Friday, August 29 marks the 3-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast. While I no longer live in New Orleans, I have friends and family in the city where I grew up. Coping with the aftermath of Katrina was difficult. Not only because so many people were displaced and I met many of them who flocked to the Atlanta area, but because I was heartbroken for the city I knew, one who would never be the same.
Below is one of the poems I wrote to try and express my heartbreak for a city lost. As I read it today, 3 years later, I'm thankful many areas have begun to rebuild. Yet a certain flavor of New Orleans has vanished, many artists near Jackson Square have left for good.
Please keep everyone there in your thoughts, especially as they face another hurricane season.
The Lonely Saxophone
Copyright 2005 Elaine Burroughs
The saxophone’s melancholy notes dance in the humid air like lightning bugs flitting about in summertime. The musician is nowhere to be seen, but his music can be faintly heard along the lazy Mississippi River. The rich, slow music is the heartbeat of New Orleans, this port city surrounded by water. The Big Easy.
As the city awakens, noises fill the air but the saxophone still plays. The Creole Queen riverboat makes a loud whistle as she takes tourists down the river. Mounds of crawfish, shrimp, and spicy seafood abound here. Clapping visitors surround street performers in Jackson Square, wanting to see their favorite acts. Horse-drawn carriages make the ‘clop clop’ sound down the narrow French Quarter streets.
As my spirit absorbs these surroundings, I smile as I listen to the sad notes of a lonely saxophone, playing faintly as a constant backdrop to my home. The tunes may change, but the music goes on.
Black iron gates flank the streets in this Crescent City. Cherry-red geraniums bloom in decorative pots, and window boxes attempt to contain flowers bursting with pink, white, and purple. The flowers and the ivy cascade from the black iron balconies; they look like children dangling their feet before taking a swim.
The spirit of New Orleans – its people and its music - welcomes them all. At the time, I believe that the music will never stop.
On August 29, I was proven wrong. Katrina’s fury drowned the city’s own and the heart of New Orleans stopped beating. Cries for help and sobbing remained.
I gasp back tears as I see the rusted saxophone start to sink, its hollow insides consumed with Katrina’s waters. I hope that one day I can hear the music again. Until then, the absence of the lonely saxophone is deafening.