Remembering Nola 2005

We flew to New Orleans in the first week of November 2005, i.e. two months after Katrina had struck, for readings & meeting with friends. From notes I took while there I put together the following poem when we returned East. Here it is again, 10 years later, in memory of that disaster, of those who perished, of the friends we found devastated — but already energetically rebuilding Nola. A great city for great people. Much work remains to be done — as actor/activist Wendell Pierce so clearly said this morning on Up With Steve Kornacki and yesterday on Democracy Now! (that video is embedded below the poem).

The Scumline

of fridges & watermarks

for there are only two lines

needed to give

us a fix on the real

a vertical & a horizontal

crosshairs take aim

at New Orleans

post-Katrina topography

toxic mold blooms

a new circle in hell

a diabolic doodle rhymes

with Tsunami & Falluja

Baghdad & Yucatan

a twisted zig-zag geometry

earth embedded in house em-

bedded in steel embedded in

water embedded in air in fire

a twisted zigzag geometry

where the only fix is the

line left by receding water

on house in house on

mind in mind through soul a

watermark, scumline

SKUMLINE Dave yelled

& yanked torn twisted

siding scumlines now

vertical to hold open hell-

mouth door

cave where the question

“how do you preserve

the preservers”

has been solved

cast out the dead

preservers, put out on streets

white metal menhirs

sibylline square

vertical volumes

open or closed

a straight-up solidity

belies the lines they cross

a thousand crosshairs

aiming nowhere

duck-taped prophets

sad squat kabbas to be


in alien Hazmat suits
to read their hanging odes

no formal mu’allaqat but

black marker dayglo impro

graffitoems like:

“I’ll never know


it means

to miss New Orleans


I ain’t going




“Can you tap a street light

for power without

burning out your cord?

If not take your


bullshit Activism


of fridges & watermarks

the lines are outside

& inside, the lines are

everywhere, I said watermark,

you said scumline,

& Paul Chasse said to me

I wrangled

the fridge outside with

the help of a bottle of

Jim Beam then I shot

it dead pumped three rounds

of ammo & the gagging

stink came out right away

it was an old corpse & I told

a National Guard foot patrol

fresh from extended

Baghdad vacation

“it was the only

decent thing to do”

the writing is on the walls

the writing is the walls

the lines are on the walls

the lines are the walls

“we had to abandon the boat”

Styx crossed or were those

crossed sticks or

pirate flag

skull bones?

& someone said if

you want to learn

how to walk on

the water, get out

of the boat

illuminated mold

in the first fridge I opened

gold mold

gold mold

old old

before its time

new new

make it new

in New Orleans

the post-K New Crescent City

where the favorite, the

favorite greeting I heard is:

“just returned!”

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