rules for writing poems about hurricane katrina

You may include memories of nickel nights

at the Brazil, or the Tulane student you dry-humped

in an alley one Mardi Gras. You may wax political:

tally the Blacks in the Astrodome, bash Bush.


Abstraction is allowed: curse

Mother Nature’s wrath, the hurricane’s fury.


You may allude to news coverage:

the reporter who awoke on the airport floor

to find himself sandwiched between two men

who had expired during the night.

Or the soccer mom who was chipper at first

in her blond ponytail—we’re all looking out

for each other, it’s one big family

but within days looked like a sunburnt

strung-out coke junkie clutching

her diaperless child.


You may act on your sudden urge

to rent Down by Law and then

listen to your favourite Tom Waits CD

on continuous play, laughing

when your daughter says he sounds like

the Cookie Monster. But don’t include

this in your poem. It’s not about you.


New Orleans is known for jazz, but this

is no time for riffs. When you hear expire,

you should not think We all have expiration dates.

They’re branded on our backs in invisible ink.