Poetry clearly wanted to help me define my relationship to New Orleans after having been gone so long. That definition including the impermanence and fragility of things. Katrina of course gets the blame (or the credit) for that.
You can only smell the river after dark.
When night’s muffling of the senses stops what
New Orleans is doing to all the holes in your head
By day, when you’re not full up any more with
Mardi Gras colors fading in August, hot cottonseed oil,
Street music, olive salad, sweaty go-cups — then
You can smell it, like turning down the radio in the car
So you don’t miss your turn. That gunmetal and
Rainbarrel smell? That’s it. Breathe deep. It’ll be there
Tomorrow night and this time next year, but it’s hard
To say what else will. Fill up on what you can count on:
The smell of the river bitter on the wind,
The play of light on slow, brown waters.