Friday, September 09, 2005


Katrina and its aftermath overwhelmed me. Searching for a literary framework to hang my own feelings upon, I recalled a beautiful and terrifying poem by Archibald MacLeish, "Epistle To Be Left In The Earth". That Pulitzer Prize winner also penned a very timely quote: “We are deluged with facts but we have lost or are losing our human ability to feel them.”

I was born in this disaster area. In the neighborhood where I learned to walk, ninety per cent of the homes have been wiped out. Victor Hugo wrote in L'Homme qui rit a tragedy of someone whose face was carved into a permanent grin, who appeared to be laughing whenever he spoke. My previous work perhaps places me in a similar position. Please ignore the author and consider this piece on its own merits, with all the seriousness intended.

Epistle To Be Left In The Big Easy

... It's quit raining now
                                     there are many snakes
                                                                         we are under
FEMA's martial law
                              the eaves are dripping
The water all smells like the sewer drains
                                                                  and skyward
Red flames black fumes
                                     vultures fly
Low seeking carrion
                                 the cats are stranded.
Rats full from corpses now turn on our pets.
We all assume that this city is dead;
Penless ones carved their initials on rafters.
Who knows if we will be rebuilt or bulldozed;
Who knows if Katrina killed NOLA for good.

We hush so the troops will not find our attic.
I ask you
               please (if free speech still somewhere survives)
Post print and broadcast that life once thrived here.
Remember joyous jazz we played
                                                      remember our gourmet chefs.
To make them blue
                               you flatten third or seventh notes.
Brown flour when you need roux
                                                     don't stare at
Crewes with hoods on
                                     men wearing stars are police.
They cannot hear our voice
                                             and their masters
The pols cannot save nor D. C. bureaucrats preserve us.
The press too is all clueless
                                            do not trust them.
Do not listen to the radio talk shows.
Like fools we thought them wise men
                                                             they spew hot air.
They spin not truth or fact but hurl invective.
No one here still trusts any boss.
(... We believed before
that victory in the hard contest of elections
ennobled one man yet he failed to appear.)
And the soldiers -- hide from them, their orders are to shoot;
Men are hauled away to intern camps.
Nothing is dry
                       copters survey our moated homes.
Magnates plan raising many tall cranes to the sky.

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