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    I ate sweet rolls and chickens pecked the door
   while my people at the table carried on
   in French, playing cards and peeling crabs.
   We cursed in voodoo at football on TV,
   and when Chester got sick we moved his bed
   in there so he could join us. How many trips
   to the Gulf Coast casinos before he lost
   the inheritance from LaDonna's,
   the barroom his father named for a mistress,
   because he was shooting for the fur coat life,
   with king crab for breakfast to crown comp nights
   in casino hotels? If I squint my eyes I could say
   he won--we were Mardi Gras rich
   with a chest of doubloons in jewel colors.
   Uncle Royal called me queen and I believed,
   because he wore coattails spangled with sequins,
   and I rode his shoulders, and the Krewe
   of Choctaw's feathered horses curtseyed
   and their riders tossed silk roses at our feet.
   Grandmother's chin hairs frizzed in the dark
   and the wet house sank into itself
   and, across the Mississippi, New Orleans
   glittered, a string of pearls just out of reach.
   Outsider, I never belonged over there,
   but under the bridge I was a legacy--at
   the pawn shop, at the Camel Club where
   my father ministered to shaky addicts
   and drunks, those wailing infants of sobriety.
   Saint Irvin offering the sacraments
   of burnt coffee and no questions asked.
   Royalty, former hard-drinking welders
   and kings, fat on shrimp as long as we kept
   the boat. Saint Joseph's Day, and look at my son,
   starring as Jesus Christ in the pageantry--
   Jesus, Mary, and Joseph door to door
   seeking shelter and rest. For the finale,
   an altar of food, and at the center
   my royal boy cradled in the braided loaves.
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Author:Pelegrin, Alison
Article Type:Poem
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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