New Orleans

Dear America:

The day after Katrina passed by New Orleans
and the reporters at the Royal Sonesta Hotel
on Bourbon Street,
in the goddamn sacred French Quarter,
were saying “New Orleans has been spared”
I knew it would come to this.

The day I heard the levees at the river and the lake
had been breeched, leaving New Orleans East
and the Ninth Ward
underwater,
I knew there would a Convention Center horrowshow,
the elderly and infirm,
the HIV-positive
and countless streams of self-medicated
mentally disturbed
wading through miles of toxic shit
and the garbage from under the streets
of the Quarter.

I knew it would become a race issue
for people outside New Orleans.
People who don’t know what it’s like
to live in a mixed white black neighborhood
that is also middle class.

People who aren’t privileged to understand,
just by driving down three blocks on St. Bernard Avenue, say,
that there are only four kinds of people in this world:
rich people,
poor people,
people pretending to be rich
and people pretending not to be poor.

In other words:
the haves,
the have-nots,
and the have-credits.

What good is sending people back to Covington,
to Metairie, to Harahan … to the freaking CBD?

Without the Ninth Ward, without the poverty that
birthed jazz, without those
underprivileged, undereducated, underemployed,
underwater souls
who would care about the City that Care Forgot?

The great boot of Louisiana is now a dirty sock.
With its great expanse of money-making Democratic blue
washed out
and only the tired elastic red left at the top.

I’m tired. And I’ve lost my home.

And Mayor Nagin,
nothing you can do can bring it back.
‘Cause unless it’s exactly the same,
it won’t be New Orleans.

26 SEP 2005

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