This work was featured in Issue 18:2, Spring 2017 — Cave Canem 20th Anniversary Issue

Gary Copeland Lilley

For Peace in the Valley

To ward off street violence, at midnight
perform the ritual on the corner, in the cross,
hustlers, most likely, will be watching,

cleanse yourself before you start: bathe, put on
fresh garments, white or as close as you can get,
nothing dark, tell the hustlers what you are doing.

In the intersection draw a veve for Papa Legba
with white chalk, leave a bit of red cloth, a red flower,
sacrifice has already been made do not wash away

any blood that may remain in the street.
Near the oak tree where the boys stand, where
they have been dying, place a glass of gin

(white rum, or moonshine), a lit candle, either red
or white; light a cigar, blow the smoke to the veve,
then leave it burning beside the other offerings.

On the corner, read aloud and place the 23rd Psalm
(do not tear it from the Holy Bible) then smash
a coconut at the veve leaving all the shards

in the intersection, spray from a bottle of gin
in the four directions of the cross, ask Papa Legba
end the shootings, the hustlers are watching.

 

Gary Copeland Lilly is the author of five books of poems: High Water Everywhere (Willow Books, 2015), Alpha Zulu (Ausable Books, 2008), Black Poem (Hollyridge Press Chapbook Series, 2005), The Reprehensibles (Fractal Edge Press, 2004), and The Subsequent Blues (Four Way Books, 2004). Originally from Sandy Cross, NC, located on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp, Lilley was a longtime resident of Washington, DC and Chicago. He is a veteran of the US Navy Submarine Force, and a blues guitarist. Lilley currently lives in Port Townsend, WA.