Monthly Archives: September 2005

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
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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After the Flood

The things by which we measure our success:
accumulations from long years of toil,
the pride of equity in an address,
and our precious illusions. How soon spoiled,

in just a moment’s passing, are these goods,
respectability’s crush torn away.
All the great faiths instruct us that we should
in times like these find hope and not dismay,

unloosed from the material that binds
our spirits to mere temporality;
and praise the soul that in such trial finds
a hidden good to salve its sanity.

It’s only stuff, I know; and furthermore,
in recent months I’ve despaired that its weight
has been a millstone lain beneath the floor
that’s kept our fate in chains. But as of late,

I wonder: is it better the veneer
on these rough boards of ours has been removed,
and now, left plain and simple, our path clear,
are we left with a simpler truth to prove?

I am no refugee, except to those
who measure by possessions a man’s worth,
and would put beggar’s hearts in rich men’s clothes
expecting gold from toxic, poisoned earth.

I have all that I need: the rest is dross
that over time accumulates again;
What good is sorrow spent on such a loss,
or worry over endless might-have-beens?

21 SEP 2005

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