WHAT I DID AFTER YOU LEFT HOME
Went to New Orleans,
walked alone in the early morning.
They were opening windows,
washing down the streets.
Are you ready, M’am?
An old man stood on the cobblestones,
beaming in the steaming light.
He held reins in one crinkled hand,
extended the other to me.
His brown horse shook its head, bells rang.
Ready? For what?
Are you ready for a buggy ride?
I had not planned to act like a tourist,
but how could I do otherwise
in this unexpected land, this place I’ve never seen?
The people sitting above the tall red wheels
were talking and laughing together
like people in a painting, or a play.
The driver cocked his head, waiting for my answer.
I asked the cost.
There was no reason to refuse.
I placed my damp white hand in his,
my hand with the split lifeline,
the single crack foretelling a single child.
Twenty years ago a sibyl read my palm:
You’ll live long, but two lives, different.
You’re a musician. And try not to be so stingy.
Yes of course I’m ready, I told him.
Boost me up.
You, I’m afraid, would have been
disdainful, cool. You would not
have approved of me,
sweating in my purple dress,
gawking, singing along,
leaning out behind the horse’s bobbing feathered head
above the spinning wheels
in that impressionistic light.
I felt a city dawn that day,
saw men in stiletto heels and black stockings
prancing down the shining sidewalks,
artists reaching for long moist shadows,
women like statues, painted gold.
The city smelled like fresh coffee,
sour beer, things frying in lard.
On every bright wet corner
were little children, dancing.
I wrote this a long time ago, in response to the Empty Nest. It ended up being a performance piece.
March 24–November 16, 1999; Jan. 30–April 20, 2001
Quatrain Chapbook: Sing in me, Muse, Feb. 2005