Man - when I worked with the old black men in the mailroom
they used to say
"Where are we at James, and whatyou eating?"
and I would articulate New Orleans,
say poor boy in my midwestern flat speak
and they would laugh at me,
make me say it right
Every weekday mornng I would wake up to the mockingbird out my window,
and take the St. Charles streetcar into work.
Sundays I would go down to the corner of Decatur and Frenchman
and buy some crawdads and boiled potatos and a beer
some guy would make it in a big pot on the street corner
and go sit on the levee,
eating my meal
sucking the last bit of good
crawfish out of the head.
I'd hang there with a friend, an old man who lived in California
who came back to try to get the papers
for his mother's house,
that had fallen into possession
of some crooked lawyer
he would be fishing
while waiting for the wheels of justice to turn his way
we would watch the ships slide around Algiers point
in the big strong muddy
almost out of control except for the skills of the pilot.
Man I went to some of the wildest parties there
where two bars would be having bands and on a hot saturday night
the bands would just get tired of playing inside
and would walk out on the street
and the whole street would be full of people
drinking and smoking and shaking it
It would look like a wild musical
second line brass band backstreet
riot had broken out
and the cops wouldn't do shit
this would go on way past midnight
Just thinking bout New Orleans
man what I would give for an oyster poboy right now from
Seeing Coco Robecheux play in a sweaty room. Pealing paint on old wooden walls, oak trees, and termites swarming around the street lamps at night. Suits, gutter punks, and stone drunks: waitresses in their thirties with wrinkles round their eyes, some good used book stores. a coffee house or two, and the pastel colors of the thick air at dusk.
An old man,
dressed for church,
stooped over with hunchback, ,
walking on St Charles outside of the Woolworth’s,
where I cash my checks
sings a little gospel riff,
over and over.
Going into the salvation army store, trying to buy a suit, while a lanky, long limbed man in a black suit is in the back playing ragtime on a broken down piano
it's like New Orleans was sleeping,
dreaming itself into existence.
At the Hummingbird cafe,
if you went in and sat
at the counter
with a tape recorder,
you could write a play a night,
all the stories and the talkin.
They all know this
one of em told me it
but nobody does it
You know, after a hot summer day
sometimes it gets really quiet for a bit
the buildings are glowing in this backit murder
twilight and the thick air is so still
that you can almost hear Buddy Bolden playing his trumpet
for the paddlewheelers that came in
they say you could hear him all the way to the fairgrounds
his tone so clear and strong
before he went mad
makes me wonder, what shit did he see go down that sent him upriver to the asylum?
But here, now
I can hear the gospel bands singing at the fairgrounds at jazz fest
I'd be eating gumbo with andouille sausage, pheasant and quail
eating in these hot flavours and the music going on
and the chorus would be singing
and the preacher would be preaching
and we are all swaying back and forth and
I would feel like I could be saved.