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Here Come the Orishas
by Marc Thorman

Here comes Babalú-Ayé
covered with red spots of leprosy
leaning on his hardwood stick
with a mongrel licking at his wounds
Look out! Lazarus comes back from the grave!
Look out! it’s Babalú-Ayé!
Will he bring the plague on you
or save you from the plague?

Changó Changó
sitting cross-legged in the cabinet behind the glass
Your eyes aglow
In your lap you hold a bowl
Here is your offering - a bud with hairy seed casings
I cannot feed you blood
I will present an orange silk flower
or one with polka dots
I will not kill an animal for you
even if it were to bring me
amor imposible
Nor will I send 20 thousand in bitcoin to join the ceremony
I will not be your slave or bride
or collar myself with beads
I am terrified that you will change me
and prove that life is an acid trip
Here is a cigar
Here is rum
Here is your crown
Here are a hundred nails
pounded into your wooden effigy
See Saint Barbara’s head is chopped off
in Heliopolis the city of the sun
The lightning kills her father
Every day her wounds heal
All the sheep have been changed into locusts
Strip her of her bloody robe Changó
Wear her crown
Unlock her tower
Open the three windows in her bathhouse?

Sky Father Jesus Obatala
Our Lady of Mercy
she must have snails to eat
he must have no snail trails sliming her pure white dress
She must have pomegranates on New Year’s Day
He must have black eyed peas on Sunday
The king-queen wields a double-headed axe
and owns your head?

Mark the toque on
itótele, okónkolo and iyá
Summon Ochun
She is yellow
She is the from the sea
She will slather you with love juice
and take him from the other
She will bring him to you
when the cross rhythms sound
when the bells on the batá drums tinkle faintly
when babalawos’ palms strike goat skin
when she lifts her skirts and reveals herself
Don’t look!
The sun-eye on the horizon will blind you
and turn you into peacock feathers
You will drown in oceans of spite and jealousy

Eleguá the lump lurks behind the door
Your pointed head Old Child sits in a clay pan
Your fat cowrie shell mouth
Your blind cowrie shell eyes
Your pants too short Old Child
and striped the colors of a roulette wheel
You are closest to me with your love of coins
toy cars, whistles, caps and dances
But you too cannot be
You’re far too scary
bringing of fortune or ruin
Don’t send me to the crossroads
Don’t open the gates to the santos
The ground may disappear beneath my feet
and they will take me to a foreign world
with no escape and no return

Marc Thorman is a composer, pianist and professor of music at City University of New York.


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