Cibola 42

Esteban (2) (cont’d)

For with the right roots & powders
all things are possible, as even
Galen admits. Any would-be
sorcerer could slip
something in his food,
activate it with a few muttered words.
His best protection lies in
the gourd, his feathered
medicine rattle, instrument
& emblem of a doctor–curandero
by the grace of the Great
Whoever–& thereby
safe from attack, the gourd
both guide & passport,
an envoy even through the thick of battle.

And it speaks, this calabash,
a voice he knows from earliest childhood
in the slave quarters of Azemmour:
a call no drum, no exiled Jinn
can ignore. When the stones
in its belly murmur
the copper bells on its feet
start to shrill,
& when the stones holler
like a woman in labor
the shakers cry like a newborn,
& Esteban attending keeps
the thin stick body firmly
in his grip, while its skirt
of red & white feathers
flies like the crown of a palm tree
through the heart of the sky.

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