He looked as old as the city,
almost as though the architect
had designed the French Quarter
after the way he moved
on his afternoon walks.
Even without his immaculate, hand-stitched
three-piece navy suit, he’d stand
out from the tourists who were bar-hopping
and the natives who were too busy
hustling from work to home to notice
the artist on Lafayette Street.
He notices her, and stops to admire
how the artist, in her tan beret, paints
in wistful strokes the magnolia tree
that stood outside her family home
before it burned to the ground.
Her pinky steadies her wrinkled
hand as she adds another black
branch to the tree, on which
she has yet to paint the flowers.
I wonder if she will.
The man’s lips stretch upwards
in a brief, unseen approval
before he follows the bebop
of the Mardi Gras trumpets
that jive and swing to the time
of the bass drums whose every strike
beats in time with the city’s vibrating soul.