The Shreveport Poems:
SKULL & BONES SONGS
Francis D. Grabau
(1/01/04 - 7/15/04)
float by on flimsy barges
drifting downstream to New Orleans.
It's time for Mardi Gras, they say, read me passages from
Huckleberry Finn. Backwards.
They're possessed of a strange humour, pose themselves in Renaissance
velvets, in lush silks of crimson and scarlet draped on their empty bones.
Small patches of dried skin stretch across their jaws, cling to their bare
vertebrae. Sometimes, they wave their knuckled fingers, ornately
faceted rubies, glowing emeralds hang there like eyeballs
fallen from a golden face. They like to talk to me in that
old black magic called Voodoo.
All these elegant souls hover in Shreveport. The Dead claim
they're heading South to that great Coal Sack in the long
forgotten sky. Down to the Gulf they go, down again below
the Equator like Magellanic clouds rounding the Cape of
Good Hope, circling the Cape of Fear signaling some
Morse code, some baroque Cajun lingo over
their Half-Haitian brows.
They tell me shrive is a sad sounding word like guilt
seeking release. Hear how it hisses, they laugh, like
small pieces of fish sizzling in the grease of a
The Dead say this place is stagnant, a harbor full of
whoring souls needing forgiveness, unable to
give it. Lost in Shreveport. Tricky place, full of
gracious postures. Posers.
dancing inside the Grail, wear purple over
their bones. They keep grinning, very
French grins. Dip their fingers deep
like ivory chips into the holy bowl:
bless you, they click in digital
We never seem real to them. They are
loose as starlight while we cling
like barnacles to our dull
bodies under the
Love, say the Dead, is a kind of liquid bone
burning in the currents of the heart. Who
knows what they mean by that!
They love to spin their spirals pulling our souls toward them. Kiss the Grail
just once, they say, and you're dead too. Your lips taste a different
love in the green under-light of that other
Drink deep of yourself where the dead
hold you, the way a picture hangs
on a wall. Wailing. O, the Grail is
Empty. A round frame
full of nothing.
Listen up, Shreveport, God
has no use for guilt, it's
just a crazy Voodoo
riff. God told me so
Mardi Gras is coming, it's time
to love your dead, and all
their bluesy jazz.
Shrove Tuesday's here, Lent's just around the
corner, -say the ghosts of Priests, keys
of the Kingdom hanging from their
belts. These guys are rock-hard
inside, don't want to have
fun, don't believe in
They're worker ghosts. Bankers, fiercely American. Don't have
bones like the real Dead, just glow the gray-green color of
crisp dollar bills. Poppycocks, Will 'o the wisps. Saying
they want to sell me their indulgences, save my
christian soul. Junk bonds. Think they need to
shrive me, claim Jesus founded their Federal
Reserve, -I should welcome him warmly into
my heart. Internal Revenue Servants
wanting to invest me in their
gloom. Sickly band of sad
sinners, they play upon
my childhood fears,
Stop pulling on your penis this very minute, Mother
screams entering the room. Slip those sheets up
over that thing, just what do you think
you’re doing! God will get you
for that vile sin. I'm telling
you, boy, pull up your
She thinks she's being clean, responsible -like the Federal
Communication Commission. She's not fond of sticky
sheets, says she's tired of washing them.
where the good old boys weave the winding sheets
boldly hanging on the ships’ masts. Lusty golden
cargoes down in the boats' bowels. Hidden
like the Pirates who don’t do penance
either. Don’t believe in it, -Ash
Wednesday or not!
