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Student Poetry from New Orleans

September 1, 2009

_The following poetry was written by Lusher Charter School students of New Orleans. _

**His Only Begotten Rat**

_by Taylor Yarbrough_

In the busy city, spectators pass

and laugh lazily at three men

hanging from a light post: a clean sport

to see whose palms will burn first.

I stand in the middle under the man

with trembling feet: the others struggle

to keep the crowd entertained while

maggots feed on a brown rat nearby.

With his head hanging

and muscles pounding, he must win.

A song will make time move quicker:

_Eli Eli lema sabachthani? Eli Eli lema…_

His lungs are full like the dumpster trucks

that pass in front of the site, drowning

out the noisy crowd and leaving a thick haze:

I stand still, head cocked back, eyes on his.

An onlooker yanks a naked branch

from a sidewalk tree

and pokes the hangman in his ribs:

my mouth drops, his clear insides pour

into my wide open throat.

Maggots swarm around my feet.

A street sweeper kicks the rat to the side

and angrily whispers to me “Go home.”

**Evacuation**

_by Cora Parsons_

The car smells of dog breath and dry leather.

Heat pours in through the open windows

slipping between my parted lips

and crushing my lungs.

Houses on stilts look into the murky water

of the bayous that surround us.

F-150s speed past us,

rebel flags fluttering in the increasing wind.

The mutt sticks her head through the car seats,

breathing hot air on his freckled arm.

My father grips the steering wheel

as if it caused all his problems.

I look at his reflection in the window,

his teeth clenched, protruding his jaw

like he only does when he is upset.

His eyes overflow

like ponds after a long rain.

The tears startle me, and I lose focus

on the pine trees blurring by.

Farther and farther from home,

I know this is not the last time

I will see my father cry.

**Spirits of the Storm**

_by Jeanette deVeer_

They travel on the skeletal remains of the worn carpet

on which my brother, sisters, and I learned to walk.

They are reminded of the day when our door was knocked

down in search of rotting corpses or our treasures

and of how violated they felt.

They remember sewage water dripping down

the spiral of a rotary phone’s cord,

the pixels of my parent’s wedding album,

our dinner table’s solid wooden legs,

the rattling dishwasher’s drawers

as they glide elegantly along Livingston Avenue,

unlike the destructive waves of the hurricane.

They want to return to our family in our new life.

But as soon as we reach the second floor,

the curtain, secured onto the stair landing,

stops the spirits the way it stops the August air.

**Scenes from the Highway**

_by Elizabeth Lilly_

En route to our vacation,

we rubberneck past the carnage.

Lying crippled in a ditch, back

doors flung open, bloody

packages spilling out,

is a monstrous eighteen wheeler.

Before, I’ve only seen them

pushing eighty, five feet from our

van’s bumper, swerving loudly

around us. Now, humbled, it smokes

and steams, cargo baking in the

Alabama sun.

Insubstantial beside the fallen

meat-hauler, three pick-ups gather,

their drivers questioning

the distraught trucker

with overzealous gestures.

Like nurses in greasy overalls,

some toss white-wrapped slabs

of meat from one man to another,

in an attempt to clean up the site

before high-noon.

We drive past, safe in our van,

to Florida, where overturned semis

don’t exist, only pretty people and beaches,

and the fleeting drama of jellyfish stings.

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