Monday, February 7, 2011

Gris-gris



Gris-gris


Rising with the night wind, 
Legba’s misused servant sculls her insubstantial boat
across the jagged template of the swamp 
looking for a sign, a water mark of Li Grand Zombi,
His serpent Self fat with knowledge
she must borrow, somewhere in the black night.

The humming song on her peach lips
is deep with the umber pulse of Africa,
in a language no one knows here. It
builds magic out of bondage, grows charms
from fear and want, weapons from shed blood
that turn against the holding hand.

The gris-gris sack around her neck
ties the struggling spirit to her body
for the will to fight is strongest after all;
it chills the child away from her womb,
the child she can’t keep or bring herself 
to give her master

no matter how often he comes 
like a levee breaking in the muddy dark,
hard fingers prying her open like a mussel,
her wide mouth thin as a knifepoint,
tongue tied tight as a noose.

It’s not easy to get what she needs
here in this mad confining place, but
what the heart desires long enough,
strong enough the body will do.

So she finds it all, here and there, from
the rummy sailors off the ships stinking of death,
or from the altar boy she bribes with her breasts
for stolen pieces of the holy wafer.

She mashes the small bones of a lizard
caught by a seventh son 
in a graveyard 
under a full moon
and all the other secret things, 
each one 
just 
so
and stirs them together 
with a broken crucifix
as she chants 
the Lord’s prayer

and older prayers in her honey voice,
calling the spirits,
so much closer to her
than the white face of God,
so much more likely to care.

She croons to the Snake of heaven and earth
softly like a lover and
under her bed she puts her careful curse
perfect in a bag slung round the neck
of the soft doll with the lock
of yellow hair.

On that black night of endless nights,
blowing into the hut like a lost storm,
the master is surprised and pleased
to see for the first time
she is smiling 
really smiling at him.


February 2011



 Posted for OneShotWednesday  at the inimitable OneStopPoetry 



Image: Another Thorny Crown, painting by Margaret Bowland

49 comments:

  1. Wondrous and wickedly enchanting!

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  2. I really love this one. It reminds me nostalgically of home. You illustrated it so perfectly.

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  3. Why, if i didn't know better, I'd think you grew up wild on a Creole plantation, woman. Of course, everyone knows that vou-dou and all such stuff is just fairy tales, as is the notion of a vengeful woman. N'est ce pas, ma petite oiseau? I love the way you've fluttered your deep black feathers, here.

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  4. WOW!!!!! I am gob-smacked:) Wickedly wonderful poem! Fantastic writing!

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  5. Dark mysterious the dancing swirl of the dark swamps I know so very well. Yes the folklore lives right beneath the epidermis of the American culture where the world washed up long before the states united and the secrets of that watery world are vast and deep.

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  6. Oops so caught up in the work I didn't tell you what I always say - that you are a magnificent writer. But you know I think that. It's a sine qua non.

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  7. Wow. This is awesome, hedgewitch. You breathe life into every word - like you know her soul.

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  8. Thanks so much, all.
    @Talon : the spirits speak through the ouija board of my brain. ;-)
    @Gay, thanks for the heads up on the typo. Fixed, and deeply appreciated.

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  9. Hedgewitch,

    There are some days I am reminded just how amazing/talented human beings can be. It usually happens here. Wow!

    :)

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  10. A hammer of a poem. Poetry is the birthplace of incantation, fluent in the language of gods and accessing realms of order which the living nightmare can only pervert. The gris-gris of this immensely dispossessed woman is found exactly where she is most abused -- and enables her to grow wings and a wickedly hooked beak. Look out, hungry boys, especially when she smiles ... - Brendan

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  11. Voodoo magic! Felt haunting and wicked and so much fun all at the same time hun.

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  12. First that image and then that story so marvelously told. Great title, too.

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  13. So very strong, the emotion as well as the writing style and love the imagery as well! Every time I look at a friend's art ( @katost on twitter ) I see exactly something in it that carries this kind of strength you've written of. Something about the style. Incredible impact. ~April

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  14. Vivid in nuance and detail. A poignant darkness surfaces through your lines, and the smile at the end leaves a lasting impression.

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  15. would make a great short actually. You have infused this poem with so much feeling and mystery.

    Glad you shared it with One Shot

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  16. lovely moving piece...i know a bit of the backwoods in my travels...a dark dance indeed...smiles.

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  17. this was bewitching
    what a beautiful smile she has :)

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  18. Quite a bewitching look into a dark and mysterious setting, tinged in voodoo. Quite a unique flare, with involved visuals and an engaging sense of intrigue that paint an image both fun and magical for the reader. Took us south for this one, and it made for quite the ride...

