As a religion--an imported faith--Voudooism in Louisiana is really dead; the rites of its serpent worship are forgotten; the meaning of its strange and frenzied chants, whereof some fragments linger as refrains in negro song, is not now known even to those who remember the words; and the story of its former existence is only revealed to the folklorists by the multitudinous débris of African superstition which it has left behind it. -–Lafcadio Hearn, Harper’s Weekly, 1885
, I love you.
I walk through your streets in the early morning hours
When the last of your revelers stagger home or to hotels,
And the sun catches on the tawdry
Of broken strands of beads in the gutter.
Somewhere on Dumaine a trumpet plays.
The call of music, the call
Brought us here from over the sea,
Over the deep and petulant ocean
In the creaking darkness
To be born.
New Orleans, we live on.
I still stand at the crossroads and close the gates
And open the gates to ordinary miracles.
And sometimes the gods still descend.
Three girls carrying Pat O'Brien novelty glasses
Were ridden by Guédé and danced lewdly in the dusk.
I saw Erzulie weeping on Bourbon and St. Ann,
Mascara running down the magnificent rouged cheeks
Of the drag queen she wore like a robe.
And mystery still continues its slow creep into
The tacky souvernir stores and the tourist traps
Like an inevitable fog.
Even though they have pronounced us dead
Even though they have pronounced you dead.
The heartbeat of Congo Square still thunders
And sometimes the lady is seen in St. Louis #1 with a smile and a tignon,
Tipping a plastic cup full of rum to admirers carrying flowers.
New Orleans, your children
Bastard brown, high yellow and redbone
New gods, and old gods and stuck-up plaster saints
Abide with you, remain with you
Until you fall swooning into the arms of the implacable ocean
Like a lover.