Alejandro Escude New Orleans
Before You Enter New Orleans
by Alejandro Escudé

Even now, a year later, people are shocked I took a train
from Los Angeles to New Orleans and back again
by myself. No eyes behind me. No verse to speak of.
Absolutely alone, alone and desolate sometimes
crossing West Texas, or speaking to the recent ex-con
who hit me up for money the whole ride back home.
What people don’t know is that a passenger train stops
at the stops, but your mind spreads over the Arizona sky,
into the saddle-colored desert, the Louisiana bayous
where before you enter New Orleans you have to halt
at midnight at the Mississippi River Bridge and all you hear
is a galaxy of treefrogs, then there’s the lurch of the train
like a gold hook unlatching, a swinging ring, my sound,
as I claim it. My life, intricate as the iron balconies on
the French Quarter, a rich, humid harmony of meaning,
shoebox-sized corridors inching along toward St. Louis,
where I stood, and wiped my wet brow, and was free.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author in New Orleans.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is factual. I did make this trip, which was more pilgrimage than vacation. I would never do it again. But I can say that the joy I experienced was pure, as were my feelings of loneliness and fear.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Alejandro Escudé’s first book of poems, My Earthbound Eye, was published in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. Find more at alejandroescude.com.