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Frat Boy on Bourbon Street


Photo by Eric Tompkins on Unsplash

The Voodoo Queen says it's


so loud it sounds like nothing,

so drunk black looks good.


Herky jerk fingers shudder ribs of steel.

A breastplate of judder rhythm

    Crowds accordeon compels chanteur coerces the danse.


The mob floods, crosscurrents

along the sudsy rue:


They will rise, pour, ebb, and drift

till dawn.


He watches.  


His companions ring him 

like so much flotsam, 

a suburban sprawl labeled Tulane,

dipping and nodding as they 

tread liquor 

and keep him afloat  


to watch G-strings on the corner crease flesh in arcs 

like Mom’s Sunday roast, stuffed.

Truth in advertising, here, 

is that “bait and switch” from the old days:


Girls on the poster, white and skinny.

Girls on the doorstop, black and fat.

They do what they do, 

those girls on the Hustler steps.


He watches the women of the mob:


They oscillate.


They roll on a spirit pivot

guided by fingers --

lover-light on an elbow --

that checks their turning.     


The correction doesn’t keep, but moves

the rummy undulation in time to 

the scrub of those metal-ravaged fingertips,

the accordeon zeal,

the black man singing from his gut,

the gray-haired, long-haired dancing man,

one arm in the air pumping stuff 

for sale. Such joy, nevertheless.


In a steam-dark, sun-hidden, spinning room,

burnt violet, sizzling gold

sears the face of the colored man, 

that one singing from his gut,

the chanteur drowned by tributaries, 

his head and neck adrench.

His shirt is soaked.


The simmering air is at odds with his inner, spectacular heat.

When the inside of you is damn hot but the outside of you is hotter, 

who wins?


The sweat.


Those women of the mob, they

rock as though

smacked by a hurricane.


It churns their canals crimson,

    ‘round one side 

‘round the other.


Tipping and turning is a kind of dance, 

but it’s not a danse,


Commander O’Brien skippers their veins,

as revealed by that woman like a model,

sky high on spikes,

locks ironed and blond, like so, so many others.


College Boy watches

that woman yank diamond fingers 

at the orange silk that

clings to her stern and

ribbons her bow.


Her ship is sleek,

a cigarette boat

built for thrill,

not like the black girls rocking entwined fat

on the Hustler steps

whose eyes be rakin’ her ‘round and ‘round

“Who da hustlah, baby!? Who da hustlah?!”


The cigarette boat complains




about the goddam dress swelter-glued to her thighs.


What kind of woman wears a slinky dress --

intended to both cling and reveal only in the driest of heats --

on this befouled and sticky,

hoarse Southern street 

in the depths of a

stinking September?


This one, apparently.


Like the mob-women, she oscillates.

Her man, his fingers touch her elbow.

She tips and whines through the Zydeco night,

but he guides her safely 

in and out of the 

human chop

to a 






that is 

not the vast 

not the round 

not the one called 




She looks more like the girls on the poster
than the girls on the Hustler steps,

or so thinks this 

blurring college boy lurking 

on the curb as they bob along,

that man and his turning woman. 


College Boy’s liquescent gaze is caught

like a water spout.


Focused, it sluices about the man 

in the distance,

the one who captains this creature 

that stumbles the waves 

in loping spikes:


When I get rich, I’m gonna be that guy.


He pilots his gaze back to the black girls: 


I wouldn’t be caught dead with a black girl. 


But black fat girls can be had for what he’s got, 

unlike the girls on the poster who aren’t for sale, 

so he dreams a sticky dream,

laughs a doofus laugh, 

ignores the boat rocking passed him down the street,

the cigarette boat with the diamond fingers, 

that chick that is too, too cher 

for a Tulane boy whose idea of love

is three Grenades , 

two vodka chasers,

and whatever comes big 

and easy

off a Hustler step.


He watches.


The pixels composing his blur

co-mingle with cigar exhaust.


A tourist-man is puffing.

His t-shirt clearly labels him a Saint.


College boy repeats himself --


When I get rich, I am gonna be that guy…


--then adds:


…but I wouldn’t look that stupid,




…fuck the Saints.


Dominican particulate 

inhabits the humidor,

this American whiskey lane

in a foreign part of town.


Holes in the water-air

give microscopic way to


Detergent: sodium hypochlorite

Sweat: chlorine, alkyl ammonium chlorides

Toxin: 2-methylphenol4-methylphenolurea

Vomit: 100 proof hydrochloric acidpotassium chloridesodium chloride

Perfume: acetone, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, benzaldehyde, camphor, ethanol

Hormones: peptide, lipid, monoamine


These molecules cruise the atmosphere,

swathing College Boy’s suburban sprawl and 

Connecticut man’s tourist-wife equally,

the latter adorned with 


cheap hair

cheap bows

cheap gold.


She dressed up for this,

this cheap, phony

pageant of hybrid heritage.


She hadn’t known one could rent one’s own parade.

Now, isn’t that fun?


College boy thinks:


…and I’d dump that dump of a wife. 


Pheromones diffuse, seduce, sacrifice,

surround them all and plead

at the crumbling feet of the voodoo Queen.


Three Xs mark the spot.


Death is everywhere because 

ordinary offerings

avert nothing,

lure nothing.


Who leaves a vibrator at the decaying heart of the voodoo Queen?

For what might such a beggar plead?


A lover to guide himself within her,

safely in and out, 

of the human chop:


Tulane boy will never be this. 


Seeing the vibrator laying poisoned amid


the candy wrapper

the crushed soda can

the empty lighter

the empty bourbon bottle

the broken pen

the bent eyelash curler

the snapped pencil

the crumpled store receipt

the unbent paperclip


    he laughs his doofus laugh. 


In this Fleur de Lis circus, 

blackened is a choice on a menu,

pour is what bartenders do to a drink, 

and College Boy, 


who never thinks of death and doesn’t now,


will never be a lover.


So says the Voodoo Queen. 

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