Waterlogged, Nomadic Katrina Songs by Quo Vadis Gex Breaux
Quo Vadis Gex Breaux has published poetry, essays and creative non-fiction in a number of anthologies. She is the Executive Director of the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal where she works with volunteers dedicated to recovering New Orleans. She and her husband live in New Orleans. They have four sons.
Waterlogged, Nomadic Katrina Songs
After two months in the washing machine
my softest pima cotton sheets
bought at a sale's sale
were mildew mottled.
Bleach was not enough
to clear the stains.
Refusing to throw them away
I continue to work on them
like we continue
to work on New Orleans
longing for its former comforts
aching for the familiar.
The uncity that remains--
filled with emptiness and darkness
isolated and isolating
mourning its loss of joy
its way of being.
Where do we bathe our feet?
Where do we anoint our heads?
Where do we quench our thirsts?
Wash our crud-filled fingernails?
How can we ever trust water,
our former friend, again?
Cypress trees were at home
in the head height water.
Oaks strove not to die.
Baseboards in houses buckled
water soaked and swollen
like the minds of the scattered
who left for just a couple of days
or the rescued who were herded
onto planes and buses to places
where gumbo is a foreign word
a phantom dish someone mentioned
when she was trying to sound exotic.
Random thoughts, destinations, emotions and anger
powerful enough to blow up another three levees
fill our heads, swell our hearts.
But with no place to go-full-
we roam the insides of our souls
the building-trash strewn streets of a town
sacrificed to the water gods
for the price of an engineer's early lunch.
We roam the places that we used to know
corner stores that served Friday shrimp and oyster
po-boys with bottled root beer, our Katrina-dead auntie's
drowned house, gutted coffee shops.
There is no sense to make of this
yet, it is so far from nonsense.
There is no place in our heads for the numbers
tolled and untolled dead
dead in the water
dead after the water
dead stuck to the living room floor
fleeing dead-caught by the scythe on the run
dead spirits walking
dead alive looking for their
kin and kith-their kind
here, there and every where.
The dead roam ready to haunt
an already haunted city
for the rest of its natural and
Whatever the personal level of loss
everything, house, car, electronics
clothes, or nothing to not much-
We've all lost our home
the place that cradled our wanton ways
abided our idiosyncrasies,
supported our street characters and
fed us body and soul
the food of creativity and high spirits.
Shadows will not be innocuous here.
Man-made disaster breeds menacing spirits.
Angry shadows who know they were robbed
of time and offered unwillingly
on water altars to gods they never
dreamed of worshipping.
demand unquiet retribution.