The day she died was the day the purple plums arrived. She was like them, the plums, bursting with juice and color, sipping Long Island tea late into the afternoon, wearing a moth-eaten green kimono, holding a lit Benson & Hedges between her fingers – yet not smoking it. After-school days, she was my aged Greek teller of myths of the world. I imagined her as a small girl, in Lake Charles maybe, or Lafayette, somewhere on the horizon near the gas and oil fields, a place no one could find her. I think maybe that’s why she shot herself, because she was mourning those Cajun sunsets. She would pour gin, and pour me out a ginger ale in a metal glass, as if it were a tumbler of nightclub, then stumble over to part the brown curtains, and sitting together in the growing darkness we’d find a bit of joy in the dusk and its changing colors. I would try to see the old rigs as she saw them, men with blackened faces and forearms, and to smell the odor of her region, though I was only seven and didn’t know a fig about oil, gas or the good life. Or about death, either, for that matter.
Bruce says, when I was in high school, I would sometimes go to dances in south Louisiana that featured live bands. Often, these would be Zydeco bands playing so-called “Cajun music,” which featured the fiddle, sometimes the harmonica, and often the accordion. I could never dance to it, but I loved hearing it, moving to it. Versions of the Hank Williams’ tune “Jambalaya” sometimes use the accordion, but my favorite is on “Mamou Two-Step,” from the Michael Cimino film, “Heaven’s Gate,” a song that brings a touch of nostalgia, sometimes a tear, and always a deep appreciation for those musicians, and for my own roots.
In our dream band, on accordion:
Bruce Lowry is a native Southerner and searcher in the vein of Walker Percy. Lately, poems have been published in The Night Heron Barks, December and Platform Review. He lives in a 1950s, possibly haunted, house in Union County, New Jersey, with a partner and assorted cats. Salvage, his first full-length poetry collection, was recently published by Ragged Sky Press.