Tag Archives: New Orleans

Death and the Fairy

Late as usual for my Ash Wednesday installment, and now bump . . . this Mardi Gras Fairy has come down to earth. The details of my costume are so rich with nuance, I almost can’t render them here. Well okay, I’ll try. I wore a high pointed cone hat, covered in pink silk, draped with a sheer ecru veil and secured with a long pale green ribbon beneath my chin. Down below I wore an old pink satin strapless prom dress that I found at Thrift City, only I had massacred this dress so that the skirt rose in a large padded poof around my waist. I also glued a hundred or so lavender silk flower petals to the dress so they flapped in the breeze as I walked. (Never underestimate a girl with a glue gun.) Even farther down below I wore pink lace knickers, a shocking red garter, pale pink and hot pink striped stockings, and a pair of pink patent leather Converse high-top sneakers with white trim. I was a riot of pink.

Geoff said he’d never be able to take me seriously again after seeing me in this get-up. I consider this a small loss in the scheme of things, as I had already relinquished my dignity long ago. Or maybe that was my shame I heard whistling out the window. Can’t be sure, but I am missing at least one of these.

On Mardi Gras morning this Pink Fairy danced with Death in front of St. Louis Cathedral. The Treme Brass Band blasted away, while the crazy Christians marched up and down with their scary signs and shouted, “The wages of sin are death!” “No!” I wanted to answer, “The wages of sin are bladder infections!” They wouldn’t listen. No matter. “Hell for the company,” I always say.

I like dancing with Death. He’s strong, confident and doesn’t care who’s looking. Nor is he particularly flustered by the crazy Christians. Death just smiles and waits. He is patient and compassionate. He may shake your hand. The great leveler, he accepts everyone. This year, however, Death wore a Saints helmet just to show where his true heart lies, and that should explain how that “sudden death” coin toss in the Vikings game went in our favor. Death hovers over Chance. Don’t kid yourself. Plus Death loves the Saints because the Saints embrace Death with gladness. Whatever they do, the Saints are willing to die in order to do it. Certainly, they have died enough in the past to know what that means. Death rewards the Saints for entering into a conscious relationship with the end of life by making them brave and therefore invincible. It is the awareness of Death that pleases him. Death only wants to be recognized and appreciated. What any of us wants.

It should be noted here as well that Death has an appetite for Pink Fairies. He takes them with tea and toast in the morning. That is if he can catch one before she transforms into a cloud of smoke.

You might expect Emily to have tossed out her classic: “Because I could not stop for Death —/ He kindly stopped for me —” You know, that old “Death as the Courtly Gentleman” thing that she does. Nah, too obvious. Instead, she sent the following:

#885, c. 1864

Our little Kinsmen — after Rain
In plenty may be seen,
A Pink and Pulpy multitude
The tepid Ground upon.

A needless life, it seemed to me
Until a little Bird
As to a Hospitality
Advanced and breakfasted.

As I of He, so God of Me
I pondered, may have judged,
And left the little Angle Worm
With Modesties enlarged.

Emily affects a faux innocence here. The repetition of “little” is awfully twee. At first glance, the poem seems like a harmless appreciation of nature and the beauty of the world. But look closer. Emily says that we are great and useful to God in the same way that the worm is great and useful to the bird—as food. He made us to be part of this cycle of eating and feeding, living, dying and fertilizing the earth. Don’t kid yourself. This “modesties enlarged” business is her grim joke. Modesty itself is a false pose. Arrogance hides behind the phony face of philosophy, theology, and other intellectual contrivances designed to separate us from an awareness of death. Humans always put themselves at the top of the food chain, in order to see themselves as closest to God. What folly, muses Emily.

Thank you, Emily for reminding us that our soft pink flesh is no better and no different than the pulpy mass on the ground. That we are all worm’s meat in the end. You are weird, Emily, and morbid. Still, I like you.


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Sorry, I have been absent from the page for so long. Life has gotten awfully busy what with parties and parades and such. Last night was Muses, Hermes and Krewe d’Etat. We are in the alternate reality called “Carnival Season” where nothing counts but everything matters. So a few missed blog posts, along with other “important” deadlines, won’t go amiss.

We here in New Orleans are still awash in stunned joy. The Bless You Boys returned victorious from the Super Bowl. Did it really happen? And how did it happen? Yes. And who knows?

Here’s what I think happened. Everyone with any sense, including the Leader of the Free World, said that Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback in the history of the universe. He’s impossible to beat. The Colts are invincible because they are led by this fantastic football genius. The Saints made a good effort getting there, but folks . . . c’mon get serious. They don’t stand a chance against the formidable skills of Manning, who is a super-game-strategy-devising computer that happens to travel around inside the body of a man. Yadda, yadda, yadda, yadda.

(Frankly, I don’t want to hear any more about it. In this game, Brees made 32 out of 39 pass completions. That’s an 82% success rate for those of you not quick with math. Say what you like, but that’s an arm.)

