St. Mary of The Angels school. Upper Ninth Ward. 2007.
Or maybe it is. I don’t know. I’m feel like I need to apologize for even writing this at all, but we all gotta do what we gotta do, right. And for some of us, that means writing it out of our systems. I’ve been trying not to post very much K/Federal Flood updates on social media, to not trigger the PTSD of the people I love, but know that I’m thinking of you today, and (quite literally) every day. There are some things the rest of the country needs to remember though, things the rest of the country gets wrong, forgets, doesn’t understand. And that’s where I live now, the Rest of The Country. I won’t detail the errors, omissions, flat-out lies. I’m even tired of the coverage. But like the signs said, “Think that you may be wrong”. At 16, I never thought I’d live there, then, at 30, I never thought I would leave. I never did, really, not completely. I didn’t go through it, I am not claiming that sorrow and that strength. But New Orleans is my true home and it always will be. You can’t take that from anyone.
So today I will be trying to feed the ever-hungry monarch caterpillars, driving to Eudora to pick up three baby bunnies, then driving to Operation Wildlife to drop them off and do my rehab duty. At some point, I will make bread pudding. At some point, I will stand over the Kaw and pour a little whiskey in. Y’all let me know when you get it.
Today is also the day I drag this horse outta the barn. Because it’s helped me before and it’s helped others before and it’s a Damn Fine Poem.
Some days the worst that can happen happens.
The sky falls or evil overwhelms or
the world as we have come to know it turns
toward the eventual apocalypse
long predicted in all the holy books—
the end-times of old grudge and grievances
that bring us each to our oblivions.
Still, maybe this is not the end at all,
nor even the beginning of the end.
Rather, one more in a long list of sorrows
to be added to the ones thus far endured,
through what we have come to call our history—
another in that bitter litany
that we will, if we survive it, have survived.
God help us who must live through this, alive
to the terror and open wounds: the heart
torn, shaken faith, the violent, vengeful soul,
the nerve exposed, the broken body so
mingled with its breaking that it’s lost forever.
Lord send us, in our peril, local heroes.
Someone to listen, someone to watch, someone
to search and wait and keep the careful count
of the dead and missing, the dead and gone
but not forgotten. Some days all that can be done
is to salvage one sadness from the mass
of sadnesses, to bear one body home,
to lay the dead out among their people,
organize the flowers and casseroles,
write the obits, meet the mourners at the door,
drive the dark procession down through town,
toll the bell, dig the hole, tend the pyre.
It’s what we do. The daylong news is dire—
full of true believers and politicos,
bold talk of holy war and photo-ops.
But here, brave men and women pick the pieces up.
They serve the living, caring for the dead.
Here the distant battle is waged in homes.
Like politics, all funerals are local.