new orleans, French maiden and madam
i am mesmerized by your lethargic pace.
geriatric streetcars straggle the rails
and tatters hymns of southern lace
only to whisper to themselves over brick avenues.
i wake, at different times,
to find this all
deaf and dumb and maybe damning,
artifacts in the river of years,
victim to an urban renewal of a spirit.
wrought iron rusting, the delta steaming,
the senility of slave smiles launching away in the past,
we sit in the autumn of the century
considering juleps that were.
and by the hooting echoing dawn
browsing the whitewashed cemeteries,
your lips tasted marblesque,
strong as market coffee.
the ambivalence of shopworn lives
sheds in the high and mighty creole noon,
when the all of us are uncovered of ourselves
and the mardi gras mask.
the only prayer in an absinthe haze
is that the fog never lifts entirely.
much the same as riverboats that to and fro
we straggle on, rising like a new race out of the South,
in scents of wisteria from a jasmine past,
plodding along a course that asks
an end to all the short-lived dreams
rising from the dust.
Outside Pigeon Forge, the highway mists
In dying dusk.
My hands and eyes aching, I pull to the side
To rest, and if not,
Then to dream this all again, in sequence.
Walking through the underbrush,
Smoky Mountain air begs me to enter the past.
In my jacket I carry arrowheads,
Ones you left.
You left them, not for me, just left them.
A person leaves hints of what he was.
Arrowheads, cool and sharp, are all I have of you.
I must have been clouds, then, when you lived.
Dressed in flannels, you were geiger-counting the hills,
To take Tennessee if you could,
As it has always been in family memory.
Your journeys were holy travels, personal crusades.
Brother in time, we are tantamount to seasons
Of unbroken circles.
It all depends where and how time places itself.
Grandfather, I never even met you.
Time is dead but for the living,
So hot to annihilate time
And get to know ourselves outside the concept
As for you, old man, this vision will last,
Flickering in photographic haze.
Do you know, no matter how I hold my head,
Mine is still a neanderthal walk,
Clutching these arrowheads in Tennessee?