We live in a semi tropical valley
Surrounded by liquid mountains
Splashing above our heads
Held back by flood walls and levees.
We don’t fear the water — It has provided for us
The sun baked mist generates the steam
That permeates our subterranean den —
A spicy fusion of water and land energy.
Providing a base for this fragile bowl of cultural bowl of gumbo
Made by the indigenous Americans
And other members of the world Diaspora
Blown to the mouth of the river
Some clinging to dreams
Others tied to nightmares.
They all brought the luggage
Stuffed with the memories of their heritage.
They brought their demons and their deities
Their spice and their spite.
They brought their dance and their song
Their fears and their fight —
This is an undistilled recipe
That has been simmering for over 300 years.
It can be anywhere from finger licking good
To down right sickening
But never bland.
We don’t fear the water — we must co-exist with it
Coo che’ mala
That’s what them Indians say —
We gonna find us the prettiest big chief on St Joseph Day —
and I love it when you call my Indian Red
Masking as Native Americans
On an Italian American holiday.
We gonna twowaypocyway
We gonna whonanaa
Now the French they say
Les Bontemps Roulette.
So we let the music play
Till the roosters crow —.
Let the drinks flow
Don’t ever say no —
And the musicians
They got the mojo you know —
They blow trumpets and trombones
Bass and baritone be in the songs they sew —
And this ain’t no museum piece
You got to lose control of your feet —
You clap only after you dance.
An eclectic assembly of steeples
Built over the last 300 years
Stand erect on the neighborhood skyline
Over looking the Crescent like guardians of the flame
By acknowledging the gods and beseeching them
To forgive us of our sins
Because even when we forget to care in the city that care forgot
We got grace and mercy all over us.
The hot air is thick like cold molasses —
Cotton sticks to skin
Each moment is ripe for the possibilities of spontaneity
As magic is fermented
Beneath the eye lid of night.
We don’t fear the water —
We have planted our flag in this land.
— Chuck Perkins
A native of New Orleans, Chuck Perkins has always had a poet's heart. The former Marine and Xavier University graduate honed his craft in the Chicago slam poetry scene in the 1990s. Upon returning to NOLA Chuck continues to perform, write and share his love, knowledge and respect for poetry within the community.