Books by Lee
Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud / In the Sweet Balance of the
Flesh / French Quarter Poems
Three Poets in New Orleans /
CD Live! On Frenchmen Street
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Waiting for the Ferry at Algiers
For Reggie who tells me about
By Lee Meitzen Grue
We have had a long time in the
looking at the moon in the water.
We see those distant lights not
We are waiting to get to the other
This isn't an act of faith waiting
for the ferry in the dark,
listening to the hollow whistle
blow away the other side.
The ships come by; they glide over
Ships are big and silent, their
water that wets our feet, their
sucks back barges rattling like
There is a man who guides the
but he like God has too much power
and passes us by.
Here she comes, running the black
water toward us,
her eyes lit with great happiness,
we can see small people inside;
she is wooden and built for us to
It is for us she is landing here,
her horses treading water.
She throws down wooden
rubs concrete, rubs pilings,
scratches her back on land.
Under her skin impatient horses
their greased pistons turning,
She seems anxious to get away;
We clamber on board afraid she
will leave without us.
A smell coils up from tarred rope
it catches our throats, uneasiness
lines our bellies.
We are cast off.
We rush to the side to watch cold
We have come here all our
conventions in hand,
but the river is broad-hipped and
We are afraid. A thin brown
run-off from our street
foams at the mouth of a dog insane
as two hundred feet deep.
We are wood floating between
and all we carry are pieces of
paper to throw on the waters,
a thin bread,
and the music of flutes to cast
upon the wind to land.
All that keeps us steady on the
is the eye of one man.
It is the captain who stands in
the dark above us,
his eye sweeping thin green bands.
His tight hand on the rein of wild
their hooves beating the water
He knows the current, corrects her
he crosses the ranges, moving from
light to light.
Alone he threads us through the
eye of the needle.
We are his sleepy children carried
along in the dark.
When we hear the skirt-boards
when we know we are safely across,
we wake and our tinny voices beg:
Take us again.
Please, take us again.
We are land's children,
but we love your comforting hand
that steers us.
through this dangerous journey in
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Source: French Quarter Poems (1979) Long Measure Press
* * *
By Lee Meitzen Grue
Lee Grue is arguably one of the finest practitioners of
poetry in New Orleans' storied history. These superb
writs are equal to the upwelling of jazz itself: from
Tremé street corners, to the wayward French Quarter, to
the carefree vibes of Bywater, all the way to back o'
town; this astonishing collection speaks from a mythic
pantheon off yowls & beats as timeless as the Crescent
City herself. "If you're missing New Orleans, and you
know what that means, you need to read Grue's book front
to back, place by place, time by time, name by name,
everything that breaks your broken heart and asks it to
sing. A generous, loving tribute to poetry and to New
Grue's work is one of the majestic pylons that keeps New
Orleans above water, a pylon woven thickly and subtly
from the city's history. Her poetry weaves her personal
history to the five centuries of the city's own, a
fabric stronger than the dreams of engineers. Lee Grue
holds us all on the warm open hand of her music; she
emanates the love that raises the soul levees"—Andrei
Lee Meitzen Grue was born in
Plaquemine, Louisiana, a small town upriver. New Orleans has been
home for most of her life. She began reading her poetry at The
Quorum Club during the early sixties. There she met musicians Eluard
Burt and Maurice Martinez (bandleader Marty Most). Burt had just
come back to New Orleans from San Francisco, where he had been
influenced by the Beats. Eluard Burt and Lee Grue continued to work
together over many years. Burt and his photographer wife, Kichea
Burt, came home to New Orleans from California again in the
nineties, where the three collaborated on a CD, Live! on Frenchmen
Street. Eluard Burt passed in 2007.
Kichea Burt contributed some of
the photographs in Grue's book DOWNTOWN. During the intervening
years Grue reared children, directed The New Orleans Poetry Forum
workshop, and NEA poetry readings in the Backyard Poetry Theater. In
1982 she began editing New Laurel Review, an independent
international literary journal which is still published today. She
has lived downtown in the Bywater for thirty-five years. After the
flood of 2005 she began teaching fiction and poetry at the Alvar
Library, which is three blocks from her house. Her other books are:
Trains and Other Intrusions, French Quarter Poems,
In the Sweet Balance of the
Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud, short fiction.
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update 21 April 2010