Ms. Emelda is never going to reimburse us for her
the repairs to her roof and the weatherboards,
the new gas heaters or the landscaping.
Even though the State,
through a federal grant,
has awarded her thousands of dollars
for home repairs.
She pulls her gown around her to shield her from
the rain that is falling sideways.
“That boy over there in the red hat.
He don’t do nothing.
He sits there all day selling drugs.
I call the FBI.
I got their number right here in my wallet.
‘ Come and get ‘em’
They don’t do anything positive.
‘Why don’t you help the old people.
Help me clean up around here.’
But they don’t do anything. They’re not like you.
You got a heart.”
The Orleans Parish coroner's office has released
the identities of two New
men who were slain this week, one in a possible case of justifiable
homicide and the other a murder.
Calvin is big, with big hands
A round nose and a hat with a flat brim.
Beneath a gorgeous home Uptown, he is standing,
resting his shovel,
in a hole
he has dug,
his head scraping the floor joist.
Chuckie is still digging on his back, laid out
underneath the central air unit, the silver plenums stretching out
“Hey Calvin,” says Chuckie.
“I want to walk Teresa home tonight.”
“She want you to walk her home?”
“I think so.”
Then they keep digging.
Above them, a little girl in a blue dress is
running back and forth screaming at her athletic young mother who is
trying to get the girl into the car.
We worked all day, then we got off and went to do our side jobs, and
we never got anywhere, they gave us no money and nothing got done.
Everyone was depressed and it was cold. We were thinking about
suicide. But then our girlfriend at the time gave us a video
cassette copy of A&E's pride and prejudiced. We watched all
six hours in one night, then in sections when we could, on repeat
for two months.
Thank You St. Jane, Patron
Saint of Things Working Out For The Best, for the Bennets and
the Darcys and the Bingleys and for guiding us back into the light.
We won’t ever stop passing by Ms. Dora’s,
Even though we know she’s got an able body son
that works for Sewage and Water Board
who we just saw
out on N. Dorgenios
digging up a water main,
because we feel responsible
for her bathroom
that’s slowly falling off the back of her house
because we could have fixed it
and we didn’t
even when we had the chance
and even though she says
we did wrong by her.
We Work Under
We are ghosts.
In four months, we will not exist.
You will call our phones and they will be
Emails will bounce back.
We do not
tell the clients this, though we try to plan.
Some of us secretly hope.
We are slaves to it.
Plumber’s explanation behind the $400 Gas Test
“It cost $100 dollars to file it,
And then there’s Raymond, the inspector,
He needs to get a taste,
And you know I got to make something
Our roommate, who is a detective of sorts, works
for the Public Defender.
“What do you make of Favre trying to come out of
retirement?” she asks.
She is eating her usual bowl of oatmeal dinner.
Her question has been the hot debate on talk radio
“Do you think he should stay away from the sport?”
we ask, and from there we have a discussion that leads to this
He isn’t doing it for the money.
“For the adoration of others,” says our roommate.
“From the compulsion to satisfy his own
expectations of himself,” we say.
“I think,” she starts in, “that all of it is
connected to acknowledgement.”
We agree that Favre is a first ballot
The Kenner Tunnel, Tuesday
All we remember about that job is the mud walls
that started sliding in on us as the train, fifty feet away and
seven feet above us, shook the ground and the tracks next to the
apartment complex we’re working under.
you meet Albert
the OCD sheetrocker
who calls in about every gang box and corner
the long-term volunteer Jew,
who works the warehouse
and is overly concerned about the proliferation
of oval light doors
on the historic housing stock
Lloyd, the handyman the homeowner hired
unbeknownst to us
who is repairing the tile
we had laid, for 15 dollars an hour
who came to
New Orleans to work
and hide out
from his wife
after his son got killed in Iraq
and who, before he went back to Illinois
after he had it out with Saul
and his team of teenage Mexican plumbers
unbeknownst to us
lent our hammer to a toothless woman that stayed
down the block
and who we are forced to chase around the Treme
in order to get back what is ours
We are too tired to pick up our arms
And change the radio station
Where they are telling us
That we just aren’t working hard enough
“we just don’t want it enough,”
so we sit
stopped by the
and look down on some men
who are hanging plywood
across a burnt out wall
to keep the neighbors
from crawling inside.
A Call For
The woman asks straight out,
“Help me pay my rent.”
“Ma’am, it is our policy to not pay rent.”
“Ya see though,” she starts in,
helped me with my light bill.
But you didn’t pay all of it.
So I had to pay some of it
and that’s what got me behind on rent.”
Time out to
We’re standing in the yard
And the dog is chained to the fence
And flies are swarming around the salad
That’s been tossed out for it
Because we can’t do anything else,
We can’t figure out how to keep all those windows
We’ve tried every type of caulk
and flashing that we can think of
and we know that every time we make a move
it’ll be wrong.
and everyone knows
if you’re not doing the work right
you’re not helping anyone.
Ms. Jean and Ms. Hannah are a success story, not
our success story, but a success nonetheless.
They lived across the street from each other, and they were
both out of town when Ms. Jean’s son, who worked in concrete, found
a man who said he could do both their houses, so they sent their
money to the man and he raised the houses first, because they were
below the flood elevation, but the piers he built beneath the homes
weren’t piers really, but just blocks, not set on footings or
supported in anyway, and by the time he got around to reinforcing
the walls and running new wires and pipes he was out of money, he
said, and had run-off so that when we came on we did what we could
to salvage the projects, first putting siding on Ms. Jean’s house so
the weather would stop rotting out the structure and also reframing
a section of her roof where the weight of the shingles was pulling
it down, but then we ran out of money too and we spent our last five
hundred dollars on a structural engineering report for Ms. Hannah’s
house, a report that was never delivered, but we never followed up
on it because we knew we couldn’t afford to do anything on either of
the houses anyway so we waited and we talked with Ms. Jean and Ms.
Hannah everyday almost, independently, and tried to keep their
spirits up until one day we were driving down the block and saw
volunteers swarming over Ms. Jean’s house and she was even out
there, pulling nails from a 2x4, and we stopped to ask her what was
going on and she said that some men from a faith-based group had
picked her and her neighbor as the first candidates in their pilot
program to rehab houses in the neighborhood, and then she said it
was a miracle, which we had to admit, it was.