Unrequited Bourbon Street
I was expecting jazz to seep through
the cracked brick, pulse in the neon store
fronts, come clanking up through the pavement's
iron grates. I wanted to hear it in their heartbeats,
feel it pumping through veins and arteries,
till it escaped in breath, was piped through feet
of brass and reeds-trumpets, trombones, sax.
I wanted to see it condense, rain down and
soak the splintered floors of jazz clubs.
The blues should have pelted my skin as I
walked back to the hotel-a Wednesday night
storm; it should have flooded the gutters,
washed away the smell of alcohol, vomit,
the FEMA trailers, the city's quiet desperation.
It should have washed away Katrina.
I didn't hear it-the jazz, did not feel its biting
riffs, the thick vibrations of the upright, dense
enough to float the melodies, the brass, the reeds.
No rhythm, no blues, no music flowing from
the souls. Instead, I heard sirens, thunder, the
wavering steps of a woman walking the streets.
I bought a postcard-no prostitutes, no graffiti,
no stickers on the Bourbon Street sign. Sent it
home. Wrote about the heat, the shops-voodoo,
masquerade, walls of beads and fleurs de lis. I said
I ate crawdads, hush puppies, tried to describe the
muddy taste of catfish, but I didn't mention the jazz.