Monday, February 11, 2013

Backstreet Boy



image borrowed from bing


Backstreet Boy

“Cutting off a mule’s ears doesn’t make it 
a horse.”--Creole proverb.

Found myself one Saturday
late summer prowling
the back alleys of New Orleans;
besotted, curious, dazed,
searching out one of those Haitian Creole
Voodoo shops with the petrified frogs
and rooster heads nailed over the door;

blood red curtains drawn, inside
things dimly candle-lit, with large earthen jars
lined up on dusty shelves, a refuge
for myth, magic, and primitive religiosity, 
a perfect place to find healing incantations,
black genies in silver whaling lamps,
kidnapped shamanic herbs,
animal skulls & skins,
snake scale green tea--

moving, twitching, overly-animated,
nervous & clumsy, through narrow aisles
of restoration potions and enchanted
dried flowers, leaves, and roots,

my nostrils assaulted by odors
of rich damp soil,
of rot, of moss, of pitch, of creosote, 
of honey mixed with whiskey;

and in tall hand-made colonial cabinets
there were well-honed straight razors,
long skinning knives,
aboriginal archery artifacts,
stone arrowheads, bone & antler daggers,
witch doctor beads & face paint,
demonic tarnished gold coins,
shrunken heads with sewn-up eyes, 
silver figurines of wolves, panther, bear,
pythons, alligators, & wild boars;
with smeared dirty jars holding dead snakes,
copperheads, cottonmouths, thick rattlesnakes,
even brilliantly colored coral snakes--
a purposeful exclusion of all softness,
everything hard-edged, lethal, poisonous,
macabre & nightmarish--

until I chanced onto an area by a small window
that was only partially covered by a tattered
holy potato gunny-sack, allowing some sunlight
to penetrate the swarmy gloomy sanctum,
greeted by some small shelves covered
with bright colored paper, littered
with cans of Cajun spices,
provincial cook books, and
thick worn-edged volumes
of Cajun-Creole mythology.

From the shadows suddenly
a tall black woman in a turban,
wearing scarlet robes, appeared,
her dark eyes flashing,
and through perfect white teeth
she spoke first in Cajun French
and then in broken English, 
asking me what I might be searching for.

Catching my breath I stammered
and confessed my impetuosity,
my gnawing curiosity,
and my sudden need to find egress.

Smiling, she pointed a long bejeweled finger
at the exit, a large metal door covered
in scrubbed bronze rivets. I noticed
the EX was burned out on the sign,
leaving only IT to make my escape through;
which I did hastily, then standing outside
gulping good Gulf air.

After a few calming minutes,
I revamped my courage
and went back into the shop,
engaging that Cajun girl
in intense conversation,

asking her about my chronic insomnia,
hallucinations, and the fact
that I habitually saw a demon’s
red-coal eyes in the moonlit 
reflection of my own face
much too often.


Glenn Buttkus

February 2013

Posted over on dVerse Poets OLN

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?

13 comments:

rumoursofrhyme said...

The sights and smells of the unfamiliar - all brought to life in your words.

Claudia said...

what a walk...ha...the shrunken heads with sewn-up eyes made me shiver...the broken ex--it sign made me smile and cool you went back and talked to her a bit as well...def. a place where i would feel really insecure.. would love to visit new orleans though one day..

Brian Miller said...

dang brother...been a while since i was in the big easy...but you got the mystery...love the interaction with the woman...she is mysterious and haunting herself...glad you went back in...i would have...but my heart would have been stammering...smiles...

Alex Dissing said...

Your dedication to detail is amazing in this piece.

Ann LeFlore said...

This is so deeply described in all details and your words really bring the images to mind. This is an wonderful walk you have created. This is my entry for this week. http://gatelesspassage.com/2013/02/04/mothers-love/

Charles Elliott/Beautyseer said...

Hope dat gurl had some potions and hoodoo that you could do to clear up your i infections! The end surprised, and made me want to know more. Wonder how this would work if you exlained your quest at the outset and THEN began your really jumpy and twitchy quest?

Ginny Brannan said...

"Catching my breath I stammered
and confessed my impetuosity,
my gnawing curiosity,
and my sudden need to find egress."

Such vivid imagery brought to life, can just imagine the smells, the strange, exotic and fearsome cures for whatever ails you. I have a friend in New Orleans, hope I get to see this fascinating city some day!

Ken Higginson said...

Dang! Great descriptions. I have to believe that this actually happened. It's to good to be fiction!

Stan Ski said...

You reached all the senses here...!

lucychili said...

vivid story, facing fear and exploring. =)

Eusebia Philotes said...

You captured the mystery and enchantment of this chance encounter. Really enjoyable.

jane hewey said...

fantastic and intense. I love the apparent love you have for language and details. really delicious.

manicddaily said...

Ha! Vivid colorful details and your sense of drama and humor both. Thanks. K.