Ha ha ha, Ho ho ho!
Ahoy to the World!
‘Twas the night before Christmas and in the Faubourg
At the edge of the crescent, no creature stirred.
Under the shroud-like blue plastic from FEMA
That flapped in the wind in the wake of Katrina,
Nothing was hung by the chimneys with care
Since chimneys and roofs were no longer there.
The houses, abandoned for trailers or Texas,
Were circled with watermarks, branded with Xs,
And in them no sugarplums danced in kids’ heads,
For no little children slept snug in their beds
On this night before Christmas in Faubourg-St John
Where time had stopped dead, while the world carried on.
Then, lo, from the depths of what once was my garden
(Now a wild cesspool of strange hydrocarbons)
Up drift some voices from out of the dark
To compete with the flapping of my FEMA tarp:
“They all axed for you, dawlin’. How did you do?”
“—Nine feet of water, and how about you?”
“Do ya know what it means to miss New Orleans?”
“—Not enough ersters—or rice and red beans!”
I‘m certain of whom this can’t possibly be:
It’s not the adjuster; it’s not Entergy;
With looters gone elsewhere, this can’t be a stick-up;
And who can remember the last garbage pick-up?
It’s surely not someone from Capitol Hill
To tell me, at last, whether I can rebuild.
I lift back what’s left of my old cypress shutters
And peek past the tangle of phone lines and gutters,
And what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Not Santa Claus and his team of reindeer
But, costumed in rubber attire and gas masks,
A long second-line waving hankies and flasks.
Rather than coconuts, beads and doubloons,
This krewe carries gear (and, just barely, a tune).
With wet vacs and power tools, sheetrock and nails,
Brawny and Brillo piled high in their pails,
They’re Superdome faithful, survivors of attics,
Mardi Gras maniacs, Jazz Fest fanatics,
Carnival trackers (from Allah to Zeus),
Believers in Saints (whether St. Jude or Deuce),
Joined by a couple of Dutch engineers,
Some out-of-town builders and church volunteers.
They pause at the dead Live Oak next to my door
In T-shirts declaring Make Levees Not War.
Since ditching my mold-ridden fridge at the curb,
MREs have become the hors d’oeuvres that I serve
So I pass them around with Abita’s new ale
When a wrench taps, “Clink! Clink!” on the side of a pail:
“To Blanco,” they cry, “She got contra-flow down!
To Nagin—he sure told those Feds and Mike Brown!
To NOLA dot com, CNN, and the Times
Who cut to the quick of the Superdome crime!
To all those who took in our downtrodden folks,
Or ferried them out in their flat-bottom boats!
To Tennessee… Texas… Jackson… Atlanta…
Our Baton Rouge brothers … and Lou-i-si-ana!”
I notice no Rudy steps up as their leader,
Yet something unseen guides this flock of believers,
A force that transcends rich or poor, black or white,
A light that can steer this brigade through the night.
In a twinkle they’ve finished the last of the ale
And they hoist their equipment, their masks and their pails:
“On, Comet! On, Borax! On, on Spic ‘n Span!
“Come (Yule) Tide and Cheer! Come, All, let us plan!
Up, Mildew! Off, Mold! Out, out, Toxic Waste!
Come, Shout! Away, Wisk! Come, let us make haste!
To the top of the water mark! Up, past the stair!
Let the City that Care Forgot know that we care!”
Then to Lakeview, Gentilly, Chalmette and the East,
Away they all marched to a Zydeco beat.
Ere they rose past the tarps, I heard a voice say
“Merry Christmas—and Laissez les bon temps rouler!”
Happy Holidays from Stephany New Orleans, 2005