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'Marsha's'--Poem and Recording about this Marie, a great Revelator of New Orleans

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

This poem about Marsha (Marie Cordier) came to me while living in Louisiana and New York City during March and April of 1980. Marsha opened worlds for me. The photos above are from a collage that makes up back-cover of my 1982 book of poems and prose-pieces, AmeriModern. Marsha is foremost. Her children Nicole (Nikki) and Jason and Danielle (Danni) are with two friends guised and costumed for Mardi Gras. Everyday marvelousness in New Orleans then! The other photos are from San Francisco, 1975, with newly married Diane Cecily and Chuck Kinder on front steps of the 73 Fair Oaks flat that Scott and Annette Turow passed along to them. The magnificent draughtsmen and comic-artist S. Clay Wilson took this photo. Bottom-right is a snapshot from Stanford's stadium during the 1972 Pac-10 Track & Field Championships with my Creative Writing classmates Fred Pfiel, Tom Zigal, and Robert Roth. The neck-brace owes to a motorcycle-accident and amounts of drinking that now seem to me impossible. I was fast developing a kind of alcoholic arthritis at age 21. I'm guessing that this snapshot was taken by Laura.

Sticky-warm March Friday in New Orleans,

Near suppertime evening,

Got kids wheeling and chasing

In their tennies

Along the aslant sidewalk

And up grated stairs,

Through the back door, got more--

Friends' and neighbors' and Marsha's girls--

Spread at cards on the kitchen floor.

Jeez, I think, stepping over,

Is this how Black people live?

Scouting out street-lit windows,

By plants hanging and standing

And walls of luteous


Fall foliage, Nikki ('Nicole"), age 11,

Cries: "Momma 's home! Momma's home!"

Danni ("Danielle", she'll tell you), age 5,

Hops out like a pixie.

"Momma 's home! Momma 's home!"

"Naw she ain't," Jason, the middle, age 8,

Corrects his sisters:

He's right, but: "Now she is."

"Momma 's home! Momma 's home!"

They rush to clean the two bedrooms

Where all of the apartment sleep.

Marsha climbs the front stairs.

In her black boots,

Lacy shawl, white blouse and flower-strewn dark

"Hippie skirt", her stature could be a great athlete's.

She sits on the couch, eyes like a

Tired, brooding lioness's

After asking her "darling sugarpuddins"

What they've done. They know not to press.

Saturday, C.C., one brother,

And a friend, in from Biloxi, are sacked out

On chair and couch, kids and me in bedrooms,

When Marsha gets up to wash clothes

Before putting in the morning at Ronnie

The dentist's office, his "handy lady".

Sunday morning, it's S.R.O.--

Children bumping, swatting, spatting round their

"Grand-daddy Joe" Cordier, as

Other "so-called adults" figure out

Who gets whom and what this day.

More than once Marsha says:

"I know everybody else here is crazy."

She holds scenes together.

Their energy centers in her

Who calls friends "Boo",

Who similarly tells her kids of their

"One-and-only beautiful mother

In the whole, wide world."

Apart out of pride,

Like a plant herself,

The strong and tender and most essential animal.

First version April 1980

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