A Drop in the Bucket

His Holiness came
to visit the Big Easy:
a mixed race culture.

He spoke to thousands:
they lined up for hours to hear
his message of peace.

His smiling face shone
on all those who assembled;
what great energy!

Practice compassion,
be kind and giving to all:
we are all the same.

After it was done,
the throng of rich, white faces
sought the French Quarter.

While poor, black people
(still the large part of New Orleans)
went about their day.

Five hundred thousand:
the dollars raised for this trip.
That’s a chunk of change.

20 MAY 2013

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No point in calling it

No point in calling it a cryin’ shame
Suffering in darkness for want of a flame
New boss or old boss, pretty much the same
Only thing different is a brand new name

No point in wallowing in might have beens
Pretending enemies are long lost friends
One signal receives, and the other sends
The means still leave their mark on how it ends

Float me down river, on to New Orleans
Fix me a plate of dirty rice and beans
What water doesn’t wash away, it cleans
How it works out in the end depends upon the means

27 DEC 2006

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Isn’t That Something?

Haunted by a hurricane that made it clear
who does and doesn’t matter;
you learn to keep your mouth shut, though the beer you’re drinking
tastes like muddy water;
You’re told just pretend that nothing’s changed
because illusions tend to shatter;
don’t make a clatter.
Suffer in silence.

Listening to a government that makes it plain
it has no truth worth telling;
You learn there’s not much difference whether it’s the left or right
that does the yelling.
You’re told to play along, to keep us strong,
’cause that’s the only dream worth selling;
No shadows need dispelling.
Believe the nonsense.

Reading about hate that doesn’t sleep, but seems to spring
from out of nowhere;
you learn to figure out who makes the rules, but says
they aren’t obliged to play fair;
You’re told your side is right, the side of might, thanks to a blessing
that you won’t share;
Nobody wins, but who cares?
You look good dying.

Watching for the stormclouds once again;
another war, another season.
you learn to test the wind, to judge the spin
and it’s end effect on reason.
You’re told to shut your mouth, that any doubt
is ample evidence of treason.
Silence is more pleasing;
there’s no point trying.

Haunted by a hurricane that made it clear
not many can be trusted;
you learn to seek the holy in the strangest places,
where the world is rusted;
You’re told, keep a low profile, watch your step,
or you might end up getting busted;
People would be disgusted.
Keep it in private.

Listening to a radio that makes it plain
it’s more than sound they’re pumping;
you learn to find your own songs, without caring
if your single isn’t jumping;
you’re told no one will listen, if it’s not the same old thing
the speaker’s thumping;
Now, isn’t that something?
Some kind of bullshit.

21 DEC 2006

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The Louisiana Post-Katrina Right Wing Blues

This used to be a quiet place northward from Baton Rouge,
a sleepy set of boroughs where no one became confused;
but now the world is changing thanks to Katrina’s deluge
and Louisiana’s really learned the blues.

It used to be there was a place to send off ne’er-do-wells,
that deserved all our outcasts who were surely bound for hell;
but now who’s right and wrong it’s getting very hard to tell
since the levees let the water come and swell …

The zipper on the Bible Belt has rusted, that’s for sure;
and the muddy water’s backed up all these troubles to our door.
Where will we send our deviants, our crazies and our poor,
since we can’t count on New Orleans anymore?

This used to be a safe place, even-keeled and quite discreet;
when someone got an urge, we sent them down to Bourbon Street.
Their systems purged by Mardi Gras, they were docile and sweet;
but no more — now decent people must retreat.

We gathered in the money from the bars and tourist trade;
now that our golden cow is gone, we really are dismayed.
And what about the music? Some of us are quite afraid
that our towns will need more places it is played …

The zipper on the Bible Belt has rusted, that’s for sure;
and the muddy water’s backed up all these troubles to our door.
Where will we send our deviants, our crazies and our poor,
since we can’t count on New Orleans anymore?

This used to be quiet place, a tidy Christian spot,
we’d send our heretics off to the place that care forgot
but now it seems our apple cart is suddenly upsot …
will Louisiana all now start to rot?

