(Ghost of the Quarter)
The gutterline across Lafitte’s is strung
with plastic banners for the Mardi Gras—
the colors of the King Cake, purple hung
by gold and green—the quintessential trois
couleurs. It’s bunting for the old parade
on Bourbon and St. Philip in the Quarter.
Tip the Pleasure Club for Social Aid,
we’re leaning into the shadow, bricks and mortar,
where on the jukebox, Richard Manuel
complains about the sorry shape he’s in.
That rumble in the alley. What the hell—
it’s save your neck or save your brother’s skin
and call a number for the second line.
Let’s say we resurrect Evangeline.
(Roll and Walk)
I met some solid Catholics at St. Ray’s
on Friday morning. In from Washington
(the State), they drove me to a yellow shotgun
out in St. Bernard’s (the Parish). Days
and days (a year or three) of work and real prayer
got this palace studded-up for walls,
and so we screwed the gypsum down the halls—
your typical two-family with a wheelchair.
At lunch, a guy called Tom who didn’t talk
a lot began to juggle hammers, not
that he was any good. A nervous tic.
a little extra energy. It got
the neighborhood’s attention. Roll and walk,
your harder kids looked sideways at this trick.
I lose the echo of accordion
amidst the vials of absinthe on the bar,
the spyboy calls and lamplight denouement…
“Prepare yourself for Krewe Endymion!”
(or Continental Airlines in the morning)
…and focus on an antique silver bowl,
the cubes that burn, suspended, to the toll
of spoon on glass. Their bluish glow a warning,
now they flare and melt into a liquor
green, a scene insidiously steeped
in Degasesque demise. L’enfer, despair,
temptation. Like the wisp of flame that leaped
through blackness to the match at my cigar
expiring as I cross to Frenchman Square.