Author: Lisa D. Chavez

I entered the service of the Goddess
late in life. A widow, I left behind
grown children, my village, that narrow
field of coupled pairs. The day I left
I took the clothes I wore,
a knife, and the white dog–barely
more than a pup–who leapt
at my feet. Midsummer.
I climbed the stony path
up the mountain, stepping
through clouds of moths
rising up from grass, wings
washing me clean.

Some women stay
for a season and return
to marry, their value increased
by their time as sacred whores.
Some are girls whose blood
runs too strong–raging rivers a village
boy couldn’t slake. Some stay
for the solitude–like me,
the mountains suit them.

I found my freedom here,
in the temple where men enter
into the body of the Goddess. They must
be truly driven, to make the pilgrimage,
to climb the three-day trail. To brave
my white dog, grown large
and fierce. To withstand the odor
of the acrid herbs I burn
to become the oracle. Some
fear me, as they fear Her–she
who comforts and devours, who offers
fields fertile or fallow.

And my price? Whatever they value
most, though I do not always choose
to exact my fee. Some leave
with the precious thing intact. Some
I turn away. Some return many
times, until my cost breaks them.

As for me, I offer myself to the Goddess
again and again. I serve as I choose,
body a sacred instrument, strummed to a lyric tune.


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Seven Stabs of the Dagger

Field dark, hands hard
from cutting cane,

at Bwa Kayiman, she fought
beside the men,

baby on her back,

Seven Stabs of the Knife

Warrior of Ayiti betrayed
by Mapyan—She-who-lies—

her own held her down,
took a cane knife, hooked

out her tongue—
that blood root now

forever mute.  Not enough
for that betraying bitch

who thrice more slicked
that blade.  Face splayed,

tongue taken, still she stands,
Danto, raging.

Her blood is flowing

Called at Bwa Kayiman
we call her now:

Ezile Danto.
Reine Kongo
Ezili ze rouge.
Mother of the revolution.

Bring her sacrifice,
sharpen her knives.

Bring her a basin for the blood.

She comes.  Slits the throat
Of the fat black sow.

Seven stabs of the dagger.

With blood she smears
their faces, with silence

she refutes their lies.
Feeds them blood

vomited into a bowl.
Retribution.  Red eyed.

Seven stabs of the knife.

Note:  Italicized lines are from a traditional Haitian Vodou song to Erzulie Dantor.


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