Another New Orleans
Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
Where the roads crawl backwards
behind streets broken up in many
and children stand in doorways,
staring. Their eyes look far away,
and a woman stands by the street
hollering for a dollar to take her
to the shelter.
At the Chinese restaurant,
a blind man was having a meal
a long day collecting coins that
tourists threw into a plastic bowl
on Canal Street.
My girlfriends and I took a
from Bourbon down to the Gardens
where colonial mansions rush past
with lost history. I didn’t know
you could ride a streetcar on a
and watch houses disappear into
I wanted to feel the years.
I wanted to holler until I cried,
so the past would come flying out
The colonial houses want to tell
we have done away with the past?
But the streets behind our view
backwards into history we came
to remember or forget.
Someone should have kept the years
Someone should have carved up the
on pieces of metal for us.
At the restaurant door, I lose my
in the dark. A five-year-old-boy
is playing the harmonica—nine o’clock
at night on Thursday. On Bourbon
nude girls are dancing in a bar,
and the five-year-old-boy outside,
on the sidewalk collects brown
into a plastic bowl. Will we ever
what pennies can do?
Down the road, we forget the
Just a few steps away, a saxophone
wails on a thin string. At Bourbon
tourists come out in colonies,
on to the thin evening air.
What brings out the best of Canal
brings out the worst of Canal
The Saxophone player sweats and
hard into the night air of
and going in search of food and
and happiness. Lovers holding on
other as if afraid of unfamiliar
There’s another New Orleans, I
where the blind man rises at dawn
below our passing feet.
You will not see him beneath the
The tall buildings will lose him
in the French Quarters, where the
of Cajun spices and crawfish
drowns us tourists.
The Gumbo tasted like home food to
and my God, they brought Jollof
all the way here, and named it
Our waitress placed me in the
of people eating fresh oysters and
red wine. The wines and hot
peppers will drown
only the moment. Outside the night
on our way back to where hotel
rooms await us,
there, again is the five-year-old,
somebody’s son—the child who plays
the harmonica like no other person
in the whole world.
posted 9 November 2005