Miguel

(inspired by Pretty Thunder)
empty-bed
I don’t remember how you sleep
curled tight toddler rage
or
long lanky beer judge snore

no detectable
rhythm
nothing
about your breath is familiar

I pay attention only
to the wasteland of my side restless
lonely

under the river
run mud and sand
here are no ruts
that haven’t been driven
through to the bone

where shrouded mountains
climb
spineless vertebrae
of hope and wind

a suitcase holds
lifetimes waiting
sleeping bags
on dirt floors
sweat dreams
gone

once
and no more
I cooked for you
burnt offerings
from parched hands

chapped
raw
bleeding tongue
licked
salt
on thick skin

without warning
every stitch of clothing
piece of paper
sodden leaf
ends
in a grimace

Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.

Do not turn away the initiate

(Ogun Aarere ko ma se yawo)

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danced since years in Congo Square
all alone
white skin flash
nothing to wear
singing
high throat conjure cry
oriki Ogun
machete slash
clearing brush
epo stained
rafia skirt
under cobble stones
cowries twisted round my waist
fed from marrow in my bones

Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.

Questions for a Blood Moon

winter_0

 

 

Who colored the moon bloody and bald?
Why does she drip gouts of gore?
What haints scratched through the blue porch ceiling?
Where be hats of fog crossin’ hellegat* passage?
Comes walkin’ Igbo doctor with an asafoetida bag?
Is it Obeah woman or hoodoo man?
Or a black cat who gave her bone?
Or a conjure hand with no reflection?

 

moon
she smiles
keeps
her counsel
like a bloodshot eye
she mounts the watch
drinkin’ tea brewed from High John’s root
blowin’ tobacco down a spineless back
libatin’ whiskey
her crimson bootleg ‘shine

*Vernacular is hellgate, from this Dutch word meaning either “hell’s
hole” or “bright gate/passage”, indicating a narrow river (esp.
the East River in NY)

Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.

Ablution

thick waters flow heavy

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water must be very clean
to hold the sorrow
of stars

 

transparent
like shards of glass
strewn across a level field

nobody home
to light a candle
for wandering souls

whose hearts were rendered
over a campfire
cooking trout for breakfast

crackles in the dark
spend devalued currency
on things that do not matter

while rivers run muddy
with blue black blood
and dirty disasters

can water be washed
what is used to scour
the cleansing tool that has been fouled

water must be very clean

Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.

Power masquerades as a gardenia

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“You can be up to your boobies in
white satin, with gardenias in your hair
and no sugar cane for miles, but you
can still be working on a plantation.”
~ Billie Holiday

power
is a genus of flowering plants
in the coffee family
unfortunately
it makes a poor houseplant

power
does well in large pots on decks and patios
but is as fussy as it is beautiful
if you want blooms
you’ll have to feed it

if you have a little money
buy books
if you have a little more
buy power

power is native to tropical
and subtropical regions
of Africa
of Asia
of Oceania

power
they say
expresses the grace of the South
better than any other plant
it is not native there
where it either starves
or overtakes the garden
but it smells real good
and leaves you wanting more

Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.

Burial

Hermitage Castle, Scotland, claimed by Elliotts as ours.  Photo by David P. Elliot

Hermitage Castle, Scotland, claimed by Elliotts as ours. Photo by David P. Elliot

there be bogles*
where she shivers
inside stone

ears scratch
in the night
for sounds

feet scrape
on rough rock
escape an impossible
longing ache

bean nighe* wails
scrubs blood
from tattered grave clothes

whiskey runs
in the burn* by the road
leave the wine alone

*”bogle” Scots term for ghost; “bean nighe” in Scots legend, announcer of death (anglicized from Irish as banshee); “burn” stream or small river

Burn by the road, Hermitage Water, photo by Sharon Elliott

Burn by the road, Hermitage Water, photo by Sharon Elliott

Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.