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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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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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I love a statement I found attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: “I wish to be known all over Europe for my humility.” Throughout my time as a writer and musician, I’ve tried to harbor a similar inclination, a sort of quiet pride in what I’ve done, but I am also well aware that, as far back as 1959, author Norman Mailer espoused, when it came to calling attention to one’s own work, what is a more efficacious attitude. He published Advertisements for Myself—and set the tone for a future we are all a part of now. So here’s Bill’s Blog.

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This is the story of my 2-month stay in Costa Rica a few years ago. It wasn’t my first trip. I had visited the year before with my partner, William Solis, who is from Costa Rica. But this particular year I wanted to learn Spanish. My initial plan was to take an immersion course in Mexico. However, William said that if I was going to immerse myself in a Spanish family it might as well be his. They don’t speak any English so I would be forced to speak Spanish and I could get to know them better. I told him that when I returned I would know more about him and his family than he did and so it has proven to be true. William joined me for the last 10 days. This is my journal plus emails I wrote to family and friends and a few comments from my current perspective…six years later. I drew a picture every day using pencil, pen, colored pencil, water colors, and acrylics. I wrote in my journal almost every day. I took photographs.

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