pile of poems,
a scattering of short stories,
a minor mess of manuscripts,
all in a state of perpetual preparation.
I wait to see
what will happen today.
These things, bits of a lonely soul,
Hopeful of attention float into
New Orleans, on a random Saturday morning.
Jock and Michelle
play a mix of the classics
in the next patch of shade.
Lovely, dark Michelle on the violin,
Jock, recently of Columbus,
sits in on the keyboard.
Buffalo, the veteran, hair strapped
by a black cloth band, plucks
a soulful strain from Mozart
on a battered guitar.
Its case is open on the dirty concrete,
a few coins and bills
coaxed from a family from Iowa,
will buy one or two meals,
a share of a dump on
Decatur Street, when he’s
not enjoying the wonders
between a girlfriend’s thighs in
a ratty old apartment in the Tremé.
His trio, assembled for the day,
seem barely out of
high school, or some music program
up north. Each wandered to NOLA
to live the mythical life of music,
for the joy of it, happy
with friends, happy to live
rough, running from gig to gig,
earning a street corner on Thursdays
to seduce tips from tourists,
getting thinner and gradually
realizing that love alone will
not feed the bulldog.
But oh, there are times, just
like this morning, as tourists
walk by and glance at my books
thick air moving into
the square from the river,
the magnolias in bloom,
the smell of overflowing
dumpsters, junkies sliding
along the alleys, looking to score.
And then Michelle,
long black hair gathered in a bun, bare
arms in a small black dress and almond-eyed,
raises the violin her father
bought her for her
promise, for respectable concert halls,
far from the dirty streets
of New Orleans. She
closes her eyes and summons
The voices of angels
to earth to move
among we the lost, but crying to heaven.
The ache and purity of the sound freezes
everyone nearby, even the junkies,
by something holy,
just for a minute.
And my heart remembers what it hungers for.