Image from "New Orleans Vodoun Tarot"
New Orleans wraps itself in the mystery of Vodoun. The religion is misunderstood as the Hollywood caricature of evil and the dreaded zombie. In reality, it's a complex and often beautiful belief system - but admittedly not for the weak of heart. The poem is written from the point of view of someone only familiar with Voudoun, not part of its inner circle. The piece describes the dance of the Mambos, but I think Baron Samedi needs a bit of an introduction. He's one of Vodoun's Guedes that is said to guard the crossroads where the spirit of the dead can cross in and out of this world and act as intercessor between the living and the dead. He also presides over love and resurrection. Baron Samedi wears a top hat, black coat tails, and sunglasses. He loves ambrosia cigars and has a propensity for rum.
All This Murmuring
I run into myself
crawling out of a manhole
on a street in New Orleans.
I tell myself,
"The old man's dead,"
but really - I think
he conjured a convenient senility
to disguise his secrets.
I ask, "Do I know where the children are?"
And, "Did I bake the sweet potato pie for after the funeral?"
And, "By the way, what was I doing down there anyway?"
For ten days I've hung this Gris-Gris
bag around my neck -
still I don't leave myself in peace.
I won't answer myself-
just remark that the stench
top side isn't much different,
then I remember the old man's
handkerchief still covers my face.
to stone angels -
"Don't I ever answer my questions?"
And, "Don't I have any respect for the dead?"
And, "Didn't I know Momma's bad nerves
were on account of my moods?"
I leave myself
to track the scent of Ambrosia,
go where the Mambos swirl
in their white dresses
inside a circle of Fire Lilies -
so the Guedes will come to dance.
I sway on the brim of the wheel,
whisper in trickles of rum
while I hope for the tip of a hat-
even though we're strangers,
Baron Samedi might dance
with me - stop all this murmuring.