White Cathedral, After the Storm


Beside St. Anthony’s Garden,
behind the white cathedral,
in the Vieux Carré, where hurricanes
have ripped two priceless oaks,
is Pirate’s Alley, where the turquoise doors
and salmon-lacquered frames run under roofs
embedded with the glass of broken bottles.

A bar or rough café, two missing walls—
laid-bare-to-air arrangements—opening
to south and east, broadcasts the breaking news
from CNN. The place is free of smoke,
the dim interior too weirdly calm.
     (One wonders if they’ll ever speak again).

An hour from now, a woman will sit down
inside St. Louis on the hindmost pew,
to have her picture taken in the dark.
Her round face will develop cyanotic,
her sloe eyes like the eyes of tawny owls.
The latticework confessionals are latched,
empty and fat, with no one to confess.
     (One wonders if they’ll ever sin again).

“Ladies, girls! Come in! Earn while you learn,”
she’d hear, if priest and pimp were to exchange
their pitches. Then the noise on Bourbon Street
would be a call to worship, Latin chant,
and pre-teen girls intent to keep themselves
for Jesus Christ, would find themselves in brothels,
prostitutes find themselves in pristine habits.
     (One wonders if they’ll ever pray again).


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