now,
though, ain’t it? Behind a toothy mask
all colonials (those beribboned gentlemen
over there with the quizzical, painted faces –
somebody has to play them)
can be told, Take a jump.

Vejigantes dance at carnival
in Ponce plaza, they skitter too
behind that angst-ridden movie
set in San Juan. Nothing funny
about pantalooned guys with horns
running around in the dark like bulls,
careening here and there.

Vejigantes dance in Loiza
strutting in the hot sun, they prance
and throw out bat-wings
at the cameras for Santiago Apostal,
with troops of little masked boys
like wild scouts. After, a man strips
off coconut, his wet face rimmed with paint.
To hell with the heat!

I think of dull adult parties, year
after year, elaborately costumed as Dalmations,
statues of liberty, frank n’ steins, fat Tuesdays &
ashy Wednesdays, genies with swords
and belly-buttons, all
talking shop, not dancing or whacking,
not even drunk on sweets,
(carefully plastic-wrapped).
Horns extrude from my brain, ghosts
smoke from Halloweens past.
Get a mask on:

garrulous crone (full-head rubber)
living witch (green paint, rubber nose & warts)
Medusa (paper mache made on my face)
scarlet creature of flame (putty and greasepaint)
death (faceless black mesh under hood)
sinister leather beak-nose (fit over my glasses)
vejigante (pink and black spots, cow-horned)

All-hallows, the children’s carnival:
Long before Satan stymied anybody
we had a good blowout, the child’s
version of tying one on. On that scary,
scary night. anyone not yet
graduated and suspiciously tall guys
paraded door to door, demanding sacks
of treats for being alive. Otherwise,
you got to egg windows, soap windshields,
toilet-paper houses, cars, trees. Careful
inviting me. I may eat everything,
drink your house dry and dance all night
in your front yard. Be careful to stock up.
My horns are sharp and this tough
old bladder’s sloshing. Smell these feet?
Better give me something good.


A. B. Emrys’s study of mystery form, Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the Evolution of the Casebook Novel (McFarland), was an Agatha and Macavity finalist. Her work also appears in Whacked! (Rainstorm Press).

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