...at some point in my twenties:
Bloody Marys, "Rhapsody in Blue," oxygen masks, Delta does what it can to erase the memory of the one that sank, splintered and disappeared into Lake Pontchartrain. So I sit serenely strapped and watch our descent through the cloudy dunes stretching from here to Dallas-Ft. Worth. Suddenly we coast over the boot, the blue-green chaos of Louisiana's eroding shore.
From here, without strings or fireman's net, it seems pure cartographical mayhem, like the dots connecting stars into rams, harps, grizzly bears, hunters, kitchen ladles. Those bogs, canals, bayous, swamps and mires eject a sandbar here, an island there, inspiring fanatics of form to discern pineapples in peninsulas; but their shifting dimensions, contours, even hues, convince us it is their reality (not ours, whose shadow hovers over the glittering like some ancient bird) we must question.
There are, of course, towns. The map names them: La Rose, Barataria, Cutt Off, Little Temple, Lafitte—quaint boggy outposts where we've heard they devour live alligators and shoot Texaco scouts on sight, where Nazi submarines surfaced to refuel during the Great War, where some old Cajun once lost his way and crossed the Gulf in a pirogue, names concealing older names that, like innermost circles of a tree, belong closer to the core, Rochelle, Poitau, Grand Pre, Port Royal, Le Grande Derangement...
Now I can see a concrete strip built on stilts and sadly remember they are modern too, store crayfish in refrigerators, watch "Bonanza" via an immaculate satellite dish. The landing gear rumbles free. But for what? Nothing solid in sight. Bonly endless swatches of almost ultraviolet algae, black blasted tree trunks bobbing in desolate, vapory marshes, oil platforms. The runway must stretch out like a colossal boulder rising out of the soup like a crouton.
Before we see land, we feel it. The Boeing sews earth and sky together like a zipper. I throw on my coat and get out, relieved.
Striding before me, between two suitcases, a wiry sun-baked man who boarded in Texas. He greets a cackling horde: "Comment ca va? Everybody pipe down. Y'all got dem shrimps ready?" Their festivity and excitement amuse me. Papa's home, everybody, let's throw a party! I start my Plymouth in the long-term parking lot and watch the family squeeze into a station wagon.
I drive north toward enticing lights embedded in the steel and stone columns of New Orleans; then turn south, on a road built on buoys, to some splendid mansion erected over the puree of dinosaurs. No one will meet me. I have twenty-four dollars in my pocket and a battered copy of Das Kapital in my grip.
Louis Gallo's writing has appeared in New Orleans Review, Wide Awake in the Pelican State, Glimmer Train, Pennsylvania Literary Review, American Literary Review, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Houston Literary Review, and many other venues.