After E.J. Bellocq circa 1912 (photograph of a Creole woman)
My great-granddaughter doesn’t know this about me, but
I’m the Creole lineage she comes from. I’m why she is drawn
to New Orleans, French music, fromage.
My chin is her grandmother’s chin. The Cubans didn’t take that away.
When I was young, I learned to wear lace and
sit in parlors so I would never darken, so I would pass.
I had a nose that separated me from my sisters who sat outside.
I lost my sisters when I became the family feature
only seen by wealthy men in rooms made for undisturbed company
to fund two private educations I never received.
I wasn’t a prostitute. I had clients.
I was my mother’s manicured lamb, and my sisters, with legs like gazelles,
went to New York and never looked back.
And then I met Igor…
Igor was different. Not from America. Knew I was black. Married me anyway.
He taught me to read on his chest. He died in my arms.
For eight hours I held his body against mine and slept in his silence.
Jasmine. Whiskey. Magnolia.
The thunder of his laugh was gone from ears, but vibrated my skin.
Maybe I was too disturbed, but I shaved him to preserve his hair,
which covered his chest, arms, legs, back, and his knuckles.
I sprinkled his hair in the food of the children I had with my next husband.
I wanted Igor to be a part of them. So petit fours,
bread pudding, jambalaya all food, not voodoo, food.
When I see those white dishes Igor brought me from Spain,
when my grandchildren point at them,
when sirens on streets go to a fade at night,
when the rains end and the waters become still on the bayou—
my eyes search for whispers of his shadow among the willows and
I start to wonder if Igor loved his whore of a wife.
I emerge onto my porch at sunset. I drink the double
that I used to pour for him. I wrap my tobacco and use the last of his hairs
to smoke my love to wherever he is. Wait for me.