In a Marriage Certificate
Deep in the cotton petals of a watermark
I see my father stacking sheets of plywood,
his hands freckled with sawdust, his silvery
white skin flickering in the sun, my mother
standing beside him, measuring each plank
of wood, her eyes like blackberries floating
in a pool of milk. She says, “There’s
wrong,” and fog settles like an argument.
A Coca-Cola bottle sweats on the picnic table,
the petals of pansies curl into tight yellow fists,
and my parents stand there, like boards that won't
fit, like two splintered edges refusing to meet.
Marie Laveau Talks about Magic from a Confessional
in St. Louis Cathedral
Marie Laveau, a colored woman who eventually
known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, often used
her knowledge of Voodoo to manipulate and acquire
In one quick lick I waved my mojo hand,
made the Mississippi’s muddy spine
run crooked as a crow’s foot,
scared politicians into my pocket
with lizard tongues and buzzard bones,
convinced the governor to sing my name
under a sharp crescent moon
white as a gator’s tooth.
Now my magic got the whole Vieux Carré
waltzing with redfish and rooster heads,
got Protestants blessing okra and cayenne,
Catholics chasing black cats down Dumaine,
even got Creoles two-stepping with pythons
along the banks of Bayou St. John.
They say soon my powers gonna fade,
that there’s a noose aloose in the streets
looking for a neck to blame.
But I’m just a lowly colored woman
and ain’t nobody gonna blame a worm
for scaring a catfish onto a hook.
Inventing an End
for Leigh Mayeaux, whose body was never found
Maybe he straddles you in the soft mud,
his eyes the brown shells of beetles,
your voice a yellow-jacket buzzing
in the sweaty throat of his palm.
Maybe sunlight trickles onto the ground
as the sharp black wings of crows ripple
in the curved steel of his switchblade,
or maybe he has a gun.
In my mind the end is always the same:
your pale body twisted in the muddy mouth
of a bayou where rusty lures flicker like flashbulbs
and the spotted scales of bass blink
through green lashes of eel grass.
I see you drifting through a cloud of cattails,
hair tangled with leaves, lips curled
around your final watery word.
The Birth of Night
The earth was without form, and void;
and darkness was on the face of the deep.
When the earth was merely a lump of phlegm
sticky in the hollow of God’s throat,
silence wheezed and I was born,
dark and clean, a black breath sucked deep
from an empty space in his lung.
It was I who swallowed the sun,
who woke before the orange-red blush
ripened in the leaves of trees
where fruit hung heavy--
I who carved the edges of the moon,
who sharpened stars like teeth.
Gloriously divided from light,
I was the world’s one dark element,
long before the shape of Man
blinked in a red puff of clay
and Eve’s pale-fisted body squirmed
in the bony womb of Adam’s rib.
The Spirit of Bridget Bishop
Bridget Bishop was the first person convicted
in Salem. Suspicion initially arose after someone
have seen her spirit in the rafters of the Putnam
She was executed by hanging on June 10, 1692.
---Life and Times of Bridget Bishop
I was born in the dark
corner of a barn, conceived
in a drop of sheep's milk,
squeezed into this bitter world
by a farmer's callused hand.
Most mornings I rise like steam
from the muscled backs of horses.
In the afternoon I'm dust
settling on floorboards,
a twitch in a cow’s neck.
All day I drift in the dusty
light of the hayloft,
forever in a blue halo of flies,
high above the cows
with their agnostic eyes
and the heretical black map
of their backs, the pigs
shinning like pink buddhas.
It's only a matter of time
before my voice scurries
along the rafters of the barn,
before gossip flutters
in the branches of trees
and the word witch ripens
in townspeople's mouths.