Shrove Day is here and they have
the Saviour as their stowaway
hanging-out in the hold,
fasting 40 days and 40
nights, getting ready
for his big passion
play. Mardi Gras
swells like a thorn in his holy head, a spear in his sacred
side. Quick, somebody, get the grail, gather all that
gorgeous blood in a proper mystic cup. Cook it up
with hotly seasoned guilt, some sassy Cajun
crawfish! Let it congeal. Slowly. Turn it into
gold, money, - Holy
how our sins pervert us. Filthy sex everywhere. Grinning
at us from the lips of Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Bush. Guilty
as charged, they crow -innocently. Their black
wings flapping like flags in our faces. God
bless America, they shout. God blast
those heathen terrorists. Smear the mark of Cain upon
their evil brows, the tell-tale dust of uranium over their
depleted heads, - Savage Muslims, lousy Arabs, lazy
Caddos. Ashes to Ashcroft, cry the Dead, dust to
Waco. The business of wanton smiles. Oily
graciousness. Polite and deceptively
Tuesday in Louisiana, time for the King's Cakes. Dead
baby dolls baked into each bite. False Angels
singing extra low frequencies mess with the
circuits in your brain. Don’t think about it,
Faith is all you need. Faith in the
Corporate Trinity, the red, white,
and blue blood of the poor
saved by their suffering
flag of Jesus, sent from his Divine Father, the Godhead of the
Celestial Reserve crucified for your Sins. These are the real
men in black your dear Momma never told you about.
But the Dead will: Barksdale,
hums full of nuclear warheads buried deep in silos of cement, forcing
the Dead from their dirt. Skulls and Bones. Jolly old Mister
Rogers. Television. Telecom.
Teleport yourself right
out of here.
Shreveport, wrapped in secrets, the Bay of
Pigs. Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday in Cajun
French where Freedom fries fall into
the Red River washing down to
New Orleans, Freedom fries
forming log-jambs the Dead use to build their rafts. Captain
Henry Miller Shreve. More Voodoo. Mudbug
The Dead move inside their shells dreaming of crawfish - Magical
jumbalaya. A Nation wrapped in sticky sheets, sweet
Shrove Tuesday, feast of Skull & Bones, radiationConfederacy of Dunces. Happy Mouseketeers.
ceremonies. Bombs baptized in hot perfumes
from laissez-faire religion. Mad people
disease. Gallant eels afloat in the
Southern swell of richly gobbled
prions. A true blue (and bless
your little heart)
Weaponeers surfing subliminal waves of
Holy Mass Destruction.
Burning Crosses like good victims
shrouded in their white sheets,
in the hidden hoodoo of the
racist voodoo of their
gracious Ku Klux Klan.
O yes, Miss Scarlet,
ride the Rapture
of the Righteous
You got no sense of humor, my friends like to tell me. Always
filling your head with Dark thoughts. Cheer up, kiddo, it's
Carnival time. My friends are
funny. Quaint. Downright
queer, -if you ask me,
and I know you
are my other friends. Mockingbirds. They
cover the sticks of their flimsy barges in
fragments of silver and gold, are their
own Skull & Bone Society. Grin
as they pass on the bayou air.
Real Bonesmen never eat at Burger King. Ketchup is their
idea of perfect gloom. I give them lots of room in my
Shreveport life. But then, -I always have. Born
dead, I guess, in marble-stepped Baltimore.
Reading Edgar Allan Poe in Row houses.
Carnival time means
farewell to meat. I drink coffee, smoke cigarettes,Improbable masks cover the meat of our bones. Trap us
instead. Blowing second-hand smoke on the air
keeps my friends at their much needed
distance, let's me feel whispy. Smoke
and mirrors mark my medicine way
or, as the Dead always say,
-your poison is your path.
flat inside our flesh. Sometimes the Dead think we're
Zombies, see us as the Undead, ask hard questions,
-like why do we look past them when they have
something to say and want to play. Kids
chanting in chorus,
Am I ? Ssi Ssi ? Pee Pee I ?
sounding by the Red
The silt of their stately song flows downstream
where native blood from Shreveport joins
the Mississippi, making mud-bug
madness in the Mardi Gras of
A macabre sense of humor creeps into me
from the crawfish, I swim in the cauldron
with the Dead.
Low in the winter trees lining the river, Mockingbirds
sing. They imitate sounds of Warriors biting King's
Cake in Nuclear Barksdale. The birds
in our perpetual facades warn us: it's always Carnival Time,
our poison is our only path. We are the Voodoo Bonesmen
crying farewell to our meat. The Dead
welcome this purple humor, find it toxic. Ironic. Call it
Hollywood, the curse of the black pearl. Drink it
down with stump-hole whiskey crooning
all the while: " feu follet " -they say, you
are our friend -at last!
Silver rain drops drip from arching stems outside
my window. Wet rose branches with
no buds in bloom.
