In the Dance Hall of the Mind by Lee Meitzen Grue


Poet and fiction writer Lee Meitzen Grue was part of The Quorum Club, the legendary coffee house on edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans during the sixties. There she began doing jazz and poetry together at that time, along with flute player Eluard A. Burt II. The recently available CD Live! On Frenchmen Street is a representative collection of her many great collaborations of poetry with jazz. Ms. Grue is also the founder of the New Orleans Poetry Forum and editor of The New Laurel Review. She has been published in numerous journals, magazines & anthologies in the states and abroad, including interviews in Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz and Literature and Art Voices. Today Ms. Grue is one of the great presiding poet spirits and mentors in the New Orleans Community, helping to promote and produce art related events celebrating all disciplines, as well as by encouraging bold experimentation and collaboration between artists in the community with her workshops. Ms. Grue's collections include French Quarter Poems, In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh (Plain View Press), Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud (Plain View Press). She has received an NEA grant for fiction and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Prize, and is also a Senior Editor with Knopf. In addition, Ms. Grue contributes regularly as a writer-in-residence at university programs throughout the country, and performs internationally. Her latest poetry collection, Downtown, is forthcoming from Trembling Pillow Press.


In the Dance Hall of the Mind

The dances have gone,
but they still slow drag
in the dance hall of the mind.
They are the best dancers, for them
no regret, they never left.
Tracked water into all night bars,

danced barefoot on wet tile floors
while seventy-five mile-an-hour winds
rattled the beer signs outside.
Trailed out to a soggy morning
as the sun rose up glorious
on slate roofs and sweet olive.

For years the winds eased on past us
knocking Florida to the ground.
A few people uptown took a vacation, but
Flee? what a silly idea? One time the middle as a body
went to Mobile, the storm followed them there
all the while the French Quarter sitting pretty on high ground.

Once the mayor got fifty thousand people
out of town in cars, a few old people
died stuck on the highway.
The Mighty Nine said, Who wants
to sit nine hours on I-10 to get to Baton Rouge.

Big Joe said, We ride it out.

After the marshes went down in the Gulf
the weather woman talked up storm surge,
people bought axes at the hardware to chop through the roof,
after they went for batteries and water at the drugstore.
Nobody acknowledged change.

This time, the old went into the attics,
forgetting that the sweet drafts of AC
ceased singing through the ducts when the power died,
and the power was the first to die.
Don't be afraid of a little water. We're all about water.
You can swim can't you. And they all stayed put.

Love and loss lean hands together,
hold hands in the back seats
at the Chalmette Cinema.
One woman from Australia, convened at hell's convention,
fed a sick woman her last meal.
Home again, they ask, Rhoda, how was your holiday?

The wife, of a friend who writes for the paper,
says to him, Don't go down there. Don't go down into the valley.
He has to: Distortion of the familiar is like a sore toe.
You have to look at it and poke it to see if it still hurts.
The Lakeview you knew stables the night mare,
the horse you ride in terrible sleep gallops day time

past Mid City houses with bathtub rings,
caddies hanging in splintered.
The Gray Line tourists come to see the new Pompeii.
Our old Madame with the heart of gold
will take their money. She has to live somehow.
Now that we've lost our toys, we know how much it costs to love.

Anything you win you can lose.
Our new selves take great pleasure in small triumphs,
clean water and a hot bath.