poem #1- City of New Orleans- by Daniel William Zampino

Commentary on Katrina:

'We were shocked at what we saw. Death and destruction from natural disaster is par for the course. But the pictures of dead people left uncollected on the streets, armed looters ransacking shops, survivors desperate to be rescued, racial divisions -- these were truly out of sync with what we imagined the land of the free to be, even if we had encountered homelessness and violence on visits there. . .If America becomes so unglued when bad things happen in its own backyard, how can it fulfill its role as leader of the world?'

--Sumiko Tan, {The Straits Times in Singapore}

'I'm going to New Orleans. I want to be in the Mardi Gras.' 

--Fats Domino

I've never been to New Orleans,
but New Orleans is inside everything
I hear.
I hear its whisper,
its groan,
the pound against the drum
like a heart pounding,
sweetness of Gabriel's trumpet
as it migrates up the Mississippi.
They even named an airport for an angel.
I've never been to New Orleans,
but I hear the wail of a man,
indigent grimace,
face as swollen in tears
as is his grieving city.
Life line severed
when swell of Katrina's fury,
like Abraham's tempest,
tore the limb of his wife,
unlatched agony
epitaph testimony,
``take care of the children...
and the grandchildren''
before bargaining her destiny,
and leaving a man widowed and empty.
City of danger. ``I've never been so scared when I used
to work there (as a waitress),'' I was told. ``But we
have to save it.''
City of lust lacing Faulkner's faultline,
where reveler's refuge
flees Mississippi's holy tyranny.
City of reverence where, in Chiapas, Rio dwelling
German national tells me
Mozart trained son
seduced by jazz masters,
sacred ground trod
dream of dreams
sweet air he breaths in Promised
City of New Orleans.
I've never been to New Orleans,
but Fat Domino, like Jonah,
fished out of Ponchatrain.
Gatemouth died there. Nation's flags half mast.
Mighty walls, like Jericho, buckle under
Katrina's fester.
Superpower's majesty eclipsed in howling jest.
He who lives by the sword...
stirs the ground he walks on.
Nature's heavenly heated waters,
Hurucan, a Mayan deity, demands obeisance.
King of Kings, Texas' Nebuchadnezzar
Shorn of politician's articulation,
Mute as a crawdaddy,
presidential predilections as stricken as dead fish.
Katrina, Katrina,
Heavenly tears flood crescent of a city,
Stills singsong of gumbo civilization.
Your occupation of our land
lashes us with presence of true sovereignty.
Mother of God,
muffled desolation
like the funnel of a conch
where tears have ceased to flow.
I've never been to New Orleans,
but New Orleans is in the agony of the silence
I hear.

© Daniel William Zampino 2005\