People Watching at Café Du Monde
by Kassidy Zartman
I remember the saxophone player
That stood just on the corner by Café Du Monde—
His experienced black hands that skipped over the brass pearl keys
And his face that swallowed in the jazz,
While I drank my dark coffee and people watched.
The taste of the beignet I ate slowly
Was sweeter than the linger of whiskey
On the mouth of the green-eyed boy
I had kissed just the evening before in a dark bar on Bourbon Street—
A navy officer built on southern charm and old money.
I had a distasteful habit back then
Of finding French Quarter men
That liked music and liquor and dancing
And the “you-only-live-once” type combination of each
That I hoped for but never quite achieved, on my own at least.
Some walked past, slow and habitual
In that hungover haze that hangs over New Orleans mornings
While the trucks deliver orders and that cat in the creaky book store
Somewhere near Canal Street ducks between the cases,
Hiding among leather and yellow papers and old voodoo and ink.
A mother shuffled by, her child’s hand clasped in her larger one,
Then a man with a scuffed trumpet case
And a rattling carriage pulled by a thick, sweaty bay
I had spotted on my earlier walk, drinking from a full trough—
Just a perpetual sea of people and noise and life, churning like the Mississippi.
I was alone, but not, in my memory—
The dream-like atmosphere of being young
But not in love . . . with a boy that doesn’t have a name anymore—
Maybe just in lust with jazz music and chicory coffee,
Preoccupied with ghosts and Creole-style buildings and other things of the past.