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1st Movement
       cast your vision, young hoodoo, as far as you can see
       determine the challenges the tribe will face
       prepare the tribal soul to meet them

am Flowers of the Delta Clan Flowers and the Line of O. Killens. Ima Hoodoo Lord of the Delta and power is what I do. Attend me, Lord Legba. It is I, RickydocTrickmaster, would tell the tale of a people, a prophet, a way. In the name of the Conqueror let this work be done.
       I am known by many names. In the Delta I am known by the horses I choose. The Delta has always been fertile ground and it is altogether fitting that in Memphis a conjuror awaits on the bank of Oshuns oldest water. As yet he defies me. I regret what must be done. It is not easy. To be the Horse of the Conqueror.
       First you must be broken.
       Old boy dont break easy. Bearded dread and built to take punishment, a redeye bluegum twohead man what live in a frugal manner in a little house perched on stilts in a riverside park by the Mississippi.
       Oldschool park, more woods than park, I man often seen walking through the underbrush and the cramped little streets of the colored community that sprawl along the river there. Riverside its called and inordinately proud of its local conjureman. Feel like he give them a flavor not too many neighborhoods can claim.
       Live out there in the woods like a wildman, the Queen Mother tell visitors from neighborhoods with fewer blessings. Classic neighborhood busybody what live at the mouth of the park in a little gingerbread house next to the Riverside Baptist Church; warm months you see her on her front porch, watching over the neighborhood and that bridge connect the park to the city, the one cross the expressway leading downtown.
       I see him most every day, she say. Since he come home from the war, she say. No baby no, Vietnam, she say. Grew up over on Fay Street, Corinna Conquers firstborn. Come back whole to the eye but he move out there into that park and he been there ever since. The more gullible folk round here tell you he been there since the Civil War, but you know how that is, some folk believe what they want to believe. You want to know the truth, you come see me. Truly, she say, nodding just so. Look, baby, see, that light there between the trees, thats where the High Hoodoo stay. In a house on stilts. So he can see.

2nd Movement

listen, o ye firstborn, to the geas of rickydoc, and I will give you a
mission greater than your adversity, I will give you a destiny

Somebody killing hoodoos. All over Memphis, hoodoos coming up dead.
       Margarite run her finger around the edge of her glass and lick at the salt. Two of them in a week, she say.
       Lt. Douthet she called by everybody else. Memphis Police Dept. Soon to be captain. Ive had a schoolboy crush on her since we were about ten, I guess. Known her since I can remember, our fathers had been in practice together. Some forty, fifty years later, one wife, two husbands, many loves, we still claim besties, more or less.
       Been doing this margarita run for a couple of decades now, just one, chips, salsa, conversation. Our respective doctors probably wouldnt approve but some things are sacred, dont you think, specially when it include murder most foul. So we sitting there in Mollys and Im bracing myself. Its gon be awkward. May not know everything, like some folk claim, but I know this gon be awkward.
       Jubilation T. Conquer. Thats me. Most folk call me Jubal, some call me Jubilation. Some folk call me Dr. Conquer, some flat out call me the Conqueror. Then there some call me the High Hoodoo, the High Hoodoo of Memphis, but those in the know, know that aint so. The High Hoodoo a hidden hoodoo, live over there in the park somewhere, like some kind of urban legend. What I am is the Finder of Lost Things. Closest thing Memphis has to a hoodoo detective. You name it, its lost, I will find it. Ive helped the police find things before. Money, papers, bodies, felons, reputations, things like that.
       Three, I tell her. Old Man Rivers wasnt as well known, but for those in the know, he was one of the best.
       I brace myself. She doesnt like it when I know more about her crime sprees than she does. But what does she expect. Somebody come to my town and start killing off hoodoos, Ima take it personal.
       She give me the look. One of many she has perfected over the years. When did you plan to tell me, she ask.
       When I had something for you, I tell her. Honestly, I say, honestly. I only put it together yesterday. Yesterday Im thinking there is a pattern here. Next thing I know you call.
       Old Man Rivers had been poisoned Monday. His own blend of Cudjoes Freedom, named after Loyal Cudjoe, who was told back in 1842 that he would be freed upon his masters death. Tuesday Mama Joy shot. Nine times in the heart. Nine. Hoodoo Prime. Nine. Wednesday, Papa Nod, hit and run. A hearse. A fucking hearse. Somebody playing games.
