Magic Medicine Show
—poetry by Dr. Emory D. Jones

I. Snake Oil

A sandwich- man parades Main Street, drums crowd.
Snake oil smacks sideshow—
bottled Quetzalcoatl, Feathered Freak, Serpent Savior.
All beg elixir without hesitation, wanting show—
Unscaled eyes rhythmic sway, bird-trance, caught;
one body, one mind, one soul.
“Snake oil, good for what ails you.”

II. Water Witch

Water welled from below then—
prenatal mist bathed all in benediction.
Water broke, Great Ganga’s birth coiled upward.
Earth gave for her progeny—
Indus Euphrates, Volga, Danube, Thames,
Nile, Congo, Amazon, Mississippi.
Plants press hungry mouths against Great Mother’s breast,
sucking sustenance.
“And so it is that I, with green willow wand,
search source.”

III. Rain Maker

“The first time, forty days and forty nights—
a rain maker’s dream.
Since then, we’ve tried to match the Master.
Puddle makers—
not one gully washer among us.

IV. Conjure Woman

Look into the fire, chile.
See ole Sidewinder Sam, the snake oil man?
He speak so smooth
you’d think he had cotton in his mouth.
Are those diamonds on his velvet back?
Green wood don’t burn so good—
Too full of Mother’s milk to give off vision.”

V. Faith Healer

Tattered tent, sagging, 
burdened by moonbeams.
“Snake-eyes, brother? Crapped out? Caught?
Put your hand in the box.
Pandora had no finer.
Mind now, don’t tremble so;
They picks up vibrations—stirs them up.
Faith, brother faith!
What do you mean do I cure bruised heels?

VI. Snake Oil

Antediluvian sloughs are the best source.
Bathed in reptilian ooze,
they coil in brazen loops up Moses staff.
Bruised head subdues them.
Fangs over rim,
venom flows pure as sap
from slashed milk weed—
“Snake oil, good for what ails you.”


Dr. Emory D. Jones is an English teacher who has taught in Cherokee Vocational High School in Cherokee, Alabama, for one year, Northeast Alabama State Junior College for four years, Snead State Junior College in Alabama for two years, and Northeast Mississippi Community College for thirty-five years.  He joined the Mississippi Poetry Society, Inc. in 1981 and has served as President of this society.  He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by this society in 2015.  He won Poet of the Year in the Mississippi Poetry Society in 2002 and again in 2016. He has over two hundred and thirty-five publishing credits.