Illustration by Stacy Reece
Illustration by Stacy Reece

We’re Just Here

Two poems steeped in prismatic New Orleans imagery, creeping up from memories of a complex past.


—The Marigny

The raised crypts cup the landscape
on certain blocks where the interstate
and tent cities border Rampart and the edge
tourists usually avoid. When I return to New Orleans,
I think of my ex-wife and the night I was cursed
by a Guatemalan man at Mimi’s. I was buying
him beers until I wasn’t, and he spit a final swig
on me saying something evil in a tone of voice
I could not quite make out in an indigenous language
beyond my translation. 

We were young and in grad school
in Mississippi and it was Post-Katrina.
That New Orleans was dark like the negative
of a photograph, and in the frays and shadows
we would keep falling in love. We married
a few years later, and a few years later we divorced.
But in that humid night we were just trying
to move to Frenchmen for music and more drinks
and then to the pink hotel that bears the street name
with the very shallow pool that’s the perfect depth
for a baptism to be reborn in the brutality of solitude.

Wer're Just Here

—El Mezcal

This dining room packed
with nostalgic men. It’s so quiet.

But you hear the snap of a bottle
opening, the soft gas escaping

into the space with a hiss
like a fountainhead

where our mineral water surfaces
from centuries underground.

You hear plates stacking on plates,
teeth pinching bites, cellphone text

notifications humming on a table,
the rodeo on the flatscreen, it’s in Spanish.

Bulls inching toward a homecoming
and rodeo clowns scurrying

for the protection of rails and the vintage
cowboys using capes to lure the bulls’

sways just before they kill.
A store adjacent sells piñatas

in the shapes of princesses and stars.
Behind the counter is the toothpaste

that takes one to times of poverty
and those hopes from a taste of menthol.

That is not my story. Mine begins
a century away with a woman

who once raised cattle and horses
on a finca in southern Ecuador

and her granddaughter who mounted
horses in flaking leather stirrups, untethered

to dreams of ever leaving, who still sees
herself as a young woman devoted

to the landscape that was set on fire
by those who would want a claim

to a piece of a woman’s land.
The eucalyptus in flames is inside me

and the evil that rules me is this:
a lust to return to a place that only exists

in another’s country, in a memory where
I will never belong.

Author Profile

Richard Boada is the author of three poetry collections: We Find Each Other in the Darkness (Texas Review Press 2020), The Error of Nostalgia  (Texas Review Press 2013), and Archipelago Sinking (Finishing Line Press 2011). He has been a finalist for the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Book Prize and is a recipient of a Mississippi Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship. His poems appear in the Southern Poetry Anthology, Urban Voices: 51 Poets / 51 Poems, Crab Orchard Review, Rhino, and North American Review among others. He teaches at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee.

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