It's February in Fabulous Shreveport, Casino to the largest Rose
Garden in the World. Day after day the sunless gray
weather presses in, calls to mind that Voodoo
gris-gris carried in a sack around the neck.
Gris, you know, is Freedomless French for
good old American Gray. Sounds of
Confederate Glee. Gris, the Dead
I told you how they floated by last month -just to chew
my bones, give me the hip-hop juju of their
gris-gris ! Okay, so they say:
'The South Will Rise Again'.
Hold up some huge hypo of a mojo needle, two feet
long -if it's an inch. The glass intricately wrought
with Arabic letters, a vial embellished in crude
blobs of stained light. Shades of purple, ruby,
and emerald green. A Gothic Voodoo
they show it to me, -like grade 'B' actors in aSo what, says I: -you're all too pig-foot weird for me! I mean,
Frankenstein flick. Look, they say, today we
shot-up the President, pumped him full of
gris-gris down in Old New Orleans! They
stand tall, look skeleton proud.
I really like your get-up, your barges, your brilliant bones,
but ... but,
I've got work to do. My purring computer, my perfect
poems. Can't you take your Movie elsewhere ? Oh,
how the grieved Bonesmen brooded then
like low clouds wetting the night air, -
heavy, dejected, as if they really
You'd think I'd broken their bony littleRight away,
hearts! Okay, I say, let's have it;
just what's that puky looking
stuff in the vial ?
the one they call Lafitte
throws his left bone-arm up, defiantly.
Where his crimson sleeve sweeps the air
a panorama unfolds. America, an
aerial view -from the Western
Rockies to the Atlantic
in the keen electric air
while hypnotically they croon to me
their Cryptic Tales, -how
the river is a sacred gumbo, an enchanted snake,
how run-off dances from North, West, East,
flows South down the Mississippi through
the murky Bayous to old
New Orleans. Carries
white toxins, ancient debris tumbling through its
waters, swirling in the silt. Bones of Lakotas,
Arapaho. Spirit shards from the
Kiowa, the Caddo, -tribes and
clans too numerous to name
toss in the mix.
Geronimo stands boldly beside Lafitte. Baudelaire,
feathers from Woodpeckers, Mockingbirds,
Eagles, tremble down the sky. The Dead
say they've stirred up this potent
Swamp-Pop, a silty juju juice.
Shot it through the putrid
flesh covering Zombie
Bush. Claim it will
make him Visible,
seen for what
he really is.
I consider them seriously mad, other-worldly, not
pertinent to my life. They get the point and
disappear. An Email
drops down from New Orleans. Marie Laveau laments
how the heavy traffic makes her late for work, how
the goddam President messed up her day. I find
that perfectly ludicrous. Tune in the
radio: Zombie President, suddenly
Visible, lands in Atlanta.
Bends his knee by the Dream King's Grave. News.
It's another wreath-laying gesture, another
fake turkey stuffed like a rubber up the
ass of Iraq. Fade to black. Photo -op!
A fund-raising dinner deep in the folds of the Patriot
South. (Protestors line the streets) His trip to the
grave of a Nation's Black Hero marks the
seal of anthrax on the taxpayer's
backs. Look, how the
topple, watch while the scapegoat
bleats. Golly gee, says I to me, another
non-lethal gesture, another quick
double-cross. O, Malfaiteur!
Les enfants terribles, les enfants des Ombres! The children of shadows
are restless once more, Orisas and Loas again are afoot. Their
message so hauntingly plaintive -like terrorist cries of money,
like voices of sulphur and honey ! Must be that giddy juju,
must be the Voodoo of the Dead. Down past the dark
French Quarter where the trumpet of Sachamo blasts,
deep in the Congo Square beat the drums that
remember the past.
There where the Jazz Moon rises
Old Papa La Bas stands, carves
a cursed name backwards
on the white of a black
Egroeg M. Hsub.
O, Pot-pourri. Damballa ! Yoruba ! Here come
the Dead, again. See how they're dancing
and singing, watch them ecstatically
sway -while somewhere a real rose
is blooming and it's music is pure
mambo magic, and it's scent is
MIDNIGHT IN THE MOCKINGBIRD GARDEN
The cryptic hand that plays the haarp
breaks the heart.
mocks the bird calling from the trees. No breeze
ruffles her feathers. It's midnight where the rains
freeze and the temperatures drop low in
rustic Shreveport. Cold
gleams in the moonlight, cracks
underfoot where I tread
toward the Dead.
