John Blair: Aubade for Ash Wednesday

So this is how you
think it is—hypocrisy
and exhaltation,

the rumble and rout
of papier mache floats
like river barges

piled with double decks
of bead-pitching drunks rolling
porte-flambeaux from

Tchoupitoulas Street
clear to Canal, heads all John-
the-Baptist on plate

collars, and dancing-
Salome spilling Vedic
agni out in hot

dribbles of burning
kerosene, and the little
children in the street

brawling for spilt beads
and the raw venal changes
of heart that render

the sickness of youth.
It’s not the why that matters
so much as the how

damned long. Farewell, you
say to the rutting-fat doves
squatting among the pearls

strung on a live oak’s
consequential limbs, farewell
to the flesh of kings

and salty idols,
to the thin-laid screed of puke
you skate across like

whimsy, to feathered
boas and happy-are-we
anthems in the gloam,

to the shuttered glam
and heave of morning in which
it does not matter

how the sun finds us
just so long as it finds us,
and our soft voices

syrup-simple tease
the dying city into
ruin and delight.

(Parade of the Krewe of Hermes, New Orleans, 1989)

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