by Ellen Davis
The woman who comes to the marketplace knows
she’s a prophet. She’s wrapped in muslin,
her face hidden in the folds of her embroidered red shawl.
There she is now by the vegetables,
counting and humming to bins filled with cauliflower,
green beans, red and yellow peppers. She won’t last
long beside those anxious farmers, those coifed housewives.
See the cashier’s face tighten as he closes
his grip on the knife. They’ve glimpsed her before
and shudder as if she brings a pestilence. It isn’t long
before objects begin hurtling in her direction.
Merchants grasp what their hands reach first:
mushrooms, a salt box, bunches of local berries,
pebbles and gravel. She’s at the edges pulling
that hand-woven material around her, deflecting the stones.
She can curse in seven languages. Some say she is gifted,
she is a seer, but no one will listen. They want to
watch her figure run for solace through the corn fields
back to her own age, her own people. They want to see red flecks
scar her bare arms and thighs. She’ll give them a torrent
of syllables, condemning their harvest. One trader
lights his pipe, blue fire jumping up in a double flame.
Copyright © 2009 by Ellen Davis.