Campbell Corner Poetry Prize

The Poetry of Moira Egan: Finalist, 2002

To My Muse, upon Her Return

Here There Be Dragons

Voodoo Authentica

To My Muse, upon Her Return

O Muse,
sweet red jazz juice,
featherboa attitude,

where have you been?
A mystery to me,
your sporadic telegraphy

and how to please
Thee. Now, down on my knees,
most supple supplication, I offer you the keys

to my place. Tell me, what do I do to entice
you to stay, play nice?
In my house I have no ice

but I keep fire,
blue sparks along coiled electric wires
and the slow smoke incense of desire.

Is that it? Like love, it's only chemical?
a perfect fit of molecules
one into the other, sweetly nestled,

big hands in the small of my back,
a kiss so luscious the room turns black
and the ticking of the clock

for a moment stills.
You come, and go, regardless of will.
Tears, libations, heart, what shall I spill

to keep you here with me?
you who make love in normal people,
and in me poetry.


Here There Be Dragons

Why did the woman dive into the clear of the lake?
She's down so long I begin to hold my breath
for her, then she emerges, disturbing the surface,
the willow's asexual reflection, her hair streaming
leaves and water lilies.

We at the shoreline must imagine the rest,
the way a friend of mine has painted her monster,
an ongoing series of portraits, the muse and the master.
Yellow eyes and jagged brown scales, his scimitar
horns are the gate to her nightmares. Lately though,
she tells me, he seems sad, demon eyes
cast down, his scales lacking in luster.

So she paints a garland for him, twined
through his horns, his ears, of every luminous
flower she can name. Once in a blue moon
you tame your monsters.

Last night the moon was blue,
I'm not kidding. Blue as a Sky-Blu
Snowball tasting only of blue. No,
blue as a baby's eyes before they change. No,
I hesitate to say that the cloudy blue film
was like a cataract grown across the moon.
What's wrong, though,
with an ancient, blinded moon? Perhaps
it's only on these nights
we can join the sighted without sight:
Homer, Teirisias, St. Lucy. I don't know.

Last night I turned in time to catch
my shadow. I embraced her, & we waltzed
for a moment, almost solid, almost sure.
She had the scent of plumeria in her hair.

Voodoo Authentica

In New Orleans, Louisiana,
I go to Voodoo Authentica,
gift shop cum botanica
to look around, not to mention
I have a coupon
for a free gris gris bag.
I like everything. The instant
voodoo postcards bringing luck
or love or money. The dolls
and their madras dresses,
lime, papaya, mango, lemon,
or Kinte cloth like blood or rust,
or history. I like their swirly
straw hairdos, and funny mouths,
each a small acrylic O
of shock, or promise.
I like the goddesses and incense,
the candles and the caramel
smell of magic. Yet nothing speaks
to me, voodoo consumer,
till in the shadowy lavender
alcove near the cash register,
at last I see her,
what I came here for,
my voodoo souvenir.
Twelve inches tall,
a skirt of red and black tulle,
straw hands outstretched, all
scary grace, a cape of black lace,
she stands on a four-pointed star.
Her head, beneath the modest veil
and feather-red hair, is a china skull
glazed obsidian and charcoal.

She's Mama Brigitte,
her placard tells me, Queen
of the Spirit World, of winds
and hurricanes. She'll help
with all scholastic matters
(if kept in my study)
and bring me the protection
of my ancestors/spirit guides.
Which is no surprise.
The island of my family,
too, is a protectorate of Brigid,
syncretic saint of music, spring
and poetry, whose feast
day became Candlemas,
and Molly Bloom's maker's
birthday, yes. Jung might call
that synchronicity.

What would he call this?
From behind me, strange as a kiss
from a perfect stranger, a wave
rolls over me, like fine cologne
hotblent with pheromones
on the person you'd know coming
with your eyes closed. He stands
in front of me, suddenly, swathed
in white, wearing sandals.
He looks at me
and my body's center of gravity
plunges cuntwards, like it did once
on a castle wall way above the Aegean,
sheer white drop between me and the sea,
and my heart plunged (fearing I might?)
to my womb, seeking gravity.
But it's not my heart plumbing
my depths now, it's his, and he is in me
and I think I must be overtired
and horny. I tell him, Stop it
(though I don't mean it)
and he answers with a tilt
of coffeesilk eyes. Stop what?
though he knows, and I let go
though I don't know where I am going.
He is warm and knows my every
fold and molding. He paints
me inside out, reflective pool of orchid
and petals slowing open, sweet
with honey, as if he'd harvested me.

He walks around me sideways
and I'm grateful for my strong
prescription shades.
You are powerful, I say.
I am a voodoo priest, he tells me,
as if I didn't know.
He wants my name and number,
hands me a lilac pencil, a sheet
of matte black paper. I trace
it like a spell. I want to hear his name
again, vowels and incantation,
and as he spells it for me,
letter by letter, slowly,
I write it down, O's and Ah's,
F's and L's
in my best and spikymost hand.

I won't make you up
the gris gris bag, he says,
but I'm going to help you get
what you came to New Orleans for.
The lady at the register
hands me my Brigitte.
The voodoo priest arcs
me up to him, intimate.
My womb aches, strange and craving.
I pause at the door

and then I blink back into the sun,
the Mississippi's swamp-sweet air,
and Bush is bombing the Taliban,
and it's Sunday, just past Mardi Gras,
in March of the second
year of the second millennium.