Maracatu Ritual

From TAM Airline Magazine, May 27, 2006, pp.52-53:

The maracatu ritual orginated with Brazilian slaves, some of whom remembered ceremonies for the crowning of kings in Congo. The King Balthazar cult arose from these ceremonies and occurs in Pernambuco state. The ceremonies take place especially during Carnival in Recife and in Zona da Mata where the party is known as Maracatu de Baque Solto.


Chest sculpted by the sand and the waves
tufts of hair between muscled breasts
the young surfer flexes his bicep
carrying his board to the sea.
Wading then paddling in the waves
to sit floating, awaiting the perfect swell,
the chance to skim the surface
of the roiling water as it breaks
crashing in calumnous cascades
on the shallow ocean floor.

[written on Jeribucaçu Beach near Itacaré, Bahia, Brazil]

Candomblé Souls

Trancing on drum beats and chanting
Welcome to the Orishas,
Passion seizes candomblé souls
White-clad in a circle of power.

The spirit possesses —

Ogum bares his iron sword
threatening conflict and war.

Oxum flows around him
water contained in land.

Omolú shakes his straw-covered head
eyes hiding death and disease.

Iansã blows and storms,
unstoppable force of nature.

Oxossi hunts his inevitable prey
providing food and prosperity.

Xangô twirls breathing fire,
flames thundering from his limbs.

Iemanjá, siren of the sea,
hears fisherman ask for protection and plenty.

The spirit possesses —

Eyes rolled up white
Bodies trembling in ecstacy
Welcome to the Orishas!


[Thanks to the Balé Folclórico de Bahia for an excellent performance in Salvador, Brazil.]

Salvador Is Sultry

Salvador is sultry.

The air is heavy with the sweat of the city.

I am in the stream of consciousness.

I sit on the toilet — yes, picking my nose — and ponder the scruffy grey tiles on the wall and floors. I let the cachaça (Brazilian rum) settle into me so I can relax and eventually sleep.

Earlier we sat at an outdoor table at the cafe, our plastic chairs creaking as we shifted our weight to watch what was going on. Teenage prostitutes flock uneasily around the man whose wrinkles betray his desire. His throat throbbing under long black hair, the guitarist strums and sings bossa nova over the chatter and occasional singing, murmurs, or claps of appreciation from the crowd. Those paying for drinks sit at tables and the others stand attentively on the cobblestones.

Back in the Arthemis Hotel, green mosquito net curtains hang wafting in the wind on a long wooden pole that droops with its weight in the center, though supported by a yellow wire would around a nail in the concrete wall above the white ceramic blocks with round and oval holes that never shut to block the breeze but protect the room anyway from all but the fiercest storm.