Red like the Mardi Gras beads that turn
under my fingers. Father brought
them home from a bar on Bourbon Street.
I wrap them around my head, body; and dance
around the kitchen. Red like the garnet rosary beads
nailed up over her bed to warn spirits away.
Convinced the house was full of ghosts.
Poker-playing demons taunt her from the corner.
Feufollet blinking in the darkness when she closes
her eyes. In the kitchen, a pot of gumbo boils
through her mother’s aluminum pot, cracks
and spills into the flames. The kitchen fills
with smoke. Blood-red tomatoes washing
over white enamel. Red, like the fear she gave.
Mother Mary Full of Grace, protect us from this
battered lace. Red. Red. Red and lovely, scared
and curled on the kitchen floor, pregnant
with her third, fourth, if you count the one
never born. The red, spilled and sticky
on the floor. So red.
Danelle Lejeune was a featured reader at Word, January 2019. "Red Beaded Gumbo Prayers" appeared online at Literary Mama in 2017.