Poetry

NOLA

"Cypress Mystery" © Peter Barker, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Cypress Mystery” © Peter Barker, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Lars rolled down the window of his truck
Proffered me a cigarette
I sighed heavy, shook my head
Took it
Coughed hard
It’d been three months

“Pull up over here, man.
If I’m smoking on this trip
I need a pack of Newports.”

“When did you start smoking
menthols?”
Lips peeled back in disgust

“Since Oakland.”
Wheezed a chuckle

Following the highway out passed
the telephone poles
covered in Mardi Gras beads

Leaving the screaming and the music
of early March 2014
in New Orleans

Swapped out one scratched mix CD
after another
Just the way it’s always been with us
but not quite

“It’s tough, you know, because
I still feel like a piece of shit
most all of the time.
But it’s better than it’s ever been.”

He stamped his cigarette out
on the rim of a Diet Coke can
Moved his gaze to me

Hoping I knew the feeling

Over the causeway and out
into the swamp

The air thickens

They creep over your skin
and rest heavy in your chest
Words you can’t scrape off the tip
of your tongue
A history you know better than your own
but never witnessed

“I’m more hopeful than I have been
my whole entire life
and I still don’t know
if I can do this.”

Climbing out of the truck
pulling on scarves and gloves
It was colder than I thought it’d be
when I packed late last month

We leaned against the cab like
bald cypress knees
Perpetual death rattles
drenched in uncertainty

I ask him over and over
“Are you sure those things aren’t dead?”

“Nah, dude. They just grow like that.”

We’re thriving

12 thoughts on “NOLA

      1. I once had a homeless woman who couldn’t speak very clearly tap me repeatedly and gesture at me until I finally figured out she was asking for a cigarette.

        I offered one, but when she realized it was a menthol, she was like MY BAD, CARRY ON.

        Like

      1. I have been there. I used to draft in my head while on shift in the restaurant and repeat over and over until I could take a break and punch a note into my phone.

        Like

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