Tag Archives: FEMA

To Let New Orleans Die

There’s a hole in the levee where my city used to be
and there’s talk of the future in the papers, on TV
but the truth of the matter is quite obvious to see
nothing’s gonna be the way it used to be

Some still say that the water washed away some evil sin
and that God cleansed the palette so that He could start again
but the truth of the matter is not hard to comprehend:
it’s the end of our longing to pretend.

No one should ever be so poor that they should need rely
on folks that really don’t care if they live or if they die.
Whatever dream we started on has shriveled up and dried
still waiting for the haves to all decide
the cost to let New Orleans die.

There’s a hole in the levee and the money’s pouring out
into the Gulf of Mexico and points much further south
while those with lots of nothing figure what to live without
and watch the nonsense that comes from
the politicians’ mouths

Some blame the federal government while others blame the state;
still others, the Big Easy’s leaders; a few, they blame fate.
The truth, though, is quite simple: far too little, far too late,
and denying it is to prevaricate.

No one should ever be so poor that they should need rely
on folks that really don’t care if they live or if they die.
Whatever dream we started on has shriveled up and dried
still waiting for the haves to all decide
the cost to let New Orleans die.

From this, let little people take a lesson they can use.
you think we’re all together, well, just watch the evening news:
you’re out there in the undertown, and others get to choose;
remember, when the chips are down
the house will let you lose.

04 APR 2006

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Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez

Beneath the rust and the gray toxic dust
left behind when the water went down
past the edge of the Quarter’s bright lights and disorder
there’s nothing much left to this town

Maybe the Crescent City was never too pretty
for more than three blocks in a row,
but it made our lives fuller, regardless of color,
and now it’s someplace no one else can know.

You may know what it means to miss New Orleans
from a Mardi Gras record or two
but what’s gone’s gone forever; rebuilding will never
bring back Nawlins rhythm or blues.

‘Cause the heart of this city is broken in two
where the levees burst that afternoon;
and the warm welcome mat that asked “Hey, where ya’t?”
won’t be back again any time soon.

All the grand old traditions, corrupt politicians,
the trash tourists leave every year,
they’re all gone, or in trouble, buried in the rubble
that may take a lifetime to clear.

What they bring back will not be
New Orleans, not to me;
the places they’ve saved just are not
more than pretty postcards
of wrought iron and front yards:
ghosts of the town that care forgot.

08 DEC 2005

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An Assessment of the Situation

The telephone is ringing;
The assessor’s on the line.
He wants to avoid meeting us,
and asks us if that’s fine.

In essence, he wants us to lie
and say his job is done;
He’s three hours from New Orleans
and the drive in is not fun.

Of course, we need to meet him,
to settle our affairs;
some closure, so we can pretend our
mortgage holder cares.

Official now, the verdict:
what we had is wholly gone,
and if we’re lucky we may get
nothing to start upon

instead of owing thirty grand
for something we can’t use:
a toxic spot of swampland
and a use for rubber shoes.

The telephone’s stopped ringing;
all those promising some aid
are pondering our paperwork
in bureaucrat charade.

We found some friends who made it out,
like us, they’ve lost it all;
but now we’ve got each other
when there’s no one else to call.

Some said they’d help, and didn’t,
others took us by surprise;
you find out who your friends are
in such times, and realize

of course, there is some clarity
to be gained from all this:
the next time we’re on fire who we
can count on not to piss.

06 OCT 2005

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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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