       Old Man Rivers I took personal. Homeless hoodoo, just as harmless as he could be. Played his little out-of-tune guitar for the tourist types on Beale. Never made much money doing it that I could see, but I guess it was enough. Beale Streeters had adopted him, natives and tourists, cops and hoodlums, players and civilians, everybody dug Old Man Rivers, fed him, clothe him, old boy living off the fat of the land. Every time I see him he call himself giving me advice, some of which was actually useful. Cant imagine anybody want to do him harm. Others either, for that matter.
       Margarite brought out a file and threw it on the table. I went thru it. Margarite prefer I not officially be on the case. She prefer I not come to the office unless necessary. They like my batting average but they dont think much of my procedures. I knew she knew when she ask for a table. Otherwise we would have sat at the bar. But the bar is not private. Everybody there would have had an uninformed opinion to offer.
       The file is sparse. Details, bodies, witnesses. Not a lot to go on and nothing about Old Man Rivers. Still early but I know they have more than this. I will get Shine to access their case files. MPD not as digital as they should be, which make it difficult sometime to track them, difficult but not impossible.
       For the moment I will work with what they give me. I note the names and addresses of the witnesses, such as they are, more like commentators than witnesses. I spiritvision the crime scene shots to see if maybe I see something the police techs hadnt, but those dead bodies fucking with my head. My friends, my colleagues. I take a couple of photos with my cell phone. She act like she dont see.
       I can tell without looking she still irritated. What else is new. Pretty much any time of day she irritated. I take what notes I need and hand the files back to her. Told her Im on it. Most often she have to push me, get me to focus. This time no problem. This time its personal.
       Anything else I need to know, I ask her.
       You tell me, she snap, you supposed to be the bigtime hoodooman in this town.
       I dont respond in kind. She stressed, Im stressed, everybody stressed. She leave money for her drink and say she got to go but then she hesitate. You should be careful, she say. I know where this is going but its like her way of apologizing, I let it play out.
       Its all highs, she say, no bushwizards, no wannabes, all high hoodoos. Not that many of you, she say, sooner or later, whoever killing them will get around to you.
       I nod cool like Oscar Brown say do, like that don’t faze me, you know. But soon as she leave I pull out my cell phone with the quickness. Papa Joe wasnt home, I leave a message for him to call me, defcon2. Dont want to leave it on his phone, best I talk to him personal. Papa Joe one of those folk live out there cross from Voodoo Village.
       Even I dont know whats going on out there in that compound behind that gate, what with all those folk art sculptures, all those crosses, Xs, and masonic such and such. My mama knew ole boy Walsh Harris, say he was a regular fellow once upon a time, work for the post office, she say, but once they got up there in that compound they shut out the world and withdrew from the human condition. That how my mama called it, withdrew from the human condition, I think about that sometime. Im not quite sure what she meant. Wish I could still ask her.
       What I do know its the folk around them that pull guard duty, that call down spirits start whistling at you if you drive up in there wrong, whistling you not welcome here. They not the kind of folk you want to rile up unnecessarily. Best I catch Papa Joe when I catch him.
       Wanganegresse pick up but she in the midst of canvasing for Obamas reelection. Told her call me as soon as you can, somebody killing hoodoos. I name the dead.
       She pick up the significations right away. Ask me if I had called the others. Then she call a Gathering of the Hand. Tomorrow, she say, the Hole in the Wall. I agree. She say she will call me back soon as she thru gathering souls for Obama.
       I caught up with the Dancer and she say she will be there. Say she will tell Ma Grace. I tell her, no, bring Ma with you. Otherwise Ma Grace, she might be there, she might not. Ma Grace closest thing I know to a hoodoo queen, but she prickly. Very prickly.
       Last time I spoke to her she jack me up. Said I tell too many secrets. Say the bushwizards, they just want to do the hoodoo they have read about. Problem is, by the time somebody has written it down, weve moved on. Not our job, she say, to keep them schooled.
       Unfortunately, I think it is. Cant have them running around doing slaverytime hoodoo and calling it power. But Ma Grace you got to deal with her real gingerlike. Better the Dancer than me. I call Papa Joe back and tell his machine whats what.
