by Horacio Sierra
For José Arreola, a welder who died on October 12, 2019, while constructing a hotel in New Orleans’s Central Business District.
Down in New Orleans we take pride.
That’s right. We take it.
From the French, from the Spanish, from the British, from these great United States.
Or from you. We’ll gladly take it from you.
We’re a whole different breed down here.
Creole. Cajun. Caribbean.
Indigenous. African. Gens de couleur libres.
An amalgamated gumbo jumble sold to the highest bidder.
Down here we got the same ol’ villain
in the same ol’ story
we’ve been tellin’
since we all
Sure is swift,
sure is broad,
sure will devour you.
Not the gators in Lafitte.
Not the ghosts on Esplanade.
Not the snakes in Tchoupitoulas.
Not the vampires on Pontchartrain.
You see those legs dangling over the side of the building that collapsed
on itself like a melting glacier or an underbaked cake?
Corners that were cut.
Betcha’ bottom dollar the contractor’ll make a buck.
Those are José’s dangling legs.
No hard hat could save him.
Cement, pylons, metal, iron, glass, concrete.
The weight of an empire founded upon property theft and enslavement crashing
Mayan skull shattered.
Mestizo flesh demolished.
American Dream obliterated.
Angelica is undocumented.
Angelica sets sail up the mighty Mississip’,
hoping for a new start.
Nine months have come and gone.
Ain’t no health inspector that’ll condemn this.
Ain’t no insurance policy that’ll cover this.
Ain’t no zoning ordinance that’ll flag this.
The system hasn’t failed.
The system was structured this way.
José’s legs sway.
José’s legs dangle.
José’s legs protrude.
Laissez les bons temps rouler.
Horacio Sierra is a vicambulating writer and educator who is inspired by the way geography, history, and culture intersect to form identity. His creative writing has been published in The William & Mary Review, Saw Palm, Peregrine, Mosaic, Riversedge, Journal of Florida Studies, and O, Miami. His journalism has been published in The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and Miami Herald.
Erik La Prade’s photographs have appeared in WITNESS Magazine and LID Magazine. In October 2020, his work was exhibited as part of Social Photography VIII at Carriage Trade gallery in New York. Erik has a B.A. and an M.A. from The City College of New York. He is the author of WEATHER and Other Poems, a book published by Last Word Press.