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Mary Mackey

After Carnival

how you loved it in the beginning

the flashing sequins   the bare thighs and breasts

the drumming that you said made you feel

as if you were being passed from hand to hand

over a crowd of 72,000 people

who loved you more than your own mother

on Ash Wednesday everyone else stopped dancing

but you went on and on   as if someone had glued

invisible red shoes to your feet

even when it started raining and your feathers drooped

like the plumage of a dying bird

even when your purple wig bled into your eyes

and the soles of your feet were bloody

with the stigmata of your martyrdom

you kept on chanting the name of Yansan

Candomblé goddess of wind and storms

merciless Yansan who rode you like a horse

and pulled on your legs and arms with invisible strings

the samba whispers terrible secrets!

you cried but you would not tell me what they were

how easy it is to give ourselves to the gods, o meu bem

how hard to take ourselves back

From Travelers With No Ticket Home, by Mary Mackey (Marsh Hawk Press, 2014). Front page author photo by Irene Young.

Mary Mackey’s brand new book of poetry is Travelers With No Ticket Home. Her previous books include six collections of poetry, including Breaking The Fever and Sugar Zone, and twelve novels. As reflected in the poems in her most recent collections, she has been traveling to Brazil with her husband, Angus Wright, who writes about environmental issues and land reform, for over twenty years. Garrison Keillor has featured her poetry on his show, The Writer’s Almanac, numerous times, and her work has been translated into Japanese, Hebrew, Greek, Russian, and Finnish. She is the recipient of the 2012 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award. For more see

— posted May 2014

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