       Blind Mary I dont have a number for. Blind Mary off the grid. Thats the way she roll. She say she the grid. I go to her spot on Beale, little hole-in-the-wall hoodoo shop across from Handy Park. She claim that statue of Baba Handy holding his horn got power like nothing she know and thats why she set up there, she say. Make her readings more powerful to know Baba Handy watching over her, she say. Help her see, she say.
       But her place not open, no surprise, its just midday and Beale lying in wait for sundown, when the neon rise. I like new Beale, not as much as old Beale, but it will do. The old Beale Ave was a big playground when I was growing up. By night it was a redlight district, haunted by the blues. By day it was the heart of professional Black Memphis, my father had his office there, my godfather, Ike Watson, did too. It was Ike took me, eleven, twelve, something like that, to Tri State Bank to open my first bank account. I sit there with Brer Handy and consider my next move.
       I check my watch, kinda late to be running down witnesses. Im tired, like Im weary in my bones, Im going home. Last house on Riverside, or first, depending on your perspective, right up on Parkway. I sit on the porch for a moment, contemplating the ways of the universe and stroking a purring Serenity while watching Riverside Park go dark. Martin Luther King Park its officially called, but folk in the neighborhood call it Rickydocs Roost, haunt of the High Hoodoo.
       Just another playground when I was growing up, more woods than park, blackfolk werent allowed then, the golf course, the clubhouse, the archery range, the rotunda on the river thats still there if you know where to look.
       Might be blackfolk werent allowed but how you gon police the woods from kids grew up alongside it. Whitefolk had the fixed-up areas, the rest belonged to us, and when I see it I see it the way it was, before the subdivisions and the expressway cut it up. Oshuns Porch. Our gateway to the river. Entering it had been like crossing over into another dimension. I dont know about multiverses but I do know dimensions.
       I notice a broken bottle on my frontyard bottletree. When I first put it up, the neighborhood kids would chunk rocks at it. Now they leave it alone. Over time they have come to understand. Now their children understand. Must be four, five bottletrees on this block alone. Storm wind only thing break bottles now, when Oya feel, for some reason, she need to pull my coat.
       It was my father built the first bottletree I recall. First bottletree in Memphis far as I know. Folk remember him as the eminent Dr. Conquer, but he had started out as a country doctor making housecalls on farms in Arkansas, produce payments in the back of that Valiant station wagon.
       I recall when he was dying and young doctors on the hospital staff come to his room, he damn near comatose, they tell him the tests say this, this, and this, doc, what should we do next you think, and I remember all these folk from across the bridge in their country finery, sprinkling him with holywater, chanting and such, talking about how he was a full-service doctor.
       Apparently referring to his willingness to use folk remedy when called for. I guess. Cant imagine him going no deeper than that. South Memphis joke: Half the babies born in South Memphis still belong to Doctor Conquer, because they havent been paid for.
       Call myself walking in his footsteps. He took care of their bodies, I take care of their souls.
       Took me with him the evening he planted bottletrees all four corners, and if he believed they keep evil at bay, so do I. Most folk hear hoodoo they thinking slaverytime hoodoo, folk magic hoodoo, spells, hells, and blackcat bones hoodoo. About one hundred years out-of-date hoodoo. Cutting edge of hoodoo long since moved into high magic: making real into the world that which was not. Awaken the sleeper, protect the weak, guide the strong.
       As you probably know, bottletrees are Congo theology, keep evil spirits off your property, out of your life. They get distracted by the sun glinting off that colored glass, get caught up in those bottles. Wind just so and you hear them ask to be let free into the world.
       Oldschool yes, but some oldschool worth keeping.Im replacing the broken bottle when I notice another one broken.What the fuck. Then I notice the wind has gone still on me, the earth bracing itself, another storm out of the Gulf, big one. Probably cost me another bottle but I dont mind Oya taking her due. Bottles replaced and still some light, Im antsy, I decide to walk to Blind Marys. She live on the other side of Riverside Drive. I anchor one side, she anchor the other. I decide walkabout clear my head.
       First thing I see, no wash on Frankie Lees line. Sundried mean she good. Grief mean the drier, mean Johnnyboy on the prowl, mean she dont feel like being bothered. This is not a good sign.
       On the corner of Person, where the bridge cross the expressway downtown and connect the park with the city, I see the elders of Memphis gathering on the porch of the Queen Mother and this reassure me somewhat. The well-regulated neighborhood is not one thats free of stress, but one that is . . . well . . . regulated. I wave in passing but Queen Mother Miriam bestow a blessing upon me and I wonder why she think thats necessary.
