On the Road: Southern Style
new orleans jazz H. Palmer Hall

That morning in June, 1963, college slightly more than a bore,
nothing really happening, my 1957 Ford running smoothly

I took off, picked up Anthony and headed east, not THE east
that means New York and Boston, but due east through deep

south counties, highway 90 rolling under the old tires. I had
just read On the Road and I was 19, the highway only

a bare foot above the swamps on either side, bayou country,
Cajun girls walking barefoot alongside, balancing to stay on

the narrow shoulder. Anthony said, "Let's offer them a ride,"
young, pretty bayou-bred girls with southern fried French

accents and breasts you could lose yourself between. But
New Orleans was only an hour away, le vieux carrée and jazz

played by black artists whose souls rolled from the bells of hyped
up hipped trumpets and whose cheeks blew out like they

were made for just that moment in the night. And, oh shit,
but young and ready for almost anything when Ms. Blanche

Fontenot got down off the bar and on my lap and whispered
wetly in my ear, upstairs, hot, wet, me, not her, she, cool

cash register eyes, neon lights painting us green like dollar bills
in the 100 Degree un-air conditioned night. Even then I couldn't use

words like "hip" and "groove," could not unrelentingly
surrender to whatever was coming down, going down, on me,

on the world, on whatever was being gone down on, the words
weren't there and a smug phoniness painted the night gray.

New York was waiting, Times Square, not the Village, the Dixie
Hotel, drunks and hustlers and then, after all that, Vietnam.