64 Parishes

Magazine

Poetry by Julie Kane

Selected by Louisiana Poet Laureate Alison Pelegrin

Published: June 1, 2024
Last Updated: June 7, 2024

Poetry by Julie Kane

Photo by PK Images/Alamy stock photo.

I’ve admired the work of former Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane since I first read it. She is a writer with so many gifts—her use of form, her wit, the wisdom derived from her lived experiences, not to mention the fact that she’s a masteror mistress?of my favorite complicated poetry form, the villanelle. In these poems, what Julie writes about seems ordinarysugar cane, frothy mimosa treesbut the poems also testify to the complicated beauty of Louisiana and of life. 

—Alison Pelegrin 

 

 

Cane 

St. Gabriel, Louisiana 

 

This time of year 

the cane trucks— 

 

open-slatted like 

circus wagons, 

 

dribbling stalks 

along the shoulder— 

 

wobble along the rural 

highway by the river, 

 

backing up cars. 

The air’s charred 

 

with the rum-like 

sweetness of scorched cane. 

 

Clouds of egrets 

drift behind a thresher. 

 

Down here the children 

suck sugarcane stalks 

 

but where I grew up’s 

too cold for this crop, 

 

too cold for my heart. 

 

 

Mimosa 

 

I know what tree I 

want to plant by the dogwood 

stump: a mimosa— 

 

not the Old World shrub 

the champagne cocktail’s named for, 

cultivated for 

 

its yellow blossoms 

in the south of France, but the 

common trash tree that 

 

plants itself like a 

lunar flagpole along the 

meanest highways in 

 

Louisiana. 

When it blooms: pink silk starbursts, 

the whole yard perfumed, 

 

before it begins 

dropping pink rot and seedpods 

to remind us that 

 

what we’ll remember  

best at the end of life is 

what’s sticky and smells. 

 

The Tree Keeps Weeping 

 

The tree keeps weeping where a limb broke off. 

When I say “limb”—it was a Frankenstein. 

 

The crash woke me and the entire block. 

The limb took down a live electric line. 

 

How long before its histrionics stop? 

For three weeks now the tree has carried on, 

 

The limb long sawn in chunks and carted off, 

And still its black tears puddle on my lawn. 

 

“Stop sniveling!” I’d like to tell the tree: 

“The victims here are all the insects caught 

 

Like those in amber from the Baltic Sea”— 

As if an old pecan cared what I thought, 

 

As if I hadn’t wept a sea of salt 

For situations that were all my fault. 

 

Julie Kane was the 2011–2013 Louisiana Poet Laureate. Her poetry collections include Rhythm & Booze, winner of the National Poetry Series; Jazz Funeral, winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize; and Mothers of Ireland, winner of the Poetry by the Sea Book Award. Forthcoming from LSU Press in spring 2025 will be Naked Ladies: New and Selected Poems. Retired as professor emerita of English from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, she currently teaches in the low-residency poetry MFA program at Western Colorado University.