Midnight in New Orleans

Woken with a headache, loud complaint
against the inflatable mattress
on the tiny apartment floor, I stare outside
where lightning flashes far away, and wind tousles treetops –
knavish heralds of a thunderstorm.

Under the streetlights below,
brilliant greenery overlays vibrant paint schemes,
wood scrollwork no longer seen
in mass-produced suburbia,
those drab by comparison.

Beads dangle from branches,
fences and balconies;
so much color and celebration,
while nestled between
are dark spaces:

rotted siding, collapsed porches,
shotgun houses fire gutted, their
window frames and doorways gaping mouths,
silent screaming as history and memory
chew like termites.

Nearby, the silhouette of a stone metropolis
sprawls a full city block, mold-stained monuments to the dead
where eroded crypts stacked with bodies and secrets
seep their hates and loves into the earth,
consumed by roots, passed from generation to generation.

Flowers overgrow skulls.
Heads throb from dirty fire water.
Voodoo rumbles underfoot like the thunder rolling in,
tempest in the making, unsettled,
humidity stifling.

Grandeur and ghetto,
carnival and grave,
glitter-crusted pairs parade fevered and insane
down the lightning flared streets,
city built on revelry and suffering.

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