O Pony of South Derbigny O Leaping Yellow

By Carolyn Hembree

To mark the five-year anniversary of Press Street’s first publication, Intersection | New Orleans, Room 220 is publishing excerpts of prose and artwork from that book. Press Street co-founder and board president Anne Gisleson wrote an introduction to the series by looking back at how Press Street and Intersection fit into the historical context of what is now the St. Claude Arts District.

(For S. Derbigny Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard)

O Pony of South Derbigny o leaping yellow
on yellow pole carousel pony of South Derbigny
flooded pony o risen out of cobbled chimney of
shuttered mudhut of shutdown pawn shop
pony of South Derbigny           in attic windows
in amphibious tanks in Black Hawks in styrofoam
boats in whale-muraled vans in the alligator bellyup
on the highway pony of South Derbigny
pony of South Derbigny the airboat mother
her Gatorade her S earrings
her babying her baby                night-sky baby
blanket slipping off the slipping head
o yellow-crowned night-heron on the
upended light pole the golden
retriever in the black marsh the rotting
rottweiler on chainlink
pony of South Derbigny and stadium domes and skylights
of domes emptied of pony of South Derbigny emptied of
spotlights on boys mid-spree horsing and Boy Scout
knots across chests on gurneys           o gurneys of South Derbigny
slick jackets knotted at the waist
waist-deep in South Derbigny
chest-deep and dog-paddling
pony of South Derbigny past steeple bell speakers
past six headbanging hotel palms
pony of South Derbigny they crash
onto crashed Pontiacs
past umbrella oars past
hands waterlogged into papier mâché gloves raising the dead
reflected power line for reflected aluminum
canoes to pass           past them all
pony of South Derbigny o pony of the mudhut floated into the street
boy clothes still on the clothes line
pony of the thread count of those under sheets their feet jerking
how can they still be jerking
pony of the body count           on baggage
carousels body on slate tiles in attics in lawn
chairs in short sleeves            the lawn chair in parking lots count on grass in sunflower
flip-flops in rubber banded cornmeal box shoes a girl I remember in shopping carts
in a wheelchair under a t-shirt veil count in off-the-shoulder hospital
gowns in uprooted black-rooted trees in prosthetic limbs           the limbs the souvenir boas
the dyed jet hair body in the long-pelted mink backless on chain-link in armoires
count in armories count in arms count
on buses on interstate ramps arms raised like a conductor against
the sky in cerulean housecoats with foam
white buttons I count exploding on South Derbigny
in one drenched sock hand-in-hand
body sighing on plywood in the air on knees Indian style on the airport floor
you pony of South Derbigny in an Indian beaded ghost
suit drying on the shredded screen door I remember
concentric rings in the flood water
cattle dog nosing           Black Hawk hovering
pony pony of South Derbigny you thing you inside
the long yellow pelts of summer

Carolyn Hembree has poems out or forthcoming in Colorado Review, Indiana Review, Jubilat, New Orleans Review, Puerto del Sol, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, among other journals and anthologies. Her first collection of poetry, Skinny, is forthcoming from Kore Press.  Her poetry has received three Pushcart Prize nominations and a Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship Award in Literature. Before completing her MFA at the University of Arizona, she found employment as a cashier, housecleaner, cosmetics consultant, telecommunicator, actor, receptionist, paralegal, coder, and freelance writer.  Carolyn lives in New Orleans.