—Joseph John Davilla, NOLA, 1919
When the drummer’s stick strikes
too close to the cymbal bell
in this old tune, ten grocers’ ghosts
hop up out their graves to dance
at the sound of an ax head banging
on the handle of a screwdriver,
and the ragtime piano drips
all over the place, its notes
drying in moonlight on Upperline
and Magnolia. As long as this song
plays, those ghosts will keep stepping,
their bones shaking in the grave
while the axman passes on by.
That jazz is the only way
to still his ax, leave it resting
against a tree in the backyard.
The dogs will howl either way,
so play on, man, play on.
Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, fall 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.