Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Chef Menteur

by Jean-Mark Sens


The East turns into the Gulf with the broad face of the sea
behind a scrubby line of reeds and monkey grass tuffs
before turning into Chef Menteur highway.
We pass the promised land of fun and vertigo, Six Flags to nowhere country,
Ferris Wheel, skeletons of iron girding the horizon,
black strips of gantries above water.
Up and down vaults of dead cog train tracks,
Cajun Batman having swallowed a zydeco scream at the top long lungs of the storm,
rusting metal ladders and high-sky loops accusing the dead flatness of the swamp
the best mechanized mountain peak the fun industry can provide stilled buckets of a noria.
Squinting window motels, electric signs of blind letters and shot bulbs
and wind-assailed scrubs hold back the lip sea quivering of the last hurricane
a stretch of fissured tarmac with a fading dividing yellow line
a terra firma wavering and narrowing to the surges of the sea
the pocket sides of oyster-shell parking to let opposing traffic pass by
reach to the edge where shiftless fishermen launch a pirogue or throw some baits
a fading scratch of a landscape threaded out of the Big Easy,
a red Buddhist temple marks an incongruous awe-stricken presence
a religious yearning for what is most missing,
obliterated of its natives—Chef Menteur, a lie to true peace,
a syncopetic silence overwhelms with churning of dredgers
and metal scraps from boat graveyards,
fishing coves industrialists took over
ragged hangars and corrugated tin roofs
great arches of rainbows oil sips to the water edge:
a vastness men have purlieued to their self-interests
an ancestry of ragged Jean Laffittes of the bayou
all expenses the slovenly domain of self-contempt.