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
His companions ring him
like so much flotsam,
a suburban sprawl labeled Tulane,
dipping and nodding as they
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 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,
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
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
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
off a Hustler step.
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…
…but I wouldn’t look that stupid,
…fuck the Saints.
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-methylphenol, 4-methylphenol, urea
Vomit: 100 proof hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, sodium 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
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
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.