Amy Trussell

Cross A Long Bridge

Cross a long bridge in the cloud's torn membrane
rain wrecks our paint job in a few short steps to the glass door
we rush through it like goats
surveillance cameras drag bleak shadows
down the warped hall through the lens
in the hotel where firemen attend an overdose
points of weak light point downward
to the ghetto where most of the paint has worn off or been eaten
and laughter slams into a wall again and again
houses like the jewelry boxes
the prisoners on death row made from match sticks

Walk down Rue Royal where its still uneven, the dark and light
high ceilinged houses let warm drafts and small blue lights of the
spirits through
the docent wears a necklace of berries like dried blood
we pass through the fourchette and beneath the alligator skull
empty our pockets at the altar, small gesture for the slaves
who risked their lives carrying talismans in cotton
Black and white photo of the priestess who left years ago up the tree
into the next
here hangs her velvet dress she brought forth a mushroom
a wishing stump the conductor for the force of it
and throbbing canvass of snakes and a dancer holding one in her back
wearing white damp garments in a dark grotto
the boughs low with coarse gray hair and seed pods

Fruit was fed to the drum this afternoon
now it smokes through the cells
and the spinal fluid lights up
next to the auditory nerve
in the second story we are cooled
by a boa constrictor called Eugene
Grandmother told us to watch for alligators
rising up from the St. Charles and into the alleys
but from the window we only see chalked skin, lips like bleeding plums
a deadly body dressed in a black slip
she passes into the crowd slightly above ground

We go by carriage past the old house of the Priestess
she acquired by a Guinea pepper gris-gris
the ferrier tellers the story of the prisoners she visited
their hanging ropes broke the next day and they went free
Paris bruised her heart then was lost in a blackened sea
back when the dark hair dressers all worked a few charms
and they say a storm issued from Mam'zelle's fingers
her veined arms and hands stood out like wings, then she clapped

I've seen the squamous clouds drop down from a low ceiling
they pressed around us
then rushed over the swamps and the tonic herbs
it thundered in the burned plantation
where those with collapsed hearts still haunt the ethers
the old woman with a tigon blew cornmeal
out the palm of her hand onto the bricks
the lights shot out for a split second
then the dance went on riding the drum

All Souls Day
the sun returns, steam coils up from the gutters
guard with a pistol stands at the gate of the cemetery
we cover our heads and pray
at the Priestess's tomb where offerings have been left:
bottles of rum, coins, a package of condoms, white flowers
the crumbling tombs like some ancient civilization
and marble mausoleums of the rich towering over coarse stones
farewell to the deeper gatekeepers -- St. Peter, Ellegua!

It is the clicking noise that stands out most in my mind
oh yes, the thief thinks I don't notice
that he is loading a gun and trying to cover it up by loading a camera
while glancing me with the killer's look
I tell him to go to hell and then run
and find myself in carnival time
in the spice market with the oil and powder dealers
looking for a deck to lay my head on in a house of cards
the proprietor is in the hall with a lit cigar
I am safe from the loaded cartridges
long as I stay in the throng on Bourbon St.
but even in this dream I grow tired of smoke, divinity, fish and wine
and want to go home.

An alligator slips into the river and sinks down
clutching a lock of hair I wake up
in need of a Headache Woman
a filled candle is dropping shells on the plate
it sounds like hail
I find some garlic, wrap it in a leaf
and crush it against my head

acknowledgment to The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum,
Divine Horsemen
by Maya Deren and Jambalaya by Luisah Teish