Turtle Soup at Mandina’s

New Orleans

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.


Rodger Kamenetz
from his book the lowercase jew
Triquarterly Books, 2003
Used by permission of the poet.

This poem was catalogued in Poems and written by Rodger Kamenetz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rodger Kamenetz

Mr. Kamenetz retired from Louisiana State University in 2010 as the Erich and Lea Sternberg Honors Professor and as an LSU Distinguished Professor. He held a dual appointment as a Professor in the Department of English and in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. He has four published collections, and his poems have appeared in 25 major anthologies as well as in leading periodicals

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