A Week In New Orleans

It starts with a twenty four mile bridge stretched across a lake,
reaching its long arm out from clustered buildings at daybreak.
From the plane it shrinks into the horizon, as if trying to get away,
afterwards I try to think of a reason it wouldn’t want to stay,
to stay in New Orleans, city on the river, the snaking Mississippi,
The Big Easy, and as I land it seems eager to embrace me,
or consume a traveller then chew them up and spit them out.
It’s my first venture outside of Georgia, and I’m wracked with doubt.

I needn’t worry about The Crescent City though once submerged,
because I was dry, depleted and dazzled when I eventually emerged.
Sporting sunburn still, greasy hair and somehow not quite sober
just exhausted, thinking back on it all once the week was over.
More memories of a city in constant bloom, life in a million shades
which only added more with enthusiasm as the daylight fades,
illuminating itself with chain lights strung from pillared trees;
I watch them from a bar, telling a Korean about The Maccabees.

Saint Patrick’s day brought with it a party on Magazine Street,
where I’d danced a jig, badly, with a glowing giant from Crete.
The two of us towered over all, two peas awash in a green sea,
rippling to the music, drinking PBR until it became difficult to see.
The Americans run their painted fingers through my copper hair
in hopes of finding good luck nestled like newborn birds there.
Being quarter-Irish gets me a few free drinks and frequent bear hugs,
before we trade stories about where we’ve been, cradling our jugs.

There’s flavourless food dye mixed into my clover-coloured drink;
around me there’s drink mixing in those clumsily perched on the brink.
Old Irish enjoyment, cheering at buses, picking beads up from the floor
I kept a single chain afterwards and now it’s hanging from my door.
I arise the next day, still drunk after a sleepless night in a hostel bed,
‘Whiskey In The Jar’ still humming on repeat inside my hanging head.
It’s replaced later by the hum of vibrant jazz rising from every corner,
every bar and every porch from the Garden District to the French Quarter.

The city is singing sweetly, constantly, refusing to sleep for a minute,
it’s a living, breathing, hive of activity, with myself lost inside of it.
The only quiet areas are the several cemeteries, silence blanketing
All-expansive and daunting, chilling reminders for the lavishly living.
Then it’s Wednesday, and I walk in awe at sundown along the levee,
where I see strident skyscrapers rising from the bank across from me.
They’re huge, like pointed fingers extending from a palm, with a view
on homes which went underwater, leaving ill-fated families to start anew.

Earlier that day I’d passed like a ghost through one of many museums,
and was stunned into silence watching videos, flicking through albums.
Spectacles of so much destruction, so much death, so many left to mourn,
as the transience of their lives was captured in bold by an oncoming storm.
So close, so sudden, like the approaching sound of a streetcar rumble,
only when the doors open water rushes out, turning homes into rubble.
It becomes difficult to visualise, too easy to forget it had happened there
when I’m walking the streets at ten, ten years after a natural disaster.

I pass over that barrier bridge again as I’m going back to Georgia
but this time the river appears as a darker expanse of water
I wonder if it’s waiting, a bear hibernating, a sleeping beast
and the thought continues to haunt me as I head further east.
But those streets now splay life onto a concrete canvas, sometimes spew
depending on what you’re seeing and where you’re passing through.
But I see only good times and feel it still coursing through my veins,
introduced by friends to friendly locals, then forgetting their names.

I’m infected by the starry city’s lifeblood, drunk on its atmosphere,
trading soft smiles with fellow tourists while sat sipping my beer.
Even sudden thunderstorms don’t dampen my spirits, and nor do I care
when a homeless man tricks me into a shoeshine in Jackson Square.
Sometimes I catch the scent of the city still and images flash before me,
lingering in the air when passing alongside a pizza place or district deli.
Many memories of cheap slices on Bourbon Street burning my nostrils;
the taste of beignets drenched by scolding coffee passing my tonsils.

Columbus, March 2016


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