Savvy Travelers in New Orleans

Respond
within twenty-four hours
or this trip is lost to you
forever.

Rudy Maxa said don’t
take those rip-off trips–
but we already had,
my daughter and I;
that’s how we got to New Orleans
to find some French flavor
for a school assignment
and buy ourselves fancy underwear.

We found a sun like melted butter
on the
doorways and balconies of Decatur Street,
jazz on the street parading,
and an outdoor cafe where
two white-haired ladies
with umbrellas danced–

I took one picture at the moment
the streetcar changed its destination
to Desire, another
in an upstairs window
on St. Peter Street
where two silky women shared a drink
and a long kiss.

My daughter snapped
her last French street signs
as sunlight faded to neon
in the town of Louis Armstrong
on a Saturday
and we went as planned
to the Maison Blanche
to choose our lacy souvenirs–
the perfect thing.

Later,
she stared
at her dinner of salmon in
cheerful orange straws of potatoes
and murmured, astonished,
“I never knew food
could be a work of art.”

She was sixteen; nothing
had surprised her in years.
I put down my spoon
and took in that moment.

I think of New Orleans.
I think of a garden, painters and jugglers in
Jackson Square,
every time I take those teal and rosy
flowered things from my dresser drawer,
and I want one more afternoon like heaven,
like walking in a Dufy painting–
for lagniappe.

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