Oh How We Lived and Died There
We lived where time failed to find us,
there at the ends of the earth.
Oh, how we lazed away the days,
sitting wordlessly for hours
on that half-rotted dock
in the blooming, hazy glow of morning.
Toes dangling below,
we’d gaze down our shins
at reflections of faces and feet
fractured by lily pads
and pea soup patches
of thick, green algae.
Before beams burned through the fog,
while our fishing lines fished
and our bobbers bobbed,
we tuned in to the buzzing of the swamp,
engulfed in a riot of quiet calm.
We lived there in the sights and the sounds and the sound-filled silence…
Where a river twists and winds,
dotted by dams, with levees in line,
we strove to control the flow
that goes from the heartland
out through a gaping maw.
We strangled its tributaries
in a tribute to our egos
and quelled its deluge
to a trickle of its former self.
We lived there in a struggle of man against nature, forever in awe…
We lived with Danger our companion.
From the stop-dive of an osprey,
to the death-roll of a gator,
to the promise of floods
and soul-sucking poverty.
‘Twas Danger’s darkness that brightened our horizon--
a relentless scourge of heat
that turned the egrets snowy,
draping oaks with cooling moss;
the falling walls
that gave us opportunity
for building our communities,
and strengthening foundations.
We lived there in the harmony of fluid chaos…
And oh, that water—
That ever-present water
gave us life
and took our lives
That water floated us on its back
as we struggled to keep our heads above.
on jacked-up platforms,
offerings to the hurricane gods.
as the trees hungered for oxygen.
Even our birds wore stilts for fear of the floods.
We lived there in the depths, arms stretched to the Heavens…
We lived with Death our neighbor.
Neither pleasant nor polite,
she unleashed her fury
with unwelcomed might,
and a wrath to rival the gods’.
Though, never fooled by false prophets,
nor tempted by fate,
we knew to cut bait
when the silence loomed loud.
‘Twas the threat of Death that gave us life--
a menacing stillness that moved our music
with bass drum heartbeats
and brass horn harmonies;
a haunting hunger
that spiced our meals
and drowned us in drink.
And oh, how we rejoiced!
We marched to the beats
of syncopated symphonies,
singing praises in costumed crazes,
feathered and sequined to the hilt.
We lived off that land of milk and honey,
boiling in oil and oysters,
swimming in shrimp and sugar,
surrounded by sunshine and Tabasco sauce.
No, never let it be said that we did not live.
We died there.
in crypts and catacombs,
ashes blessed by the Voodoo priestess.
We died Creole,
We died Boudreaux and Thibodeaux,
floating our pirogues
down tangled moats of bayous,
then on to the great Gulf of Mexico.
We died Sinners and Saints
with no complaints
as we held our idols high.