64 Parishes

Poetry by Chuck Perkins

Selected by Louisiana Poet Laureate Mona Lisa Saloy

Published: May 31, 2023
Last Updated: August 31, 2023

Chuck Perkins was already an accomplished spoken word poet when I first heard the sheer strength of his tales of Black manhood. He is also the formidable proprietor of Café Istanbul, a cultural, musical, and poetry-event venue—and a New Orleans treasure. Perkins’s poetry shows NOLA mojo from inside a Black man’s eyes, ears, and heart. His sweet prose is memoir-strong and filled with folklore of New Orleans traditions, fears, and fun. He is currently setting his powerful poems to the page in his first collectionIt can’t come soon enough.


The Eyes Have It

Shrouded in the mystery of creation,

The miracle of the land thrust upward

From the loins of the great water,

With the gravitas of a slow sacred birth.


And their eyes were watching.


We got red eyes and green eyes,

And blue eyes.

We got black eyes,

They all come with two eyes.


There are jumping eyes and slithering eyes,

Swimming eyes and flying eyes,

Crocking eyes and tweeting eyes,

Head scratching crying eyes.


Ancient and timeless,

The eyes have seen it all,

The beauty and the wrath.

And now they lie witness

To the soulless marriage

Of unfettered avarice and technology—

A harbinger of disaster.


The hallowed land

Is a sacrificial lamb.


We got greedy eyes, and selfish eyes,

Oil drenched dying eyes,

The capitalist turning a blind eye.

We got cold blooded eyes,

The futures turning up snake eyes.


You can see it,

From a bird’s eye view,

When they crossed the T’s,

They crossed the eyes too.


There are agitated mad eyes,

Confused and sad eyes.


We have questioning eyes,

We have eyes in retreat,

There’s open water,

Where houses use to be.


We have telling eyes.

They will inform posterity

Of who did what.


Their eyes had been watching god for eternity,

But now they can’t turn from the destruction.

They lie witness.


But it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.


Shout out to the

Optimistic eyes,

To the we can make it better,

Hopeful and trying eyes.


Make way for the

Young eyes,

For the never giving up,

Never stop fighting eyes.

Sound the alarm—


Give strength and guidance

To the resilient eyes,

To the power in the symbol

Of the rising Phoenix eyes!


Chuck Perkins, an internationally recognized poet and activist, is an avid reader and student of history. Much of his work is New Orleans centered. He is currently working on his first book of poetry, Beautiful and Ugly Too.