Words fly by when my body is still, catching only the shape of my grief. Her laughing smile, her warm hug. Red gravy and jelly toast, lumpy mashed potatoes and a bourbon and water at 5pm. Hurricanes and dancing lessons, and don't forget the chicory in the coffee, please.
Her toothpick box and poker chips lie quietly to my side, and Louis Armstrong marches her home with the Saints.
She dances with red, red lips in the arms of a dashing Italian scoundrel. A divorced man with twinkling black eyes and a shadowed past, from the city of New Orleans.
For the first half of my life, her arms were where I went to cry. She gave me history and showed me what what a word is worth. She taught me how to love without reservation, to squint so I'd always see what was good and right with the world, and what infinity really means.
When I left home at 17, I went to the waiting arms of the city that care forgot. It meant more to her than it did to me, in the beginning. She loved it with a passion, and I lived her dreams in the winding streets and steamy nights of New Orleans. I remember the unshed tears in her eyes the night I told her I was heading for home on the Mississippi.
In the end, I did what she taught me to do: I made stories, strewing them beneath the oaks. I found my own black-eyed boy, born with tabasco on his breath and laughter in his soul. She was there the night we danced, with my eyes bright and his shoes shined to a military polish. He saved the last dance for her, and I knew then that it was forever.
I'll never see tears in her blue eyes again, but I feel them when I lie down to sleep. It would have killed her to see what Katrina has done.