Calling Oshun

by Shannon Barber

Voices bring me up towards wakefulness and the Earth; my body is moving before I’m entirely awake. The voices are beautiful, full of gravel dredged from the Deep South, saturated in whiskey and sorrow, then poured from the mouths of the men in a living room somewhere.

The singing calls me out of my little somnolent cocoon. As I move towards the sounds, my anticipation tingles at the ends of my fingers. Dreams peel back; I’m awake now.

I know what they are up to.

They can’t see or feel me just yet; they are too engrossed in their calling songs. This group of beautiful men, brown luscious men with sweat slicked skin in the humidity of the evening, down to undershirts and trousers and blue jeans, they are perfect offerings. I close my eyes, while they pause for refreshment.

Drinks in hand the men sit in a loose circle to talk.

“I don’t think this is going to work fellas. We should go to a river and do this right, build a-”

Another man cuts him off:

“Don’t even start on that again. That river is not the place to go my man. You know that. Now what are we gonna do?”

The men sit silent, brooding on the question. An older man catches my eye. His skin is so beautiful it takes me home. Smooth dark almost night blue-black skin, gleaming like a beacon, he is the one I want.

My sons, these beautiful men are like most of the others. They have lost the old traditions and ways. They have never danced at my festivals; they have no clean sweet flowing river to worship at. They have nothing of their ancestors or me. They will, as people with fragmented histories will do, they make it up as they feel fit.

The object of my desire lights a cigar, puffing smoke and not listening to what the other men say for a few moments. Fortunately for me, these men have learned what few these days seem to be able to. Among the Gods, at least us old Gods we reside where our people go. Their worship wakes us, brings us into new worlds and times though we ourselves are timeless.

They have settled on a new strategy though their original plan was working quite well. I am here and listening, ready to grace them with a visitation. They have put out their cigarettes, finished their drinks and stand up together in the center of the room. I watch from above and around them, curious as to what song they might sing. One of the men, a young one fresh into manhood clears his throat and hums a few notes.

They began to sing:

“When Moses was in Egypt land…”

This singing fills me, I want to weep and embrace them. The young one’s sweet clear tenor rises on the verse, soaring so beautifully I cannot help but move through the room and consequently through them.

The men start to feel my presence and their bodies sway as they sing, their dark faces are turned up and contorted with divine ecstasy. The older one who’d caught my attention earlier, at the third round of the chorus he raises his hands his baritone voice booming in the circle of power the men have created.

He is beautiful as fine polished ebony, his eyes closed his wide mouth stretched and magnificent, his voice transcends all. In his voice is the rumble of thunder from my long ago homeland:

“Let my people go.”

He intones these words so fiercely if I were another god I would devour him, take him into myself so that I would not go another moment without this sacred wonder.

As the other men rejoin him on the verse, I move around him wrap myself like cool water against his skin and whisper in his ear as they move to the end of the song.

“Thank you my son, you and yours are blessed.”

Inside the music, each man feels the weight of my words spoken through the lips of this beautiful man; he is my voice for this moment in this world. I look at them through his eyes. I love them.

“My sons you are beloved and I am with you always.”

I exit my beauty and each man in turn stops singing and falls to his knees, together they intone:

“O san rere o…We sing your praise, Ashe-O.”

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