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!”