Friday, January 7, 2011

Madame Ju-Ju's

It’s hard to know. She said she had an inkling and painted
his nose, around his eyes, asked him to hold out his palms,
and all the way down to his toes, said, There! Make it big!
and might claim the strong wind coming would be gone
if he could scare it off, but that was only beforehand news,
she specialized in making the past cohere with the future.

What did your mother want you to know, some things
about him? Things you knew? She had painted herself
blue all over. Other people kept moving in, his father’s
empty chair sitting empty, and he feeling the old elation.
Mama Ju-Ju cried out in defiance of all the immortals,
hammering rooster claw and chicken wing to the door.

Mama Ju-Ju could tell you what you should expect to see
inside your mama’s house. The eyes turned up, she said
I’m going now, and there she was, in her fancy chiffon,
looking to be filled with the peace that passeth a contact
with compehenson of understanding, peace making peace.
She made him see the bedroom and putting her in a coffin

and six men packing her out to the church, the preacher
slow to get going, looking out at the blur in front of Mama
Ju-Ju, who always spit in the eye of the beholder, shook
like a leaf in wind, declared her independence from moira,
took a long walk through the only room back and forth
till she was convinced Juan Flores knew why he was doing

this in Madame Doll’s bedroom, and no one man was there,
had been there, the maid Laura assured him, Mama Ju-Ju
smiling big like I told you so! and it was still darker in here
than out there, the ringing of bells in his ears were earrings
she wore that sounded like chimes. He tried to move his legs
and his arms and someone deep down said Give yourself up

to time. He was ready to go back to the house now. Mama
said she could never go where a confrontation was pending.
He was surprised to hear such formality take on the voice
she called her own. He moved then. His legs. His arms. Eye
lash flutter, he could see her mirror the inconsolable way
men wanted so terribly to separate from women they died

before dawn, before dusk, or at noon–the three best times
her teacher told her–and you better be on time if you want
to see where they carried Mama Nell and because it was,
like all the rest there, where the moist earth deepened
into river swamp the spade unearthed when men still dug
graves by hand, Juan Flores wanted to see it all through.

And did. The sky darkened over, the sun was in eclipse
a fraction of a second, enough to convince him he was here
seeing the coffin closing but he had no idea why he waited,
so why not rush to the door before the lightning took over
and thunder rolled like dominos falling, the rain sprinkling
the dust on the outer windowpanes, Mama Ju-Ju smiling.

(7 January 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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