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.