Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Orleans

photo © Mark Butkus 2013
You can never go home again unless New Orleans is home.

If your American dream is painted on a canvas
Neatly folded in the corner of Andy Warhol’s mind
New Orleans is a hurricane beating down your coast

If you close your eyes
And feel the easy ride
Of the St. Charles Street Car
Where a solo tuba
Blows the scent of magnolia
Down narrow streets
and everyone plays possum with the heat
and no one’s too big or too small
to paint their tongue with a snowball

Where former slaves pay homage to the first Americans
by masking in suits of rhinestones and bright colored feathers
that transform security guards into Indian Chiefs
doing rain dances on Congo Square
where the drums drum
and the wine drink
and the big chief sing
somebody give me a quarter
cause pretty big chief want some water

If you can envision the souls of yesterday
living in the music
that rises from the cracks in the sidewalks
New Orleans is your dream
With a heart as soft
As the Spanish moss
Dripping from centuries old oak tress

She’s a pretty face with dirty feet
The good witch of lake Ponchartrain
The spice god of shrimp and crawfish
Keeping the spirits fed

Communities of windowless monuments
Masquerading as cemeteries
Tower above ground
No earth or worms to cover the flesh
No silver bullets to turn out the spirits
That still dance with her

Spin your umbrella
And wave your bandanna
It’s Mardi Gras time
And everybody’s happy

Armed with a blue print of civilization
The new world stormed in
With enough asphalt and cement
To pave a boulevard back to Paris

The spirit of the swamp still hasn’t submitted
Leaving mildewed kisses of disapproval
On every thing foreign to the wet lands

Catholicism could not turn out the spirit of Marie Laveau
The wrecking ball could not turn out the spirit of Storyville
And death could not turn out the spirit of Louie Armstrong
When yesterday hangs on to forever
Tradition is a temple.

— 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. The Bar None Group thanks Chuck Perkins for allowing us to share New Orleans with our readers.


  1. Wow, lots of great imagery and loved the flow too.

    1. I agree, Pat. When I first read Chuck's poem I had to share it within these pages. New Orleans is a remarkable poem about a remarkable people and their resilience. Bar None Group will continue to explore New Orleans in the coming days.

  2. smiles...love it...been far too long since i was down there....ayala wrote of NO as well today...makes me pine for the people and the food i miss...smiles...very well writ...

  3. New Orleans after reading this makes me want to catch a plane from the islands and go there to see all of this. So well done. http://gatelesspassage.com/2013/02/02/reflections/