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Anthology of Louisiana Literature

Mona Lisa Saloy.
“Word Works.”

I’m about how words

work up a gumbo of culture,

stamped and certified African,

delivered on southern American soil.

In my word house,

we spit out articles and prepositions

like bitter chewing tobacco.

We lean on words that

paint pictures of galait

and grits and good times,

sittin’ under gallery shades,

sippin’ lemonade,

wearin’ the afternoon

like a new dress.


This, my birthright,

gives a sense of place

that gets under your skin

like a swamp leech or a good story

out for blood.

The region gives you toast

or beignets with jam.

The R & B, Blues, Jazz, and Reggae rhythms spice

Saturday-night suppers

and street parades,

when the Grand Marshall

leads the Second line

after a funeral or

any good excuse to party

where umbrellas dance.


Folks all colored

from pale and yellow

to midnight blue-black

never just stand back and watch

they gon’ say it how they see it

how they feel,

’bout everything and then some,

from roaches to do-rags,

from daddy-do right

to David Ku-Klux Duke,

to sisters wringing

the barest budget for another meal.


So, here’s a taste,

begun in a roux,

sauteed in lines like

“Trust a man as far as you can see him,

cause you know,

stiff stuff don’t have no conscience”

Sista Sarah said.

She had nine kids

and three grand kids,

didn’t look a day over 40.

Said she was preserved because

“she left the fun box in and

took the trouble box out.”

Then Hebert cut in from the curb,

and fun was all he heard.

Said he was

“the women’s pet

the sissy’s regret

and the whore’s lollipop.”

And Sista Sarah said well

“pass the bread, cause

that’s baloney for true!”

So, call this a Crescent City mambo,

of days in peopled streets,

or nights in low-lighted clubs

on boulevards,

where passers-by pale and bloom

like days-old irises or azaleas,

the places where neighborhood front porches

and side galleries stand vigil

for tall talkers

and pass-the-time rappers,

here, in my house,

a crescent city mambo in words.



Saloy, Mona Lisa. Red Beans and Ricely Yours: Poems. New Odyssey Series. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Pr., 2005.

Saloy, Mona Lisa. Second Line Home: New Orleans Poems. New Odyssey Series. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Pr., 2014.

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