step child of the Mississippi
born on the defiant shore of mixed ancestry
pigment of tribal song and French regents

color shaped her lips like a song
levees lifted her arms to place her crescent
she flowed her roots swamp deep and alligator rich
sticky voodoo mist and hard brow colonialism
spiced the roux

caribe boys marched and jazz hearts tapped
she spread her legs and collected gold like any enterprising girl would do
port and parcel
building her jewel box and investing in her swampy shore
barely above the level

she was coveted enough for war, but not enough to die for
She was sold like a whore, abandoned by her French father
left her jewel box empty
and her skin blazing with yellow fever

Good Friday burned her memory
but fattened her Tuesday
her heritage dripped out her Edwardian windows
her character seeped out of the cracks in her streets

disregarded by the modern investors
who didn’t find her worth the plunder
her antiques were left to the impoverished
who took her heart in their care and left her buildings naked

she broke free in spite of her decrepitude
and served up her Poverty on a creole plate
made it taste good

her saviors were the Bohemian
her resurrector the musician
the artist and the bum
they embraced her decay
and preserved her style

ultimately poverty was her Great Protector
it is what preserved her
and delivered her back to us
so we can go back in time
when life was raw, burnt-sugar authentic

taste her roux
drink her ethnic flavors
and relish the irreverent sauce

that only the French Quarter
can serve up

This poem won 2nd place at the San Mateo County Fair 2013

Painting courtesy of Jim Blake
see more of his art at http://jimblakeart.com

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