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1983-2015
tearing the rag off the bush again
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colors in the waters

filling the city were: rose violet green
with oil, rainbow...
...the city that care forgot...
(popular description of new orleans)


colors in the waters
filling the city were: rose violet green
with oil, rainbow

rainbow brown black obsidian
raven
shadow the angel for whom

all color is spectrum not
white
parted the waters and walked through

touched the two in their attic, filling,
who opened the window to the waters
swimming to glory as a boat bobbed by

touched the two
on their porch who walked on
debris just under the water’s

surface to dry land
and their car,
the tank filled on storm’s eve

touched the woman leaving everything
striking as if punching the vile sea
with her grief and guilt equal at last

her arms floating out as if she belly-
flopped off the roof, and she rocking
the child floating inside her

the people the hurricane over-
took were part and
parcel of the “the city

that care forgot” that
care at last remembered. the city that could
not change changed


Kid Merv
1

Saturday before the hurricane
my girlfriend went into labor.
Everybody’s leaving town
and we’re going uptown to Touro.
My son was born
at 2:13 am Sunday morning
and I was, Wow!
I went through years of music—
Sunshine of my Life, James Brown,
Bob Marley, some jazz,
It’s a Wonderful World, some
Brass Band, Curtis Mayfield—
so they were the first songs
that he heard.
Monday the hurricane shattered windows.
It’s always said here, Hey,
if you’re stuck in New Orleans,
go to a hospital or St. Joe’s
“the bricks,” which are
the Projects, which they’re
taking down, the strong stuff.
Anything else that’s left—
this is my opinion—it’s going to go.
It won’t have a strong foundation.
Any disaster in the world
you should have cash on you.
We didn’t have no cash.
We were there to have a baby.
We could not buy a $2 meal. I said,
I’ll write you a check for $20 for food,
and they said, No. You could be
a millionaire, you’re stuck in a disaster
you can’t do nothing.
You can’t call someone.
You can’t log onto a computer.
The world has crashed.
The doctor who had our son—
I forget her name but her website is
Push for me, baby—she was cool.
Here’s $100 so y’all can eat.
Word got out I was Kid Merv
jazz trumpet player and da da da da da.
Everyone said, I’m sorry.
And I said, Don’t sweat it.
You just doing what you got to do.
Monday night, we went for a walk
and could hear water everywhere—
shshshshshshshshshshshshshsh—
but we could not see it
and did not know what was happening.
People called in to the Mayor on the radio,
saying, I’m on City Park Avenue
sitting on my porch. No power,
it’s cool. I got my barbeque.
We have survived the storm.
Why is there water up to my steps?
Is the levees…is the pumps on?
The pumps are working, sir.
By 8:30 the same guy called back,
Why’s the water still rising?
Mayor Nagin was stalling,
knowing he had a whole set
of people to move out,
as if we were all on Survivor.
If it been Nebraska or Idaho, everybody
would have been rescued, given thousands
of dollars. This is the land of the free.

2

Next day—oo Lordy, it was hot—
the water reached us.
We had about 5 minutes to evacuate.
A nurse stared at me, You Kid Merv?
You played at my friend’s bachelor party.
I knew I knew you.
She took us to Baton Rouge.
We crossed the bridge, first thing
she gets a flat. I go outside,
put my hands on the lugs,
and they’re hot hot hot.
State troopers pull up, see a black man
changing a white woman’s tire,
looked to them like a scam
or something. Racial profiling.
They go straight to the women,
Everything all right? I said, Look,
that’s my baby in the car,
my baby’s mother, and the nurse
that was taking care of my baby.
Oh, they said, you all
all right? I said, No,
we are not all right.
I need some help with this tire!
Well you got to na na na na na yourself.
I was pissed. But I can trip.
I wanted to get my son safe.
Thanks to Delta, we got bumped up to first.
The stewardess says, If you don’t want
that baby, I’ll take him. I don’t think so.
Everyone toasted with us, champagning
and everything. We arrived 8 p.m. that night
in Phoenix—Katy’s sister lives here—
and it was like a movie
starring Us. We were in
Green Pastures. It was
beautiful. This guy heard me at Chances Are
and asked, May I help you?
I said, I need a horn and some gigs.
So by Monday he bought me a horn.
The church I went to, Valley Presbyterian,
helped us with a nice little apartment, a car.
And that was it.
We were here.
I left everything behind.
I was more concerned with Katy’s
healing process than my career,
like going back to New Orleans
and getting with musicians
and start working. I wanted to be right here
with her, for her. I think
I was very thoughtful.
But we were going through
a change. A year today
we’re not together.

3

It’s been rough. I was the type a guy
who’d have two gigs on Thursday,
three on Friday, five on Saturday.
Now I have a 12 month lease and no gigs.
Last winter, I got sick from my son,
slept for 3 weeks. Food stamps,
lights, cell phone cut off,
Scared the shit out of me.
But you know what?
I’m all right. I can survive.
We’ve all been through it.
I have a cd to put out
with Mr. Ellis Marsalis on piano.
It was a dream come true.
I called him up, asked if he would help me,
and he said, Sure. What more can I ask for?
Lord a mercy. I’m singing with
top of the line guys. The A team.
But it’s a Monopoly thing right now,
Do not go past Go.
Do not collect $200.
I lost my pal here this year, Frederick Shepp.
He was a big brother to me, kept my sanity.
I went to New Orleans for 6 months
to help my mother. He said, Man,
don’t you ever leave me again.
I said, I’m not going to leave you,
I promise, it’s me and you,
kid. I thought, Man, that’s
a switch. I was the Kid.
I come up through the old tradition.
Never had any formal training.
Started on the horn at 11,
youngest member of the brass band at 13.
That’s the way we did it.
Last time I saw Shepp,
he was singing, Do do dee dee da do do do.
And I asked, What’s the name of that song?
Amigo, do dee dee da do do do.
What’s the name of the song?
Amigo. That means, great friend.
Do do dee dee da do do do.
We going to record that song,
take New Orleans by storm.
Shepp, you sound weird. You ok?
Aw, I’m fine. I’m just going to hibernate
and relax awhile. He’d said, Don’t leave me,
but he left me. I’m writing a song
for my son, Hector, named for my father,
a Jamaican seaman, died when I was 11.
Never heard me play.
I’m calling the song,
Has Anyone Seen Hector?


 
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