Prayers to Marie Laveux

I wrap 23 cents in a bag

of paper wishes 

and send it into a mardi-gras bead covered

tree stump,

kiss the head of the Voodoo doll,

knock on the stump nine times

send you a message.

Ask for a bag of gris-gris 

filled with beauty shop hair chatter

and love potion.

Clutch a severed chicken foot 

in my pocket

and tell myself I’ll make it 

through this night

because this here high priestess

gone where no Catholic church 

told her she could go.

You be patron saint of everything.

You be fistful of alligator teeth 

and snakeskin,

You be an altar of burning incense 

and human skulls.

They kneel to altars,

burn incense, pray to crosses

and call you crazy.

Paint you she-devil

Dark skinned creole woman 

who always knows too much.

Seduces white men

and peddles his babies.

They don’t know what to do with you.

But you be black cat enchantress,

beautiful historian

who made a few extra dollars

by not letting your own culture

die on a slave ship.

They mad because Voodoo 

is just Catholism 

without all the gold.

Marie, you be forest of bones

and mystery,

Juju filled vixen woman,

Virgin Mary with a simmering cauldron

and 15 children.

Daughters of God,

You’d say.

They say voodoo dolls and hexes

are Satan’s game.

Say you know demons,

say maybe you are one.

They say that about all women.

They think we all cast spells

Diminish high priestess

to witch 

because you can’t be woman

and powerful

without all that magic.

You be everything religion

taught me you not.

You be woman,

Black woman, 

mother and goddess,

beautiful and dangerous,

the fleur de lis unfurled

and blooming,

a jazz alley saxophone

and a haunted cast iron porch.

I’m wishing on 23 cents

for some magic

like that.


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