Poetry

N’awlins

EVELYN LAU

with a closing line from Ted Hughes. 

Festooned with beads, dusted in beignet sugar,

baubles clank against our soft stomachs

as we trip down filthy streets

reeking of lust, pools of urine steaming

beneath bricked and shuttered shotguns. Masked figures

rear like horse heads against a wrought-iron

sky. Is this the America he promised us?

Now that he’s gone, his ghost remains restless—

unappeased by altars in voodoo shops, spells dissolved

in a glass of water under the bed, snags of Spanish moss

and alligator claws. Kratom in my purse and codeine

fizzing my blood, we gag at shoeless scruff

who parades Bourbon St. with his cardboard sign:

Will lick pussy for anything. In the Lower Ninth Ward,

lots of overgrown weeds and grass form

a kind of parkland, slabs of foundation visible

like cemetery stones. Did you know a football field

of wetlands succumbs to saltwater every hour? On the cover

of USA Today, it’s the farm states now where the levees

are gone. The couple from Huntsville says you just

keep moving on, rebuild in the wake of tornadoes,

hurricanes, floods. What else y’all gonna do?

Prepare to live in a motel by the freeway, food-shop

at gas station marts, camp under the overpass

littered with chopsticks, tampons, tire skins.

Still the trees are blue-black with grackles,

sunset a peach haze behind the water tower,

oil refinery. We are walking where maybe no one

has walked before. Beautiful, beautiful America!

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EVELYN LAU

Evelyn Lau is a lifelong Vancouverite who has published thirteen books, including eight volumes of poetry. Her fiction and non-fiction have been translated into a dozen languages; her poetry has received the Milton Acorn Award, the Pat Lowther Award and a National Magazine Award. From 2011–2014, she served as Vancouver’s Poet Laureate. Her most recent collection is Pineapple Express (Anvil, 2020).


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