My southern satisfaction

September 23, 2012 at 12:04 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I was just ordering my second voodoo daiquiri when I saw them.

They were sitting on the footpath across the road from the bar. Afternoon was turning into evening on Bourbon Street, but there was enough light to see two typewriters on a small table in front of them, and a sign propped against them.

POETS FOR HIRE.

New Orleans was something special, all right.

My friends and I had made Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar our local. Nestled up the quiet end of Bourbon Street, this former pirate haven was also the favourite hangout of Tennessee Williams. After exploring voodoo tombs at the St Louis Cemetery, or watching out for alligators in the Louisiana swamps, the perfect end to each New Orleans day was to curl up in Lafitte’s ivy covered courtyard.

 

Lafitte’s, Bourbon Street, New Orleans

 

The addition of poets for hire was more than I could ask for.

Everyone at my table knew I’d go talk to them. I’d met my two travelling companions through the written word: Erica through a feminist punk mailing list in the 90’s, and Lisa through an online writing collective. Flying halfway across the world with one, to meet up with the other, was giving me so many stories.

This was yet another. One poet was tapping away at her typewriter; the other was named Shawna, and it was her first night on the job.

I was smiling already.

‘So how does this work?’

She was young and lovely, with a mane of long dark hair and a heart shaped face.

‘Well, you tell me a few of your interests – and what brought you to New Orleans – and then I write you a poem.’

After a few minutes chat I walked back across the street to the bar, and picked up my drink. I tried not to watch as Shawna got to work. A carriage pulled by a snorting donkey drew up nearby, and tourists hung over the edge to photograph the roadside writing desk. When I saw Shawna pull the paper from the machine and turn my way, I was on my feet in a heartbeat.

If it is a northeast black

Full, perhaps smooth in framing places

Each southern eye makes its way

Towards a bulkyness

Ladies, ladies, put your hands to work

I stood under a streetlight to read my poem. It was the end of a southern summer, and the humidity had made my already wild hair swell to twice its size, made sweat drip down between my shoulder blades. Everything in Shawna’s poem caught this sultry magic in thick black imprints on the small white page, and I found myself cradling it in my palm as I read.

My southern satisfaction

It tastes so good at night

Happy and at home, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar

When, after an hour or two, Shawna and her friend began to pack up their table, I called them over for a drink. There were more donkeys clacking over the cobblestones as the night wore on, lurid purple daiquiris in enormous foam containers, and a fat moon rising above the roof of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar as we chatted.

I can’t remember every word, but I don’t need to.

I have the poem as proof it happened, signed with ‘Bourbon Street, New Orleans’ in tiny black print at the bottom.

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5 Comments

  1. Leith said,

    What an obscure, unique thing to chance upon Bell.. and a treasured piece of prose that will carry the memories of the great south for years I’m sure!

    • inkymouth said,

      You’re so right, Leith – our chance encounter made an already magical place even more special in my memory. And I’d by lying if I said the thought of finding my own typewriter hadn’t occurred to me…

  2. Jess said,

    Miss Collins! I’ve been trying to find you……found you.

    • inkymouth said,

      Jess! I went searching for you two months ago, but couldn’t track you down…because I was headed to San Fran! So much reminded me of our time together there, but it would have been so fabulous to walk those streets with you again. Oh well babe, next time…email coming soon 🙂

  3. Jess said,

    Next time you come stateside, you’ll have a new city to explore! ❤ granted, one I find slightly soul-less… but there are some bright spots!

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