Tag Archives: cajun

Going Home: New Orleans

If you can feel the heat and humidity you can begin to slow down. Add street performers, music, cajun food, chicory flavored coffee, beignets and powdered sugar. Slow your speech and ambitions. Think about seeing some fantastic art. Walk the streets and feel this poem come to life.

Going Home: New Orleans                                                                Sheryl St. Germain

for my grandmother, Theresa Frank


Some slow evenings when the light hangs late and stubborn in the sky,

gives itself up to darkness slowly and deliberately, slow cloud after slow cloud,

slowness enters me like something familiar,

and it feels like going home.


It’s all there in the disappearing light:

all the evenings of slow sky and slow loving, slow boats on sluggish bayous;

the thick-middled trees with the slow-sounding names—oak, mimosa, pecan, magnolia;

the slow tree sap that sticks in your hair when you lie with the trees;

and the maple syrup and pancakes and grits, the butter melting

slowly into and down the sides like sweat between breasts of sloe-eyed strippers;

and the slow-throated blues that floats over the city like fog;

and the weeping, the willows, the cut onions, the cayenne, the slow-cooking beans with marrow-thick gravy;

and all the mint juleps drunk so slowly on all the slow southern porches,

the bourbon and sugar and mint going down warm and brown, syrup and slow;

and all the ice cubes melting in all the iced teas,

all the slow-faced people sitting in all the slowly rocking rockers;

and the crabs and the shrimp and crawfish, the hard shells

slowly and deliberately and lovingly removed, the delicate flesh

slowly sucked out of heads and legs and tails;

and the slow lips that eat and drink and love and speak

that slow luxurious language, savoring each word like a long-missed lover;

and the slow-moving nuns, the black habits dragging the swollen ground;

and the slow river that cradles it all, and the chicory coffee

that cuts through it all, slow-boiled and black as dirt;

and the slow dreams and the slow-healing wounds and the slow smoke of it all

slipping out, ballooning into the sky—slow, deliberate, and magnificent.



This poem was well received in my classes. The story and the meaning is strong and clear. Appropriation is something we all think about whether we use that word or not for how we build identity. Enjoy and remember who your ancestors were and what they had to do to survive.

Cajun                                                                                     Sheryl St. Germain


I want to take the word back into my body, back

from the northern restaurants with their neon signs

announcing it like a whore. I want it to be private again,

I want to sink back into the swamps that are nothing

like these clean restaurants, the swamps

with their mud and jaws and eyes that float

below the surface, the mud and jaws and eyes

of food or death. I want to see my father’s father’s

hands again, scarred with a life of netting and trapping,

thick gunk of bayou under his fingernails,

staining his cuticles, I want to remember the pride he took

gutting and cleaning what he caught; his were nothing

like the soft hands and clipped fingernails that serve us

in these restaurants cemented in land, the restaurants nothing

like the house we lived and died in, anchored in water,

trembling with every wind and flood.


And what my father’s mother knew:

how to make alligator tail sweet, how to cut up

muscled squirrel or rabbit, or wild duck,

cook it till it was tender, spice it and mix it all up

with rice that soaked up the spice and game so that

it all filled your mouth, thick and sticky, tasting

like blood and cayenne. And when I see the signs

on the restaurants, Cajun food served here,

it’s like a fish knife ripping my belly, and when I see

them all eating the white meat of fat chickens

and market cuts of steak or fish someone else

has caught cooked cajun stye, I feel it

again, the word’s been stolen, like me,