64 Parishes Welcomes Alison Pelegrin
The new Louisiana Poet Laureate shares work about people, places, ruination, and rebirth
Pelegrin writes of her work, “Louisiana—our people, places, ruination, rebirth—has always been my favorite and pretty much only subject. I’ll never run out of things to say about it. Nothing brings me more joy than to add my voice to our river of voices, and I am excited to spend the next two years crisscrossing the state to talk about poetry and to urge others to give voice to what they have experienced and seen in our shared world.” To find out more about Pelegrin and upcoming events during her term, visit alisonpelegrin.com.
Even in Gretna, Hearing the Cashier Talk, I Long for Gretna
Coasting into my old world to help
mom pack up the house she can’t sell
for nothing rimmed as it is with trash
and canals threatening to overflow
I get a taste for the red drink
of my youth and when the cashier
at the gas station lets slip the drawl
of my people most of them scattered
elsewhere or to the grave I could weep
peacock talk purposely showy and slow
any time I’d hit the twang mom got angry
because I was letting my Gretna show
she threatened a face slap or taste of soap
and I circled on a red bike just out of reach
from Our Lady of Bewilderment. LSU Press, 2022.
I was a horse girl. I took Black Beauty to heart
but kept it secret, just one of the multitudes
swarming on the inside, though on paper I am mute—
only in bubble letters under lock and key
did I promise faithfulness — one page a day until I die.
In truth, my mind gallops from one obsession
to the next. Unable to select from the stables
a steed for a birthday trail ride, I settled for one
with a bald face and crusty eyes just to be done
with the choosing, and like a trail ride mare I circle
back to where I began, the wide world ignored.
Having always confused my whims for divination,
I expect signs to appear when called. Sometimes
I read back to front, and for this reason Izumi Shikibu’s
deathbed poem seems less epitaph than a creed:
O moon above the mountains’ rim, please shine
a little further on my path. I am large, but airbrush t-shirts
have narrow margins and it’s serious work,
auditioning words to stencil across the neon sky.
As I Stand on a Paddle Board for the First Time in June,
I Plan for October’s Eclipse
after James Wright
Knowing full well the folly
of counting on tomorrow, I resolve
to be on Bayou Castine
for the eclipse coming in 100 days.
I’ve got solar glasses and a flashlight
to wear around my neck,
and I’ll pack a flask, because if you’re not
reading boat names and sipping bourbon
on the bayou during the annular eclipse,
why even bother?
But now it is summer,
and I live for darkness where it is cooler,
roaming the yard in board shorts and Crocs.
How do I, who barely have
my balance, dare dream of gliding
among cypress stoic in black waters?
Tonight’s crickets salute the thunder moon.
Those that will sing their confusion
to the future have just taken root.
Spectacles of Daily Life
There are things you own
without knowing — boat slip
in your name though the skiff
changed hands long ago.
Your people’s unquestioned ways—
prayer cards in the pocket,
canceled casino dice, votives
making a shrine of the bathroom.
These spectacles of daily life
are so small, possess so little mystery
they’re hardly worth writing down.
I drive past Parc Fontaine
where my father lived forty years ago,
but never past his grave. Once was enough—
holding it all in, no ripple of ruckus
from us in leopard print or pearl snaps
still creased from Tractor Supply,
eyes locked on the coffin which was nothing
if not one of Earl’s crab traps
baited with turkey necks
and sinking with no splash.