Each Loa has her mystic pattern. Beckons
through the lacy ice, tells where
the quick stars come down
giving light from old to young. Like the lines folded
in the palm of my hand, they are the
'fait accompli' or what we must
hold most dear. Hold
to the bones of your'passed over'.
dead. They never
The Tomb at Yale yawns wide to swallow me. Eulogia
mumbles her ivy spells, -dumb euphemisms, false
contentions, spin decrees crying
doom: " Tout y est faux! "
say the Dead, listen to the mockingbird, you
souls of Shreveport. Hear how utterly
void of eloquence Yale's faux
Omerta -the Scarlet curse of hollow
sound that mocks the living song.
Our Saviours are our Dead, the far
Ancestors singing in our bones.
They urge us play, come to
Carnival, say farewell to
meat. Eat ourselves
at stroke of Midnight here, in the
Mockingbird's garden where
bones croon like dry doves
making music all night
long. They do not
sing of Death, they sing
the 'coup de grace' !
" If ever I should cease to love
no shriving will suffice
to save me."
THE PASSION OF BONESMEN
Seen in the light of day the Dead seem
kinky -sunlight shining through dry ribs, no
glow of white bone against black sky, no
pale moonlight or moody mystique, -they just
look flat. Somber. Like
at the craps game when snake eyes are rolled. No bones
about it, in Ceasar's palace the die was cast long ago.
Miserere, the chorus replies.
Azzah, chant the Arabs gathering their
dead. Fling the dice and win the Fish
Boy's cloak. The seamless hoax
woven by his sadist Dad,
designed to pull the
whole house down.
Sorry, Mister Einstein,
Big Daddy plays craps with his chosen
boys, keeps his girls on the side where they
swoon (dolorosa) hot and panting with precious
Kiss the feet of his only Stickman, and he'll
toss your broken spine across the table
where he comes again and again
to judge the living and
the dead. Ah,
consumatum est, and how was it for you. Dies
irae, dies illa, say the puppet faithful. Days of
delicious wrath spent squirming in guilt. But
the Dead know better. Bare bones sharp against
bright sun, they see how the dice are
loaded, cut from their own
hard stuff. They say
it's tough to strike a match in falling rain, seethe Stickman, quit the Christ
its spurting flame in solar glare. All the
burning Born-Agains declare: strike
and damned if you're not
jinxed. Vile Evil riots in
your Soul. Satan
rattles his sulphured chains, sends the Hounds of Halliburton
stalking your tail. Heaven thunders. Earth rips asunder.
Your interest rates rise. Your ass is fried.
Think Eternal Damnation! Think
Enronization. Think it out
all over again:
The Passion of The Dead
keeps their bones together, cuts the crap and casts
the dice. They float before me, these brave Other
Bonesmen cavorting in carnival time, devoid of
guilt or any meat. Slowly and slowly they
drift- lentement, into Lent.
O Friends of the Dead lend me
your tongues, tell all good
knuckleheads how crap
rolls around. Speak
the tale of the
Ides of March,
and circus. Invoke the recall of terminal taxes. Wait,
(I hear myself say in my head) ...
maybe these glamorous sunlit Dead
are nothing but dumb and
They claim those Yankees of Skull & Bones fame
threw snake eyes down for Geronimo's brain.
Oh, Jumpin Jesus, this sure is swell, some
fool's done caught me in a rhymed
voodoo spell ! But
outside my windows where the rare sunlight beams
hundreds of blackbirds swoop about in my dreams.
They fly like songs through the floating bones
warning of Tyranny's rising tones. O,
Camelot! Ah, coup d'gras. The
through the liberal brain, the bitter crown of piercing
lies. That so slow turn of the open car
on the Texas map to the Corporate
The old rugged cross to the shareholder's gain
where tortured interest meets sweet christian
pain, and bleeds
like wounds in the Earth's
holy rain. Drink
from the cup, the zealots say,
buy the nail at the movies
and watch and pray.
