Thanksgiving in New Orleans, 2005 from Issue 86
Along the neutral grounds, nothing but dry palms and stunted shrubs, all of them
rooted in misery, toxic powder on the leaves, kicked up when the cars go
past, and the trucks–the gutsprung Buick of looters, the Hummers crammed
with men in camouflage, rattle of guns and canteens.
Gray dust rising from this ghost of a city, and outposts of the saved afraid to walk
out after dark, beyond the failed frailty of light. Rush of wind through the
avenues like the sound of water sucking at the walls.
No scritter of squirrels on the roof. And here and there, no roof. Freezers by the
curb, tight straps around them, to keep in the maggots and the rotted meat.
Stuck on the dead lawn, on the hydrants, on the bark of live oak, photos
from the family album, wherever they floated free.
It’s too late for another visit from the president, floodlit in Jackson Square. The air’s
clear now of helicopters and sailors dangling in the backwash. At the yacht club,
an orgy of boat upon boat, masts in the portholes, anchor up the Evinrude.
Pelicans squat on the cracked hulls.
In the Quarter, the girls grind out an extra buck from the rescue teams, and the cooks at
Galatoire’s spike a dozen oysters en brochette. Hurricanes slosh down the
streets, go-cups sticky and cool, cheap beads noosed around the balconies.
Through the windows of the Garden District, you can see the occasional table laid for a
feast, turkey and dirty rice and yams in a casserole, decanters of wine beside the
silver candlesticks. And within, you can hear the grace before gravy, dubious
prayers that drift on the bone china like spores.
O my city of drowned dreams, even the overflowing lake can’t break you. At a club
where the levee held, near the bend of the river, someone’s stirring an old piano,
and not just the black keys, until the night gets up on its tired feet and dances as
it used to, back in the sultry times, before the waters poured in high enough to
swamp the houses and douse the stars.
Report From The Select Committee On The Identification Of Angels from Issue 84
It’s the joint hackled at the back
You should look for, a sure sign
Of angels like a roost of broody hens,
And that weird walk they have—
John Wayne with an egg up his butt.
No wonder the air is their element,
Even on those clumsy wings, with legs
Trailing like two stalks of celery
Softened for weeks in a kitchen bin. And listen
For that high-pitched voice, a boy soprano
Or tenor without nuts, not quite a comic opera
But close enough to give you fits.
And those messages they bring—Jesus,
Who would believe them! You can tell one
Just by the crazy sayings, the alien tips:
Get out of town before the whole place blows
To salt and ashes! Or even less welcome:
Forget about sex: the baby’s in the bucket now.
You’ll need this chart to pick
The Powers from the Seraphim or any rank
Within the nine orders from above—
The highest have the most muscles,
The best pecs, and something at the bottom
Like vestigial feet. And gowns go
In and out of fashion, this year
The Julius Caesar look, last year the mini,
A retrodress that does no favors for
Their bony knees. And haloes don’t count;
Haloes are optional, like hats at a wedding.
And hair’s a personal matter, each angel
In its own locks, from spit curls to butch,
And redheads with a full Rhonda Fleming.
Still, whatever the problem of matching up
A single sighting to a prototype,
It can’t compare to nailing down
The name of every hellion: demons come
In infinite forms and more, though sometimes
Only as a scent in the rough dark,
Or a glow that glides
Like blood floating over gold, just enough
To make you cross yourself and stare.
Hard as it is to pin a tail on
Any devil you may meet, you should know that
Solemn promises of life beyond the grave
Are a dead giveaway.