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Christopher Woods


(for Frederick)

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.

we 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

Intrigues me.


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?

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