Sunday, October 30, 2022

Louisiana Songs by Robert Demaree

1. Don’s House

He lives alone now
In the house they planned together,
In a neighborhood not meant for single men.
The living room is bare:
She took the loveseat, the coffee table,
Its off-white finish distressed at the factory.
They say she likes antiques now.
She did leave him the microwave.
His hands tremble, more than I’d remembered,
As he vacuums the sculpted carpet:
It is subdivider’s blue, embarrassed,
Dingier than he can see,
Less elegant than she had hoped.

In the back bedroom, where I stay,
He keeps his daughter’s bed made;
Her pictures line the wall, one for each year.
Our girls, our wives were friends then,
When we lived here, a part of our life ago.
The intercom is dented, paint chipped,
And does not work.

I drive along Veterans Boulevard,
Past new tanning salons and small loan companies.
The pizza place we used to go, the six of us,
Is now a bar. Signs say habla espaƱol
But in all Metairie looks much the same,
A blemished younger sister
In expensive clothes that do not fit,
Sullen, beside an aging beauty queen.
A square glass bank occupies the lot
Where Don and I used to buy our Christmas trees.

2. Storm in the Gulf

People are at Home Depot
Buying the ritual plywood and masking tape,
The sky a balmy gray, with yellow and purple
Like a bruised thigh,
That sharp aroma of ozone:
In Louisiana you can smell a hurricane
Coming. It is September 1970.
Outlanders recently arrived,
We are off to a high school game
Down that fragile finger of land
Built by the river, imperiled by the Gulf,
Aluminum bleachers at the end of the earth.
It is homecoming night.
The effigy of one of our boys
Dangles from an oak amid the moss
(You can guess why).
At the restaurant
Parish deputies in hip boots
Urge us to head back north.

The storm veered to the west,
Struck a glancing blow.
Others were to be less kind,
But we would be gone from that place.

3. April 1998

Louisiana some years later:
Soft blue days,
Places and people one never really left,
Prescient of familiar phrases,
The plantation around the next bend
On the River Road.
Tour buses tromp through galleried halls
Built by absentee sugar barons,
Now owned by Australians.
In the French Quarter,
More psychics, fewer artists.
We drive by the houses
Where our girls were children,
Remembered restaurants gone.
Louisiana, its vulnerable beauty
Intact within layers of memory
Not so deep as one had thought,
Called up by mornings redolent of coffee,
Sweet olive, the river, unseen behind the levee.
Those were good years, he had said,
Maybe the best.

Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in numerous periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.