Eternal Flames and Spectral Colors

How very sad: New Orleans is under water. Unable to flee before the arrival of a devastating hurricane, hundreds of people in the region, most of them poor, have died, and it is inevitable that many more, perhaps thousands, will be found dead in the days and weeks to come. Thousands are already without a home.

It is foolish, I know, but during the course of the past few days, I have been thinking about Louis Armstrong. I wish he were alive, for who could better express the new wave of sorrow that has befallen that strangely painted southern town, haunted by the slave trade and the Mississippi River, and lit with eternal flames and spectral colors?

During the Second World War, when my father was in the army, he met a young man from New Orleans. This young man pronounced the city�s name Norns, which I suppose should really be written N�Orns. It means nothing, of course. And yet, from now on, it will be impossible to hear any version of that name without remembering what happened there.

In 1906, San Francisco crumbled and burned. We know the city it is today. What will become of the historic maze called New Orleans, neck deep in toxic waters under blazing, humid skies? What will become of the people in nearby Mississippi, who are stunned by this blow? Where will they live? What will they do? How long will they be remembered by the government?

This country needs New Orleans. Try to imagine it without. New Orleans is like the nation�s Halloween mask. It is an alluring fabric woven with sweet, forgiven sin. The people who live in New York might not know it, think about it, or care to admit it, but New York would not be New York without New Orleans. And this country would not be worth its weight in sorrow without the beautiful poor people of the South, West, East, and North who every day invent new ways to drag their burdens forward.

September 1, 2005

Previous Entry     Next Entry     Return to Songs and Letters     About the Author

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

Main Page
Author�s Note
A Listening Thing
Among the Living
No Time to Cut My Hair
One Hand Clapping
Songs and Letters
Collected Poems
Early Short Stories
Armenian Translations
Cosmopsis Print Editions
News and Reviews
Highly Recommended
Let�s Eat
Favorite Books & Authors
Useless Information
E-mail & Parting Thoughts

Flippantly Answered Questions

Top of Page