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C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, Lafitte and St. Bernard

The Katrina evacuees in Texas sleep curved

and restless on green folding cots—hearing

rain when rain’s not falling, they are veterans, centaurs,

talkers too poor to throw down a deposit, anyone


who was homeless back home or living bowl to bowl,

collecting metal scrap to sell—beer cans

for 25 cents a pound, Romex electrical wire for a dollar,

trading miles walked for liquids drank, they’re here.


Red Cross shelters shuttered and the projects,

though unflooded, smacked with wrecking balls.

Men a year beyond the storm with no prospects

of home. Tonight, they are a group of winners


in the bed lottery at Salvation Army in Austin, where

two hundred people camp outside for a chance

at fifty beds, a breathalyzer test, a bag and bedbug search,

a shower with soap, a cot with blanket and a woman


who announces Lights Out. Light’s Out releases

sleep rattling with 8-ball answers, dreams fierce enough

to tear pages out of the phone book, sends the numbers

flying into gale-force winds. Lights Out invites conjure—


It is certain It is decidedly so  Without a doubt Yes definitely I will marry you

Not likely  As I see it, no  Uncertain, boo  Outlook not good

Try later  Apply down the street    What crown do you wear, what Zulu

Do you love her  Where you been  How’s your Mama


Will you bite doubloon gold, brother?    

One dreamer shoots ducks, another burrows in mothballs

and dog food on Terpsichore Street, a church congregation

swims thru the corner store stealing alligator jaws.


Who blindfolds the lake? Who blew the levee? Everyone hinges,

snoring at the ceiling tiles, gambling with a grave plot.

After hurricanes we grow a reverse American dream

where a hundred men without a mule plow up a single acre.


Abe Louise Young

New Orleans native/Austin activist
Abe Louise Young is the author of two chapbooks Heaven to Me (2016) and Ammonite (2010) and the free guide, Queer Youth Advice for Educators, and she is co-editor of Hip Deep: Opinion, Essays, and vision from American Teenagers. She just finished a week-long February 2018 residency at Smith College, reading poetry and exhibiting “Poet-to Poet: A Friendship in Letters.”

After working for many years as an independent writer, grant-writer, and editor, Young recently became Education and Training Director at TexasCASA. Her program will create learning programs that will reach 30,000 children in foster care across the state. In her own words, “I'm incredibly lucky and humbled to help shape what the grown folks will learn, and how, in the here and now, w[ith] this team of brilliant, committed people working to make life better for kids!”