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Saturday, November 05, 2005


by Gayle Brandeis

When Blanche Dubois arrived in New Orleans,
she was told to "take a streetcar named Desire,
and then transfer to one called Cemeteries
and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields".
After people in New Orleans were flooded
out of their homes, after they were left to rot
in the Superdome, they were told they could stay
on a cruise ship named Sensation, a cruise ship
named Holiday, a cruise ship named Ecstasy,
three Carnival Cruise ships docked in the Gulf.
Carnival charged FEMA more than their normal
tourist fares, even though evacuees don't get
the stage shows, the casino, the midnight buffet,
even though they don't get the holiday,
the sensation, the ecstasy. Blanche Dubois always
depended on the kindness of strangers.
What can we depend on but corporate
greed, administrative indifference?
Who can we turn to but one another, no longer
strangers when the waters rise like desire,
when the cemeteries float all around us,
when the Elysian Fields are clotted with oil
and the streetcars that could ferry us out
are all submerged, like stones.

Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperSanFrancisco), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House Publications), and The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change. Her novel Self Storage will be published by Ballantine in 2007. She was named a Writer Who Makes a Difference by The Writer Magazine.