- Étude (on Karma), and: Deborah's Story
Étude (on Karma)
If you have not done so would you please do so now.
Anonymous Airport Announcement
Words burned on memory simply because there was no before and no after. No what leaning like a wave,
but left blank (fill it in!) referring to nothing in particular: If you haven’t done such and such
would you do so now. Not a request but an imperative (we call it “polite”) format. Say, an airport.
In one of those beige bolted seats they give passengers to sit in rows like graves to wait for the flight, every airport so alike [End Page 138]
I don’t remember which one, only that I was there on a “flyback.” For some the art of self-presentation is like being in a country
where everyone’s foreign. We learn (a lingua franca) the parole so we’ll be the one all think has currency, cultural capital. Though we never
put it that way, ever, for in the end, the ritual limen (the “interview”) places us, visibly, there where the integration of
our elemental being into the quotidian is— how can one put it?— grounding. [End Page 139]
I listened to the wind all night. 5 a.m. my mother hollers, Y’all better move your cars cause the water is coming up and up. Lord have mercy, all we could do was sit and pray.
People were taking their mattresses and floating to the Dome with their little bitty children. Something just told me, I can’t go there. Uh-uh.
One of my friends worked for Charity Hospital, and she was sent with a boat to the Dome to get the sick. The man steering the boat made her get out at the Dome. That was very . . .
People was so dirty. Girl, I ain’t never thought you were at that Dome, I said. Oh, people got cold-hearted being there without food or water. My friend said, Debby, I looked
at the things going on there, and prayed to the good Lord, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it. Please get me out of this. It was a mess. That police chief who cried to the press
claimed he’d lied about it all. Those stories are the Lord’s truth, my girlfriend told me. [End Page 140]
That water stayed a long time. The last time I heard the Mayor talk on the television, he was cussing and crying at the same time: We need help here! What could any of us do?
A lot of people died during Katrina. My uncle died. He had a stroke and didn’t know it. My girlfriend who lived in the Lower 9th Ward drowned. That water came up so fast.
Didn’t give people a chance. The ones that made it was on the Lord’s grace. New Orleans is like a graveyard so what we going back to? [End Page 141]
Cynthia Hogue has published five collections of poetry, most recently The Incognito Body (Red Hen Press, 2006), and has co-edited Innovative Women Poets: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and Interviews (University of Iowa Press, 2006) and the first edition of H. D.’s The Sword Went Out to Sea, by Delia Alton (University Press of Florida, 2007). She is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University.