It’s all foreplay, really-this walk
through the French Quarter exploring souvenir shops,
each of them carefully deranged, as if dust were to settle
only at perfect intervals. Yes to the vetiver fan
that smells sweeter than sandalwood or cedar.
No to the mammy doll dinner bells.
No to the mammy dolls whose sewn smiles are as fixed
as the lives of too many poor Black women here:
motherhood at twelve, drugged, abandoned by fifteen,
dead by twenty (suicide, murder) so easily in Desire.
And yet, their voices sweeten the snaking air,
providing the transvestites their proper Muses,
all of whom have streets named for them in the Garden District.
A soft heat settles on Terpsichore,
just inside the gay bar where the owner’s pink flamingos
complement silly songs on the rescued Rockola.
Who can dance to that Lorne Greene ballad, “Ringo”?
Dixie beer is the beer of choice; marijuana the cheapest drug.
Relaxation is key, since it’s all a matter of waiting
for the right body to stumble toward you.
Lust perfumes parties in the projects, barstool chatter at the Hyatt,
lazy kissing on the median strip stretching down Tchoupitoulas.
If Professor Longhair were alive, he’d teach a lesson
in seamless motion: the perfect slide of a man’s hand down a
a lesson you learned long ago before you met me. We are making love
as we did before in Austin and Manhattan.
But in this room on this costly bed our lovemaking
starts out the slowest grind, then, like this city’s weather,
goes from hot to hotter, from moist to rainstorm wet.
You’re tall, A., and where there should be tribal markings
there are scars-football, basketball, mid-sixties grind parties
where something always got out of hand. There’s the perfect
amen. You’re your own gospel.
And you bring good news to me-the way you enter me
Like grace, the way you say my name, a psalm.
No. That’s not it. It’s the engineer in you that
gets me. Your search for the secret line that goes
straight to the center of the earth. Deeper and deeper
you go until there’s no earth left in me. And we
hum and moan a song as old as our selves gone back.
There are too many souvenirs in your eyes.
Gifts given too often, too hastily, never opened.
Outside a city sprawls its heat, seeks out every pore,
licks every moment of sweat as we shiver in this chilly room
taking each other’s measure. We say good-bye again and again.
As if every kiss, every touch we make will shadow
All our celebrations.
And they do.