St. Claude Avenue Sweet
By Lee Meitzen Grue
Cars in blue shades, throbbing,
rap-tuous babooms down St. Claude beating
smoky busses blazoned:
St. Claude to Lizardi, St. Claude to
the corrupt, incorruptible - the
strung out body of Saint Claude,
nodding in Treme, past St. Augustine's and
Elie's courtyard where
reclusive poets call from high skirted
chant litanies and conjure.
The church swallows loas, all saints
sweet. The big peasant rests at the
Esplanade near Polaris, the spinning North
St. Claude's lone talkers stalk the
in raggedy clothes, breathy hair dreaming
to better things in unlikely places:
Pickled Tips, Hot Sausage, Cowan, and
Beard's Auto Repair:
No catting, no loitering, no crack, the Hi
Ho, the Saturn Bar,
St. Roch Market: Plate Lunches, Blue
Crabs, Boil Crawfish.
Friday in this some time catholic city.
Get Your GED.
In the yard of the fan shop
at St. Claude and Elysian Fields
a woman offers BJ's for two dollars, goes
down for a bag of potato chips:
This too is life.
At Press Street,
children pass over and under boxcars,
wheels to turn.
People in cars
wait for the train to pass,
circle in the dust of the gravel road,
cut to beat the train.
A long mournful whistle begs them not to
cross. Don't cross.
I'm coming. Tell me, Babe
sang, "Don't you want to go?"
St. Claude hangs out in the yellow pages
Nome Credit Union, the Whitney Bank, and
Got downtown pride and corpus derelicti
Caged grocers count out change, Hank's Po
in white paper, take out Chinese in
Rainbow houses, boarded up houses, things
shot up and drive by: Frederick Douglas
Washington school, and won't things
get better sometime soon. The principal
locks out the tardy.
Emergency picks up a body in a hallway on
St. Claude. On Mardi Gras Day:
Indians of the Yellow Pocahontas
dance over the bridge, down the Avenue.
Make way for the chief! Shaking his
he's come to sing for his mama whose name
Past Desire, Piety, Pauline, past my
street to Poland Avenue where
St. Claude's ancient knees lift over the
levee. Bridge up
drivers take a slow breath,
a moment from the day to watch the boats
and far down there by Harry Sterling
incorruptible toes stretch
into the lower nine past
the Louis Armstrong Elementary School
where the fat man Antoine Domino lives in
smack dab in the middle of his old
Hooray! for the neighborhood, any
where people call each other by name,
And they call the saint. They call
the St. Claude Pharmacy, the St.
Claude Handy Hardware.
They call him everyday,
but there are not enough prayers
to call him back.
St. Claude Avenue is walled by the
one pay check away from homeless
as new residents sing out:
until we B & B ourselves Disney.
St. Claude needs a miracle. Needs
On this broad Avenue good people abide.
To sustain glory in the name
of the people we must all abide.