    Lovely piece!

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  19. Holy moly!!! What a fascinating read! I was mesmerized by each and every word of this poem... It flowed from oppression to failing faith, then to a rebirth of hope, and then to a new beginning...
    All in all, it had such a gripping tome that it kept me GLUED to it the entire time!!! And that image is very captivating too...

    I think I am getting addicted to your poetic style, Joy... (sigh)

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  20. A wonderful story told with such verve and fluidity. Much enjoyed reading this.

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  21. Every image is earthy and dark and enthralling. I truly love this piece.

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  22. Joy Ann, a truly enchanting piece.
    The end about her smiling is chilling.

    Pamela

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  23. This was a rather enchanting journey you took me. Very well thought out and delivered. Great imagery. Great development of the heroine of the poem. Great storytelling. Great poem.

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  24. I am going to have to bookmark this and come back to it again and again. So much inspiration lingering in this poem.

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  25. This is far beyond a poem....you weave this into a story full of magic and life and already you have the bones, the roots of a classic.

    What a marvelous writer you are. I am so enraptured with your poems, that I feel I have fallen into another world...which I have because you inhabit so easily these different worlds/stories.

    The only thing I can offer as something of 'otherworldly magic' is my Berber Goddesses stories and poems...which find resonance in the black African magic stories.

    I find the magic right under the soil with your poems and stories. Keep writing them, because they feed more than the imagination.

    Lady Nyo

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  26. Dark - and that smile at the end - oh, wow, what a story you weave here.

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  27. Joy,

    This is really potent. Has authentic feel which serves the drama. Very good.

    Trulyfool

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  28. anybody might think she were up to no good. i like her, i think.

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  29. She mashes the small bones of a lizard
    caught by a seventh son
    in a graveyard
    under a full moon
    and all the other secret things,
    each one
    just
    so
    and stirs them together
    with a broken crucifix
    as she chants
    the Lord’s prayer


    What a vivid picture you present, as clear as an artist with her brush! It's as if you are removing the wrinkles from the blanket of life and leaving a poem with such clarity it can be seen with no obstructions. Beautifully written!

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  30. There is so much music in this poem and effortless jetes from image to image-- you write with a spiritual authority and command of language I deeply admire. xxxJenne'

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  31. A very well written piece. An intriguing story all the way through. :)

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  32. Deep narrative and an admirable style and theme.

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  33. I enjoyed reading this so much.. Thanks for sharing..


    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    http://shadowdancingwithmind.blogspot.com/2011/02/whispers-another-kind-of-valentines-day.html

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  34. What a lovely lines...
    "She croons to the Snake of heaven and earth
    softly like a lover and
    under her bed she puts her careful curse"
    I could see it so vividly... Cool.

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    http://shadowdancingwithmind.blogspot.com/2011/02/whispers-another-kind-of-valentines-day.html

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  35. Smoking Hot here. Extremely perfect in context and concept. There may be no form other than free but there certainly is reams of function.

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  36. my hand rested on as I read this, catching my self holding my breath, this so powerful, wrenching, painful and beautiful all at once.

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  37. Love the voodoo references - they really work the way they're encorporated, their mythology all part of the reality of this. Nice!

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  38. Utterly brilliant! What a fascinating character and story you've told here! Both painful and beautiful. Your images are right on. In particular, "the white face of God" strikes me. And that amazing ending is so important to the agency that you give the character throughout the piece. I love this!

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  39. Beauty in your words and such eloquence. Very lovely! ♥

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  40. there's magic in your lines...just speechless about this dark and powerful tale you've woven...lots of lines to love here..but my absolute fav line was..The humming song on her peach lips
    is deep with the umber pulse of Africa... this has such a lot of depth and i can feel this pulse beating in your poem

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  41. Oh, so haunting and mysterious, excellent last stanza.

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  42. Wow-- a powerful tale told with insight and beautiful use of language. A gem, my friend.

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  43. Love the way you used the words, the language...


    ransom

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  44. The title captured me instantly amd the poem delivered beyond my hopes!! What a luscious, thick, dark, layered story...I want to keep reading, I want to know her story...

    Wonderful One Shot!

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  45. You are an amazing storyteller and weaver of image...really you should record them ...this one and many others need to be read outloud...wonderful writing...plus add everything else said above..especially on the stanza Tolbert mention....bkm

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  46. Oh my God, I'm mesmerised! I'm quivering under the Duvet! I am shaking with energy, trembling, shimmering...I am in a trance, break-dancing, I am chanting with guttaral voice, head thrown back, I am swaying gently in the night.

    This is the best I've read all week. Magnificent.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg