This poem came out of the January 4, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from xjenavivex, eseme, and kyleri. It was sponsored out of general funds based on a recent poll.
They are thinner than threads, shining white-hot with power.
Blue sparks leap between their lithe bodies
Where they twine themselves around the third rail.
The subway runs on the backs of minute dragons
And the jaded riders never suspect a thing.
These are not the shamans of old.
They're hip. They're with it.
It's their job to keep the urban jungle green and gray
In New York,
the urban shaman wears hightop sneakers
and blue jeans frayed at the knees.
His backpack rattles with cans of spray paint.
At night, he slips into the garage and tags each city bus
to keep them safe on the busy streets.
He paints the buildings with signs of protection
and no one is the wiser.
the urban shaman wraps himself
in a blanket of hot pink and lime green.
He blows marijuana smoke against a car mirror
and chats up the old hungry gods of the south.
He tells them where to find the human sacrifices we make,
not in temples now,
but in back alleys and boardrooms and battlefields.
In New Orleans,
the urban shaman cornrows her hair
and fastens the ends with red plastic beads.
She chalks her veves on narrow streets
paved with cobblestones, bricks, concrete.
She traces them on tombstones.
Sometimes, she goes to the police --
in her city, dead men do tell tales.
In San Francisco,
the urban shaman wears a loud Hawaiian shirt
and his clogs ring loud against the sidewalk.
He paints his wide round face
with tattoos that fluoresce in ultraviolet light.
He spins glowsticks and fire poi to mesmerize his audience.
When he surfs, the ocean whispers to him
and sometimes the fish grant his wishes.
Though the times have changed, the role has not:
these shamans, like their forebears,
still dance their way down the fine line
that divides this world from the next.