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Summer/Fall 2018

Red Clay Fetish


by Ronnie Sirmans


Fetishes carved by Zuni
are colorful and strong.
But I’m always seeking
talismans of my own,
symbols of my own life,
from my own geography:
clinging head lice, flying cockroach,
buzzing skeeter, biting yellow fly,
these small animals tougher than
frail humans — but without
the teeth or claws or talons
of those hair-bristled creatures
turned to so polished stones
from New Mexico’s hardness.
My rocky essence resides
amid these coastal plains.
Withlacoochee, Okefenokee,
Alapaha: not tribes, but
just old bodies of water
snaking through South Georgia.
Another fetish from my hands:
the petrified tick made of red clay,
smoothly engorged on shining blood.
You must grab a tick just so,
and this clay will — unless turned
and burned by experienced hands —
fall apart into fine particles,
like ancient blood, earthen red,
already dried on your fingers,
or a little may flake away
like your own dusty dead skin.


[Check out Ronnie Sirmans’ back porch wisdom]

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