Be a voyeur in some theatre's dark,
let Jesus into your sinful heart
where his suffering hammer
can pound and pound
that sacred, numbing,
the street folks say, is
Christ In Action as the CIA.
Sweet Mother, Erzulie, please birth them away. Thus speaketh the Dead
this rare sunny day.
LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULEZ
Come on, y'all let the good times roll
right over Barksdale into your soul.
Ignore the Bokor who stole the white house
his roots are zombie, his father's a louse!
Two Android Bonesmen are all we have up front,
but the key to a field goal is just a good punt. Kick
off the blues, the terrorists and bombs… -shit, I mean
Merde! What's happening here ?
Roll out the barrels, swill down the beer,
there's a mean Haarp bouncing off the ionosphere,
even the fish are acting real queer
having same sex marriage while they leap through the air!
Laissez les bons temps roulez,
In America it's April Fools Day,
things just aren't going our way.
The President's a closeted gay
we can't impeach him away,
or so all the experts say,
eating their curds and whey,
O Laissez les bon temps roulez!
The Nation's a bummer
on a barbecue roll,
corporations live cheap
on the federal dole.
Crude oil's the color of our national soul,
our flag runs up a greased black pole,
even the land we live on we stole.
Yes, the whole tale is incredibly droll,
but hey, let the good times roll.
Cheap tunes bounce around in my head,
I'm thinking I'm already dead
or just got up on the wrong
side of bed …
the would-be poet said,
filled with doggerel dread.
O, I hear America singing
like a jangle of tin bells ringing
to which the rich are clinging, yes
I hear America singing.
And I hear the dolphins sighing
and all the redwoods crying
to feel Muslim infants dying
while Yankees keep on lying.
But hey, I'll just reason it away
like the folks in the media say, O
laissez les bons temps roulez!It's nothing but Born Again Voodoo,
and tell me, just what would you do ?
Sound the mirror, call the Hoochie Coochie Man.
Play the mush-mouth shuffle all over again. What,
hold my nose and vote for you?
I know the difference between a nail and a screw;
there's no way, America, I can vote for you.
O laissez les bons temps roulez! Let the good times
blow you away! That's what the Jesus Folk pray
for Allah's kids every day. Laissez
les bons temps roulez. But
the Dead still relentlessly say we are throwing our flesh
away just to map the geography, feed the
cryptocracy, dodge the hypocrisy, bleed
at the order of Skull &Bones.
" Gentlemen songsters off on a spree
Damned from here to eternity
Lord have mercy on such as we
Baa, baa, baa! "
The Whiffenpoof Song
THE GOLD RUSH
California calls just when I'm descending
deep into New Orleans. No time now
to get the feel of it, -the Big Easy
sinking like America's Venice
where the toxic Mississippi pours into the polluted
Gulf. Swamp land. Poisons in the fish, in the salty
oysters, in the gourmet spots dotting the
famed French Quarter.
The Mother of Gothic Vampires has fled
this Crescent City. The X-Mayor's Son
cut a deal dumping the bayous
full of nuclear sludge. It
surfaces in sausages, in crawl fish artistically arranged on
immaculate plates. Terraced like the wrought-iron
porches, filligreed like the wrought-iron gates.
The Big Easy goes down for the count. Hard
calls. I turn to my pure white Toyota
to drive at the crack of dawn. On the left front
fender Papa Guede squats, -clowning. A cigarette
dropped from his jaw bone. Papa Legba paces beside him:
"Hey, white boy " they call out to me,
" right now you do (voodoo) really be
at the Crossroads, by the eerie
Porteau Mitan Tree.
What you gonna do, Son, let your petty
'ti bon ange' trick you away from
the bayous ?
Let your greedy 'gros bon ange' lure you away
from the Dead ? "
I stammer. Where is my 'higher self' ? I know
I'm a fool sounding Voodoo in the mirror,
but I really do
-me oh, my oh-
me gotta go drive this Toyo
ta out of these bayous. It's California or
bust! It's pure white man's lust, Oh baa, baa,
Papa Guede shakes his shank, Papa
Legba rubs his crotch. Swiftly
I slip to the driver's seat.
