A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2006, vol 2 no 3

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Valerie D. Ebeby

The Ritual Rites

Today, the ritual is performed outside, while light breezes maraud autumn leaves through flapping sheets on a spinning clothesline. The sun's heated just right, southern comfort and "puckon" pie. Gleeful pixies, we run ahead to prepare the place of oblation beneath the big oak. "Fetch the bucket, get the low barrel, pump the water. Where's the towel? Ah, soap!" Screen door slams with excitement. A wild dance into the yard. Languid, throaty laughter from the "chicory" interior.

Louisiana Bayou
dark incantations
midwife birthing bench

Mulatto white, our personal goddess, barefoot and humming softly ... begin! Three pairs of hands yank and pull tenderly to unbraid the thick plait of hair. Henna deep, rippling with waves past her small waist; brush strokes make the color change! What beauty, the curve of her back, bending to fill her hair with rain water. Twist it into a snake to release every droplet! First born child sculpts a wide, black fandango fan of hair across her back, as she sits reading aloud. Drying time and dusk; fireflies and crickets; my mother and perfection.

knife cuts the pain
cyprus and willow echo
alligator swamp