This poem came from an exercise that’s of a too-fussy kind to usually be effective for me. This one definitely bore fruit. The poem flirts with the lines between sense and nonsense, and between fact and fiction, but it’s beyond all doubt a love song to New Orleans.
A cobblestone is a common block that once connected
Buildings in the Old City where gentlemen huddled
In summers of malaria and typhus, and voodoo queens
Reigned over cures. Limited now to six by eight
Rectangles laid in around benches in the Quarter,
Each with its own brass plaque in memory of
Upper-midscale staples of the taffeta social season,
You can follow their trail on a map — a living, breathing
Guide to where Americans live, work, play, and eat
In a crosshatch-cultured city that makes Parisian dreams
Come true for tourists who can’t afford the airfare.
Travel, the agent tells me, automates much of the
Administration of moving people into deeper relationships
With times and places otherwise out of their ken, where
Modification or substitution is next to impossible without
Altering the course of here and now. Even if the city disappears,
Carried away on the wings of a squished butterfly or on the spiral
Of a hurricane wind, music will continue to play right up until
The moment before it all happens.