Together, arm-in-arm they do a wry grin, cast a
living pattern -some purple vèvè- onto the
road before me. It sings like a fishnet
a violet song, it pulls my wheels
trailing fragments of bones
and tolling gongs
fixed to the rear
Eat rice, you fool, not gold!
crops up, -riding shotgun beside me,
says his real name's Goyathlay,
says it rimes with 'boy at play',
but he's not playing.
He's one pissed-off Apache, claims the Tomb Boys up at Yale
stole his elbow along with his skull. Frantic to mimic his
Says they really don't know how to play,
they're all chicken sheep afraid of the day
who sneak about at night. Right,
I tell him, but how come your bones so loquaciously sit
in my Toyota like a perfect fit,
-skull, jaw, elbows and all ?
Why must I ride in a car next to bones
talking to me in such pissed-off tones ?
What is the purpose of this, may I ask, and why
does a skeleton drink from a flask ? I think
you're using your bones to mask
the true intention of your task
with me in my pure white
Toyota ! Well,
say what you may, says Goyathlay, but
I'm here to offer my Medicine way. So you
need to know the real Geronimo
since you're from the clan we
call Gray Bow -that's why
you're driving this car so slow
as if it were night and the sky
full of snow. Now
watch the road cuz your muffler
hangs low, and if it falls you'll
lose both your balls or what
this Bonesmen so cryptically calls
your, …uh -French cojones !
Okay, Shrewd Bone Man, I'll do what you ask, but
tell me, honest -what's in that flask; I mean
the one you're guzzling from -is that your
medicine or is it just rum ?
And by the way -my muffler ain't my balls,
just like a river ain't Niagra Falls. But
Old Goyathlay claims we must solemnly pause
and give some thought to the nature of skulls. So
I shift the car into cruise control mode
hoping to keep it aimed on the road,
(but somehow I think I'd rather
not talk with this feisty cadaver).
O, merde, here comes more
dead bones jabber!
You may say I'm just a cadaver, but really
what does that matter ? I'm here
to teach you in tones the tale of
all my bones, for words like birds
fly away (or so we Apaches
say) but tones drum into
your bones like spells
cast by cellular
I'm the Backdoor Man named
'the one who yawns' who claims
the living are often mere pawns
caught between sunsets and
I say, they run from the dead,
hide their heart inside of their head,
can't see beyond their senses.
Folks don't factually die
the way they claimed I died
due to something they called
-neither cancers nor strokes put an end to folks
they just give up their breath and die of
plain death. Though
they're usually not seen
that still doesn't mean
they're not living on some other level.
As flesh can't stand alone
without help of hard bone,
so the living can't live
without breath the dead give
when we turn back to earth the bones of our birth.
I am wise Goyathlay, the fierce Geronimo
come here to tell you the story I know:
Not ten years had passed, as you Living reckon time,
from my body's death to these gravediggers' crime.
-chanting three, two, and two
(now see -with that- what you can do)
Gentlemen songsters off on a spree
up to no good but skullduggery.
They had no love for such souls
as me, -baa, baa, baa.
It was late in May and dark at night,
they were six army captains all tipsy and tight,
(for two more were kept out of everyone's sight)
fire-water burned in their veins making light
of their dumb skullduggery, -and they kept
crooning: We're poor little lambs who have
lost our way, -baa, baa, baa.
Pickaxes rang on the ground hard as stone,
making sounds of earth on earth alone
till they finally dug down into my bone,
-and they kept singing: We're little
black sheep who have gone
astray, -baa, baa, baa.
Dingbat, Caliban, Barebones,
-the whiffenpoof brothers with axes that fell
while the craft of their singing cast its
chanting two, two, and three
they stood grinning down at
And then, what the heck -they
hacked off my neck.
Chanting three, two, and two
they'll do the same for you.
They're Boodle Boy songsters still off on a spree
though they're doomed from here to eternity
-they'll keep singing: -baa, baa, baa.
You may say I'm just a cadaver, but really
what does that matter ? I'm here
to teach you in tones the tale of
all my bones, for words like birds
fly away (or so we Apaches
say) but tones drum into
your bones like spells
cast by cellular
"We have done with Hope and Honour,
We are lost to Love and Truth,
We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung,
And the measure of our torment
Is the measure of our youth.
God help us, for we knew the worst too young!"
…to be continued; posted July 15, 2004