Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Marie Laveau, Queen of Voodoo

In the St. Louis cemetery, her tomb is easy
to find: all the scratchings from bits of red brick.
The one with packets of beans, roses snipped
at the bud, small stacks and rolls of hoodoo money—
gifts for love-wishes. Politicians and judges
of New Orleans wondered when she’d chew
a pepper and place the pieces under their desks
next—certain victory. She was luck and love
and witch all at once. They say the pupils
of her eyes were half-moons, her fingers
could braid hair into sassy loops and wild-rope
all the proper ladies would die for. They wanted
Marie’s quick hands in their hair while
they spilled husbands’ secrets, asked
how to cover mistress skin with pocks.
Oh Marie, I don’t believe in all this nonsense,
but they say you’re the best. I’ve a love-wish
and it’s come to this: I’ll bring a black rooster,
spin three times and mark three X’s at your door.
Just say the word and I’ll leave an extra knot
in the tignon around my neck. Say the word
and I’ll bring jelly from a fish. Give me a powder,
with glitter and crushed fang, show me how much
to sprinkle on him, exactly what part of his beautiful head.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Marie Laveau, Queen of Voodoo was originally published in Southern Review, Winter 2003.
Poem, copyright © 2003 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2004, From the Fishouse