In Shreveport and Monroe, they wonder, how will they survive?
Will folks out in Coushatta have to learn how to speak jive?
How will we pay for schools, and jails, and roads in Lafayette
now that the state’s big moneymaker is all wet?

The zipper on the Bible Belt has rusted, that’s for sure;
and the muddy water’s backed up all these troubles to our door.
Where will we send our deviants, our crazies and our poor,
since we can’t count on New Orleans anymore?

P.S. … now we won’t miss the Saints, because they never were much sport,
but what about the income from the world’s third largest port?
And those artists, intellectuals and tarot-reading sorts?
We don’t want them back up here skewing our demograph reports

So what’s the best solution to this problem that we’ve found
now that the water’s pushed our trash back up to higher ground?
We’ve tried reaching the Lord but he’s not uttering a sound
and doesn’t seem to mind these heathens back in town

The zipper on the Bible Belt has rusted, that’s for sure;
and the muddy water’s backed up all these troubles to our door.
Where will we send our deviants, our crazies and our poor,
since we can’t count on New Orleans anymore?

18 JUN 2006

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Nobody Wants to Hear

I could be bitter about all this shit
or at least, start to doubt a benevolent universe;
whine on in rhyme about storm clouds and sunshine
that doesn’t come out ‘cept to drink up the water.

My angst could flower under its own power,
give me at least something to call creativity,
some kind of edifice, beautiful, more or less,
a place to lead willing lambs to the slaughter.

Nobody wants to hear you’re doing fine
Thinking your happiness is just a line
To sell them something which they are inclined
to believe could end any old time

I could be bitter, and perhaps I am;
but Goddamn, what’s the point if your grief isn’t endable?
drown in your own tears, and you die expendible
one more pathetic and troubling statistic.

The blues could cover me beneath a shadow,
give me some shade on these hot summer nights,
some of kind of protection from clear understanding,
but would my demons be more realistic?

Nobody wants to hear that you’re OK
without a care for their cares and dismay
working through your special brand of malaise
seeing both colors and grays.

I could be bitter about how things are;
find a bar serving solace and fade from the light;
sing out the changes in slow minor modes:
let my mood fill darkness around me.

My holocaust could be compared to your own;
let us groan ‘neath these chains here together,
spend our time looking for some life beyond
and pretend it’s all inclement weather.

Nobody wants to know your life is great,
instead pretending we share the same fate,
wanting to think that the reason you’re late
is the same trouble piled onto everyone’s plate.

12 JUN 2006

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The Undertow

Halfway up to Shreveport
driving to outrun the storm
I knew somehow there’d be no going back.
There was no sign yet of water
and the breeze was soft and warm
but the skyline in the rearview mirror was black.
We had a hunch that morning we should go;
thinking that we’d just be gone a day or so.

We spent all day Monday
with an eye on the TV,
watching as the worst seemed to go by.
Listening to the talking heads
outside on Bourbon Street
who kept the cameras pointed at the sky.
But when we heard the levees busted through
we didn’t need a photograph, we knew

All those years of living were a span of borrowed time,
and it really doesn’t matter which was yours and which was mine.
It don’t make no difference where you want to lay the blame
’cause the score ends up with both sides at zero
if you don’t watch the undertow.

We drove back to Natchitoches
to sleep at a hotel,
the lobby filled with countless refugees,
each one of us in limbo
under some strange kind of spell
thinking life should offer up some guarantee.
But it never really happens quite that way;
all you really ever have is just today.

And the headlines in the paper
went from bad to even worse:
seems the uglier, the more it lingered on.
With the worst part the denial
from those safe and dryly perched
that the place we thought was home was really gone.
It took a while before the truth sunk in:
that we had no choice but to begin again.

All your years of living are a span of borrowed time,
and it really doesn’t matter what is yours and which is mine.
It don’t make no difference where you want to lay the blame
’cause what’s up ends up in pieces down below
if you don’t watch the undertow.

28 APR 2006

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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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