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Tuesday, September 07, 2021


by Terri Kirby Erickson

Floodwater surrounds a house on Sept. 01, 2021 in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images via NPR)

In South Louisiana, every single thing we do is jazz or zydeco.

An old woman sits on her front porch in Jefferson
Parish, smoking a Kool and watching a copperhead
swim past her house. She is wearing her favorite pink
housecoat with the torn pocket, and hasn’t so much
as combed her hair in two days. Three feet above the
water line, she is safe from drowning and unwilling
to be rescued by a neighbor boy who keeps motoring
by in his daddy’s fishing boat and won’t take no for
an answer. She was making a roux when the power
went out, and left the mess right where it sat since it
was clear Ida had no intention of leaving Louisiana
without making a big fuss. BeauSoleil was playing
Zydeco Gris-Gris on the radio before the room went
silent, and that song keeps rattling around her head
while a red, high-heeled shoe lodges against a limb
rising from the torrent, its branches like the fingers
of an arthritic hand. Laughing out loud, she blows
a few puffs of smoke into the muggy air, recalling
a time when most men would have paid cash to see
Rosaline Mayeaux in red stilettos and nothing else.
She squints in the bright sunshine as that stubborn
boy steers the same old fishing boat up to her porch
for what she hopes will be his final run, and hollers
like she is deaf, “You about ready to hit the road,
Miz Mayeaux?” which says it all when it comes to
how much brain power he has going for him, since
no roads are visible after Hurricane Ida turned their
hometown of Jean Lafitte into a bowl of hot soup.

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six full-length collections of poetry, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53), winner of the 2021 International Book Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, The Sixty-Four: Best Poets of 2019, The Sun, The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and numerous others. A former resident of Rapides Parish, she has lived most of her life in her home state of North Carolina.