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He Taught Me To Sing A Song July 11, 2015

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Poetry, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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My prolific and talented friend* Ray Shea just had a few of his poems from the online journal Revolution John nominated for Best of the Net, a signal honor in these days of the web-only journal, much better than a Pushcart nomination which has become as common as author copies and so a bit ridiculous when cited. Tell me when you win one.

I know he posted these before when first published but I don’t remember reading “Sing It For Me”, perhaps because of slowly burying own my cold mother, waiting so long until she was both cold and still, the sarcophagus pose, the blue veined marble skin, my own erasure until the only word left f was forget. “Sing It For Me” conjoins that signature scene in 2001 in which Dave is forced to turn off Hall 9000 with the decision on when to pull the plug on a parent, in this case his father (it helps but is not necessary to know his father was a Coastie). The poem is just so fucking beautiful and perfect, a simple yet intricate machine of words with all the beauty of a music box. You want to open the lid again and again, watch the works turning as the song plays out.

This time I promise not to reach for the blemish cream. This poem leaves a scar I will keep and proudly show my children someday, when my life is mostly read outs on the machine, and as we cry I will remind them I left some beauty in this world, a handful of poems and a couple of forgotten blogs, their own lustrous mirrors.

* Can I still say friend when we never speak, constantly miss each other when he comes for Carnival, each on our own trajectories not so much divergent as impossible to calculate an intersection through the massive traffic of parade days. Journalists and former journalists, my friend Victoria (again, how long?) noted, make the worst correspondents. I like to think you don’t lose friends so much as shelve them sometimes, like the books that stack precariously two deep on my book shelves, waiting for happenstance or an inspiration to dig them out to reconnect.

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Happy Trails July 26, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, Bloggers, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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We would lay in bed in the hot August night in our unairconditioned house in Detroit Lakes, MN under the humming fans I had installed and not be able to sleep for the heat or the distant, hollow sound of the last act of the WE Fest country music festival, what we not-from-around-here folk referred to as the redneck Woodstock, until we would hear this song on the distant PA across the lake and know it would soon be quiet, a song I also associated with the end of the MoM’s Ball, a festival of an entirely different sort far away, when the lights would come up and reveal us exhausted in our debauched finery.

I knew this song before then, before both MoM’s Balls in Arabi or those years sweating out an August festival night in the otherwise cold north. I would rise up every Saturday morning as a child and make myself a bowl of cereal while my parents slept in and turn on the old Roy Rogers movie reels that ran at 6:30 in the morning.

That was a more innocent age, when it didn’t seem to matter that Cookie drove a jeep or that the bad guys might try to make their getaway in a high wing single engine place as Roy galloped Trigger alongside to shoot out the tires with his pearl handled pistol. In a time when men flew rockets into space it did not seem incongruous that there would be a shortwave radio back at the ranch. In the early Sixties we were closer to our parents generation, the ones who sat around the radio with their decoder rings than we were to our own children at the same age, the electronic tentacles of the world that intrude on their childhood too soon.

This was the song that closed each episode and as I crawl out of bed a bit beer bleary with not enough sleep after an evening sending off Ray Shea back to Austin it seems a fitting thing to post up here. Ray was one of those who, like myself, moved back to New Orleans after the flood from a home he had established somewhere else. When the out-of-town reporters who found me asked if I knew anyone else who chose to move here after the storm, I always gave them Ray’s name.

He was one of the people I thought would never leave, as I plan to never leave. When the divorce decree came down and allowed his ex to take the children to Austin, he had no choice but to follow. None of us would do any differently even as leaving compounded the pain of parsing out a life to spit it into two piles, the pain of being at best a part-time father.

But the world rolls on unmindful of the pathetic specs that crowd its surface and the gods such as they are never tire of troubling us for their own amusement, so we the best we can do is throw a damned party (this is New Orleans; there will be a party) and get on with it. Last night’s went particularly well, with all the best of the gang crowded into a Marigny bar until someone came in the door and announced “there’s a brass band up the street” and we spent half the night on a little spit of concrete across from a house where the New Generation Brass Band played on a balcony.

We couldn’t have arranged it better ourselves and the happy accident of horns and drums, provided by some spirit that watches over this city and watches over us all who love it produced a band just when we needed it, a reminder to Ray (sadly) of what he leaves behind but also an omen: the city provided and will not forget him as long as he does not forget the city, that always somewhere there will be friends and a band when he returns.

So, Happy Trails Ray. Till we meet again.

Find someone or something to cling to May 9, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Bloggers, cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Purloined from today’s Poetry Daily (see the RSS feed down the gutter at right), something in this piece at the bottom of this post seems to speak to this day in New Orleans like an especially apt horoscope. The news that another one of us is leaving, torn away by the whirlwind of a bitter child custody dispute, reminds us that we defy the gods to be here and risk the price they can extract.

When I first moved here and through some contacts in the media was interviewed as a willing transplant to a disaster zone, I was asked if I knew of any other post-Federal Flood arrivals. I always recommended Ashley Morris and Ray Shea.

Ashley died last April. In the afterword to Carry Me Home, I recalled something from his funeral:

Three of us were written up by the Los Angeles Times: Ray Shea, Ashley Morris and I. Ashley died April 2, 2008 at the age of forty-four of a heart attack. As we listened to the Hot 8 Brass Band playing at the cemetery after wards, someone came up to me and said, “Now it’s just you and Ray.” It sounded not precisely like a curse, but certainly an unlucky thing to say in a cemetery in New Orleans….

Does that make me the last man standing? By no measure. NOLA is full of people who love this place madly, who by words or paint or music or food or costume or dance live out that madness in a very public way. Its not only false, its a vain conceit, and if one is even a bit superstitious perhaps a dangerous one. Not precisely a curse is what I wrote last year, but Ray’s departure still seems a reminder of the potential price of our defiant stance here on this uncertain ground.

May he, like Odysseus, return home.

Storm Catechism

The gods are rinsing their just-boiled pasta
in a colander, which is why
it is humid and fitfully raining
down here in the steel sink of mortal life.
Sometimes you can smell the truffle oil
and hear the ambrosia being knocked back,
sometimes you catch a drift
of laughter in that thunder crack: Zeus
knocking over his glass, spilling lightning
into a tree. The tree shears away from itself
and falls on a car, killing a high school girl.
Or maybe it just crashes down
on a few trash cans, and the next day
gets cut up and hauled away by the city.
Either way, hilarity. The gods are infinitely perfect
as is their divine mac and cheese.
Where does macaroni come from? Where does matter?
Why does the cat act autistic when you call her,
then bat a moth around for an hour, watching intently
as it drags its wings over the area rug?
The gods were here first, and they’re bigger.
They always were, and always will be
living it up in their father’s mansion.
You only crawled from the drain
a few millennia ago,
after inventing legs for yourself
so you could stand, inventing fists
in order to raise them and curse the heavens.
Do the gods see us?
Will the waters be rising soon?
The waters will be rising soon.
Find someone or something to cling to.

Kim Addonizio

Five Points
Vol. 12, No. 3