We woke up when we heard her scream,
knowing well it was no dream.
Her cries for help, they did blaspheme
the night, which also must redeem.
We listened for a moment then
with fear and hope and hatred when
a stranger stopped to take her in
so we could go to sleep again.
But turning over in our bed
the echoes would not leave our head.
The city night we cannot tread
cannot be blamed for what we dread.
But morning bursting on the scene
will wash my conscience once more clean
while through the window, through the screen
are burglar bars, my quarantine.
New Orleans, 1982. I was starting my fourth year there, and crime – property and violent – was a seething underfoot fire in the city. I didn’t give up on the city, but I did surrender that neighborhood, that mansion, that apartment. I didn’t give it up with Katrina, and I won’t give it up when the sea reclaims it from our squandering, oil-soaked hands and trampling muddy boots & boats.
Why do I go singular in final stanza? I suppose I know deep inside, but I can’t explain it.
Update 8/26/2015: I originally wrote the first three stanzas in past tense, but I had a problem with “blasphemed”, so I changed it to present tense. I just figured out how to fix that, so those first three stanzas are again in past tense, as they should be.
(Old “Poems”: I’ve been writing these little ditties, verses, near-poems since high school. Many are pedestrian; others are real stinkers. Some I still love. I worry that they’ll expire with the inevitable demise of my hard drive, so I decided I’ll put them out here, in the harsh, blistering, stinging, way-too-public cloud to live forever, for good or shame. (To write and self-publish is to court shame. Oh, the hubris!))