Gobs of meat knobbed with fat sink below my spoon.
The waiter sweeps a fifth of sherry past my nose.
The surface doused, “And more?” he asks, one eye on the next
table, crumpled bills, dead crabs sprawled on plates.
I want more, and more, the sherry clears a window
on the grease like ice on a filthy pond.
I was so hungry when I read the words Turtle Soup.
I swirl the sherry, it melts like salve in a wound.
A world swirls below my spoon, and a muddy river
winds through the broth, past the old Confederate statuary
and the telescope bright with Jupiter by Café du Monde,
past the hooker in the leopard-skin bikini with a tiger tattoo,
past Port of Call and Charmaine Neville clearing notes
in the smoky air, past bottles smashed on Charity,
past Jude Acers, the chess king of Decatur, in his red beret,
past Jackson Square shoeshine, past I-10 out of here
past a green shack in the marsh with a waterfront porch,
past the turtles lazy as rocks who sun their black shells
and drop in the muck if you as much as breathe
only to float up out of the murk in bits and pieces
as the bottom of my spoon. O generous broth, disgust
is the birthplace of taste, delicious New Orleans turtle soup.
from his book the lowercase jew
Triquarterly Books, 2003
Used by permission of the poet.