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Testing, testing, can you guys hear me? I couldn’t think of a snappier way to present sound than a recent trip to southern Louisiana.

In New Orleans the decibel levels flew off charts, right along with history, dog ugly and gorgeous as any I’ve ever heard. Even so, I relished the whole Who Dat and Zydeco music and the waitress named Nicole but pronounced Ne-cole. Her inflection piped out like a shot of New York swirled with Louisiana Creole. I kept asking her questions, well, because I’m irritating that way, and because I adored her voice.

“Why y’all don’t vee zeet more?” she finally said, grinning.

Ne-cole, Ne-cole, Ne-cole. A charming sport if I ever met one.

The sounds of New Orleans were spicy crazy indeed. In the streets were drummers, harmonica players and clacky washboard renditions. People were chattering like squirrels, their shoes popping on sidewalks.

In Café Du Monde, we finally plopped down, legs worn and feet aching from traipsing every inch of the French Quarter and miles beyond. I figured I’d earned myself a beignet, snowed under with powdered sugar and washed down with a café-au lait. Spoons were clinking against glass coffee cups while sugar buzzy conversations exploded, and underneath that, the sigh of our pooped waitress, trying to keep up. A fat tip was in order, which made her smile.

So, two days later, I listened to Creedence Clearwater Revival in the car as we headed to St. Francisville, because it would have been a sin not to hear Born on a Bayou if one is going to hang out with gators and Cajuns. And because I’m a Creedence groupie.

Visiting here is like stepping on ancient, exotic soil. Did you know even history has sound? It wails and screams and laughs here in the wind, the birds and bayous.

Three times now I’ve come to this place, trying to grasp a tragic and mysterious chunk of history. Bits and pieces the land has absorbed and yet shouts through the live oak trees. But none makes sense, nor do I condone it. Meanwhile I fancy the people and appreciate the beauty of place. And I remember those without voices and try to honor them with my presence. My heartfelt interest.

The following poem is based on a cemetery we visited while staying on plantation grounds. It was only one visible record, but there are still many loud secrets. Listen for sound in silence.

Fallen Stars

They have gone silent and cold
yet I heard a woman’s voice
in a crows cackle

But that can’t be
sixteen souls long hushed
resting like whispers in black dirt beds
on loud property
they didn’t have time to praise

Days booming with tears and laughter have passed
no more spring afternoons, summer days
snappy fall breezes
or horizons
blazed with red

They lie silent atop a hill now
ringed by a stone wall
gray and chipped
shaggy cedar to ward off sun
and pine silt carpet for decoration

I traced their names with fingertips
when the sun was blooming
and remembered those I never knew
Marguret, Thomas, Mary, Edward, Sarah, Percival
and the others

Then when night turned to coffee
we walked through crispy grass
flashlights beaming
sky flushed with hot stars
now fallen icy atop the hill.

Bonjour Mes Amis- Good day, my friends. Listen well.

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Comment by Dorraine Darden on May 16, 2010 at 9:58am
Thanks for reading and the kind comments, Jodie and Maura! Jodie, I wrote the poem. The inspiration for it was all there.
Comment by Maura C. Ciccarelli on May 15, 2010 at 1:22pm
You transported me there... thank you!
Comment by Jodie Ann Christiansen on May 15, 2010 at 10:49am
OH MY GOSH , dorraine...............your delicious writing and delectable photos both induced me to re-read/re-see all you shared here and I love it....the poem was the grand finale(author unknown?) I do sincerely thank you for sharing your history trip. and now, their coastline ruined!!!
Comment by Dorraine Darden on March 24, 2010 at 9:10am
Thank you for reading, Susie!
Comment by Dorraine Darden on March 22, 2010 at 7:24pm
For that I thank you, Stephen.

Yes, to Creedence! It's about time to move the little sound system outside and crank it up. But not too loud or my neighbors will get snarky.

Re: inspiration-Let's just say my senses are throughly saturated when I'm in a different location. Huge doses of inspiration waltz right in. The hard part, though, is coaxing it out on a regular basis. As you know, that's where imagination keeps one going. But even when the ole muse is being chintzy, I still give it a go. :-)
Comment by stephen dijoseph on March 22, 2010 at 4:41pm
do you find that most "inspiration" comes from being in the place you are writing about?
Comment by stephen dijoseph on March 22, 2010 at 4:39pm
....this is very moving and.... tangible..i too love creedence! John Fogarty great singer/songwriter..
Comment by wiffledust on March 22, 2010 at 11:16am
never made it there. i've been to alot of the u.s. but this was high on my list and somehow has gotten missed.i really MUST go.
Comment by Dorraine Darden on March 22, 2010 at 10:38am
I can't believe you of all people have not been to New Orleans! You must go. The whole area is flushed with history. Thanks so much, Lisa.
Comment by wiffledust on March 22, 2010 at 10:18am
ok now i have to go there! i have always wanted to go to the moss laden heavy treed delta area. and now your blog makes me want to go today! the mystery there that you capture so beautifully is irresistable! "sky flushed with hot stars". LOVE THAT!

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