       Generally walkabout compose me, but this evening Im unsettled. Things that generally ease me—folk sitting on their porches, nodding good evening, the warm light of shaded windows—today they dont do me.
       I pass Outer Parkway and its like a ghosttown and I remember it pre-integration, a vibrant commercial strip. Generally Im in a magical state of mind, but today I see the hood for what it really is. No mythic space, no folkloric holyground. Just a tired little innercity neighborhood, modest little houses and barebones yards, little streetcorner businesses and ghosttown streets upon which I sense a gathering of restless haints and I believe maybe thats what the Queen Mother was trying to tell me. The boys of Fort Pillow are stirring.
       That generally mean war of some sort. But I dont feel like war. I try to turn away but the premonition is fed by the arrival of Ida B. and the once familiar sensation of the Conqueror coming down on me. I feel power nestling, but all around me I got folk struggling to make it, hitting straight licks with their crooked little sticks, this brutal grind of stunted potential we call black life in America. What right have I to disrupt such fragile little lives.
       It was Zora Neale claim the Conqueror was a slaverytime hoodooman helped blackfolk escape by tricking ol Massa. It was Zora Neale say when the slaves was free, the spirit of the Conqueror withdraw into the conquer root, prepared to return whenever blackfolk in need. Thats what Zora Neale say.
       Ask her yourself if you dont believe me.
       In my youth I was a sorcerer. By God I was a man of power. Plan then was to forge blackfolk into a conquering horde and fling them into battle. Everybody in the world was just pieces on the Board.
       One day my mentor, BabajohnKillens, the great griot master of Brooklyn, pull me aside and he say, Young Jubilation, you a brilliant force. But with a little compassion you could be profound.
       All I heard was brilliant. That was before cocaine and heartbreak disabuse me of any notion of power. Before reality buke, buse, and scorn me. Drove me back to the Delta with my tail tucked firmly between my legs. Now Im just a finder of lost things and the only thing certain is that depending on me is not a good strategy. For anybody.You, them, anybody fool enough to believe in me.
       Who am I to think I could found a Way.
       By the time I get to Blind Marys, Im alert, my spiritvision is on, Im battleformationed. I notice immediately that her door is not fully closed. That dont strike me correct. Not Blind Mary. Her little shotgun house look skull empty.
       On the porch I call out to her, but she dont answer. I push the door in. Just as cautious as I can be. She sitting there in her sitting chair, TV on, Michael Duncan in a jail cell being magical. Look like she watching but she stone-cold dead. Reason still coiled in her lap. Water moccasin, viper, something, I dont know my snakes, but I do recognize when the damn thing lift up and look me in the eye.
       Vibrant in life, in snakebit death Blind Mary a washed-out still life. I back away without disturbing the snake. Wasnt like I was no Marie Laveau. I call the police, and an ambulance, just in case, but I know dead when I see dead. I sit on the front porch to wait. Far end, eye on the door, just in case.
       Blind Mary and I werent close. We were colleagues, traded little rituals of respect whenever we crossed paths, but I dont know her like I know, for instance, Wanganegresse or Papa Joe. That dont mean I dont like her. Im a hermit by nature and profession. I dont get close to nobody.
       But Blind Mary I liked. Blind Mary I respected. She was seventy-four years old and still getting around, still sharp, still doing her hoodoo thing. She had been the salt of the hoodoo earth and whoever killed her was going to have to answer to me.
       I am the Conqueror.
       You need me, you call me. I will come.

© Arthur Flowers 2015
This electronic version of “There Is No Rest” appears in The Barcelona Review with kind permission of the publisher and the author. It appears in the anthology Memphis Noir edited by Laureen P. Cantwell and Leonard Gill, published by Akashic Books (, 2015. Book ordering available through and

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Author Bio
Art FlowersArthur Flowers is the author of several books, including Another Good Loving Blues, Mojo Rising: Confessions of a 21st Century Conjureman, and I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King Jr. He is a Delta-based performance poet, webmaster of Rootsblog, and has been executive director of various nonprofits, including the Harlem Writers Guild. He currently teaches fiction in Syracuse University’s MFA in the creative writing program.