And you know what? Manning is great. Several times during the game, even Geoff remarked on a Manning-delivered, surgical pass, “Wow, that was a great throw.” I had to ask him to please stop complimenting the opposition’s arm. You won’t find a more passionate and faithful Saints devotee than Geoff, but even he felt moved by the sheer beauty of Manning’s precision. Genius has that effect on people. But you know what works even better than genius? Poetry.

Drew Brees is the poet because he makes non-ordinary connections. While Manning is the prodigious machine, Brees is the inspired maniac. He never does what anyone expects him to do. In that vein, Porter intercepted the pass because he had studied the film, and he knew Manning would throw low, not high, because Manning always throws low in that play. Sure enough, Manning did exactly what was expected of him, like any good computer, which is why Porter got in there to take the ball away and run 72 yards for the touchdown that handed the world championship to the Saints. That was not luck, but a lovely case of preparation meets opportunity meets sympatico meets gumbo. Manning has no mystery to him. Brees and his Saints are redolent with mystery and mysticism. Here is the dark, inexplicable ground, that undiscovered country of intuition that gives rise to poems and nutty on-side kicks at the opening of the second half. Poets win against computers every time because they play with pure moxie.

The Belle of Amherst made this observation of our Saintly revelation.

# 254, c. 1861

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —

I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.

While I visited my family in Maryland for Christmas a few weeks ago, I needed to check on the Saints’ progress in the game against the Buccaneers. So I asked my brother to check the score for me on NFL.com.

He said, “Who are you? And what have you done with my sister?”

True, this preoccupation is a little out of character for me, but you’d have to be made of stone to resist the Saints this year. I comprise many elements, but stone is not one of them.

Although I am, relatively speaking, a latecomer to the Passion of the New Orleans Saints, I can hear the forty-three years of hoping. It rings most loud when I listen to men talk about this Super Bowl game. These are men, born and convicted, native New Orleanians, over the age of 43 or thereabouts, who have spent all their years, watching their beloved team bumble, stumble, reach and fall, and then reach again. (They remember Archie Manning running for his life.) Now these men talk with a glow in their voices. A whole city of grown men, speak the free and weightless song of boys, buoyant with real optimism. Not imagined, nor merely hoped for, now that joy is truth. Their faces belie their age, but their voices ring like new bells. The hope that Emily named in her poem echoes behind their song. The inextinguishable hope of these men, has cracked open and flows into real-time. That hope was the low grounding tone, the uterine contraction, a fierce muscling into the world of this now fully realized, three-dimensional, undeniable truth: The Saints Do Not Suck.

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Newest Grace

I can’t think about anything but the Super Bowl right now. Sure, we just elected a new mayor (at last!), and I have to make a sweet potato/turnip casserole for the party. And then there are the sundry Sunday chores to do around the house. Yet, I cannot hold a sensible thought beyond the game this afternoon. What has happened to me? I used to have my head straight. Now I’m a Saints fan.

Emily doesn’t care about the Saints or football, for that matter. Not really. She pretends to go along with the tide of enthusiasm, but I know she’d rather dither in the garden with a Bee.

# 896, c. 1864

Of Silken Speech and Specious Shoe
A Traitor is the Bee
His service to the newest Grace
Present continually

His Suit a chance
His Troth a Term
Protracted as the Breeze
Continual Ban propoundeth He
Continual Divorce

Maybe when she wrote “Breeze” she meant to write “Brees”? Maybe not.

How like a Bee is a man. Or how like a Bee is the masculinized Emily. What is it, Em? Are you the flower? One of many visited by the inconstant bee, who “marries” and “divorces” lightly and often. Or are you, Emily, the one whose shifty heart refuses to remain fixed on one love? The poem does not tell us where she stands in the scene. Nor does the poem tell us what we are supposed to think of a bee whose affections are so unreliable.

The bee is a “traitor”, guilty of pretty flattery (“silken speech”) and offering false footing in relationship (“specious shoe”). Yet he is present to grace continually. That appearance of the word “grace” holds my attention. It is the only wholesome word in the poem. The only inspiration to rise out of the wretched mass of deceit and betrayal and divorce.

Grace. The bee is the agent of grace at every moment. I am still struggling with grace. How to explain it? The best I can do is to describe the space or movement around grace. Grace exists in a spontaneous burst, unsolicited and unanticipated. Grace descends from Heaven, touches us and is gone. We can’t ask for it and can’t hold it. It is the only real gift from God.

Emily says that grace, this ephemeral treasure beyond measure, may come to us by specious means. Do not judge the agent of grace. He may appear as a corrupted form. Untrustworthy trickster, unfaithful, unreliable. No one you’d introduce to your friends. Yet he may bestow the only gift worth having. We may not understand the container that God chooses to deliver grace. That is not ours to evaluate. Nor can we refuse grace if it comes to us by way of a character we do not admire. It would be hubris for us to decide what is the proper form grace should take. Our role in relationship to grace is to receive it. Allow our soul to be pollinated by the visitation, and let it go.


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