Beignets

By William B. Robison

She doesn’t know—nasal Ivy Leaguer in line

ahead of me at Café du Monde who’s asking

what’s so special about a dough wad fried in grease—

 

that Decatur Street and the whole heathen Quarter

stayed high and dry as radio Jeremiahs

raged, sniffing for Sodom’s sulfur in the whirlwind

 

how Johnny White’s gave the fickle finger to fear

its doors open upon God-forsaken Bourbon

sazeracs for beggars, transvestites, and guardsmen

 

about transcending the rooftop rapes, bloated floaters

sad-faced boatmen, pleading mothers, wild-eyed children

exiled busloads with gang signs and crucifixes

 

the taste of gumbo made with everything thawing

sweat and warm beer, straining to hear the transistor

spray-painting plywood with warnings and epitaphs

 

what it’s like to drive your too skinny sister home

past army trucks with red-bereted machine gunners

to a flat where ceiling tiles hide the kitchen floor

 

the rage as compassion curdles into contempt

and smart-mouthed pundits sneer: why don’t they stop whining?

let’s close down the port and see who bellyaches then

 

that blues is not some colloquial artifact

trotted out for visitors but a wolfish howl

of pain and ecstasy wrenched from history’s belly

 

how the returning faithful saluted Jackson

with red-rimmed eyes and took the sacrament twice

with St Louis’ wine and then café au lait

 

why grown men with bodies as hard as the iron fence

around the square wept when the Saints went marching in

she doesn’t know what it means to miss . . . well, you know

___

William B. Robison is Professor of History and Head of the Department of History and Political Science at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he teaches British and Early Modern European History. He earned the PhD at LSU (1983) and is co-editor (with Ronald H. Fritze) of the Historical Dictionary of Stuart England (1996) and Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England (2002); co-author (with Sue Parrill) of The Tudors on Film and Television (McFarland 2013), for which he maintains the website www.tudorsonfilm.com; author of articles on early modern England, film history, and popular culture; and editor of a forthcoming volume of essays tentatively titled “The Tudors,” Sex, Politics, and Power: History, Fiction, and Artistic License in Showtime’s Television Series. He regularly lectures publically, conducts Readings in Literature and Culture programs for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (most recently “Elizabeth I of England and Her Time”), is a musician and maker of short films, and has poems published or forthcoming in Amethyst Arsenic, amphibi.us, Anemone Sidecar, Apollo’s Lyre, Asinine Poetry, Burningword Literary Journal, Carcinogenic Poetry, Children Churches and Daddies, Coe Review, decomP magazinE, Forge, Mayday Magazine, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, On Spec, and Paddlefish. He and his family live in Baton Rouge.


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