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ADIEU TO NEW ORLEANS      

Perhaps a mile downriver from the Moon Walk,
Louisa Street, maybe,
she was just getting under way.
The casual tourists did not notice
a faded freighter,
long in the water,
loaded to the Plimsoll,
inching away from the wharf
into the invisible currents off Algiers Point,
heading upriver to a destination no more exciting
than Burnside or LaPlace or Baton Rouge;

Didn't notice because
from the sun deck of the Brewery
they saw her abeam.
Eyes peeled for hyperbole in the Quarter
would miss the subtle separation,
cables cast, booms retracted, bulkheads sealed,
because her full hull was moving closer, not her bow.

Poised, motionless, over the burnished surface,
an hour passed at least
before she began making headway upriver.
For the longest time she seemed suspended,
as if still at anchor
in the gray water.
Only the silent expense of exorbitant power
paced her deliberate advance.

But in the quiet sunlight she eventually rounded the point
and was almost up to speed, excusing herself
as she plodded across the dance floor
at the foot of Canal Street,
her wake just brushing the hems of the decked out
Queen, the white Princess, this and that Belle,
partnered with the polished Admiral,
and the dutiful, shuttling ferries, the petty officers
that sashayed and reeled between the point and the twin bridges.
Her departure went unmarked.

      — Kathleen B. Henderson


Hear Kathleen B. Henderson read 'Adieu to New Orleans'