'Proud Mary' Blues
“Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis
pumped a lot of gas down in New Orleans,
but I never saw the good side of the city
till I hitched a ride on the river boat queen...”
The Mississippi’s quietly seething;
Cotton Blossom, tugs at her moorings...
paddle-steamer supreme as she is.
Way down Bourbon Street, Brennans –
closed; no tables free. Not this evening.
Shops, boarded up; the French Quarter –
a ghost town. Wrought-iron balustrades
soon to fade to reminiscences. ‘Good times,
upped and rolled away’. No tourists;
no takers for tacky souvenirs today.
The Moonwalk shines, electric-blue...
a slow moving river; magenta
and silver, flowing to infinity
as a water-melon moon, pale,
wan, and lustreless, slices through
a damson-coloured sky; wages war
upon an ‘open twenty-four-seven’
kind of a city. Blind to its waxing
and its waning; indifferent, till now,
to its pull on the tide.
Spatters raindrops on black,
plastic sacks at the entrance
to a thrift shop – unheeding
of the signs; jazz clubs – silent
as a clam. The blues is what’s on
everybody’s minds. Rats, scavenge
in the gutter; Big Mac, French fries;
they’re not that fussed with such
rich pickings and the prospect,
so instinct tells them, of even
better times in the offing.
Preservation Hall is hushed; holds
its own sweet breath; sans clarinet,
sans sax – sans musicians, all.
Somewhere, on the sidewalk, someone
shoots up, ‘kisses their creator’; rain
chokes the levees. The Superdrome
is packed to the gills...Except,
no Saints, and nobody's cheering;
the wind kicks up a storm, tonight.
For soon, Katrina will come...
and a tramp moves on, through