lucid second line


the smell of brass smoldering in his


     he woke to the fire of the parade

          grabbed his horn

               & took aim at Shamarr

               out the window of his room

          with one hand

Pop lifted me up by the nape of my neck for walking in front of a lady

painted & open at Zulu

like the lion cub i donned

he placed me back into the pride of the beat

wrapped in neverending notes

     for death & for spring

          for the fattening before Lent

from the wishes of Pans & princesses bouncing free

til the brain bursts

inside tell me what you see

a lucid second line still possible to ride

it’s how you enter


walk into any shop on Magazine

the sweet what you need, shas[1] pour

     to ease the sting of sugar cane

the sweet what you need, shas

     for the ease of the whole city in one big boat

          gliding in with all the saints


we’re in Butler’s:

a shack losing its roof in the black pearl

my cousin waving defiant in the middle of the dance floor

oblivious to every shoulder leaning his way

matching Ice Cube, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, & Easy-E line for line

in perfect flow

Fuck tha Police[2]

searching for yey

from strangers

finally a dread with gold teeth offers

if he’ll give him cash first

waiting outside for gilded snakes to return

i tell my cousin he’s never coming back

he has to he tells me

he can’t stay in that busted shanty all night

people must go back to where they’re from

it’s how the world works

& if he doesn’t have the coke

i’ll trip him when he tries to run

like his feet are cosmic magnets


we pull all American music & spirits south to the toes of the boot

like water down the drain of a bathtub

we’re the center of the spiral

we reverse & hurricane it all through the other cities & towns

the lands dry & calm before us

     be grateful

          without us America would have no music & no spirits

absinthe from the Old Absinthe House in the alley

     the sugar cube aflame in the green

          repeating ghosts beating a blue drum clean of its air

line for line

in perfect polyrhythm

     each syncopation leaning back off the pulse right where it needs to lie

we’re the first American town to measure time by storms

my uncle’s throw from the float still until we chose to blink again

     then the beads rushed our faces & necks

my uncle’s throw from the float still until we remembered motion

     then the doubloons bouncing off our teeth

          we could still be there

     no eyelids, no gravity

          my cousin & i

               ecstasy at high tide

                    perched on the drum colors of the parade


sailing the winds of Carnival season

after Brees threaded a holy sphere through the cover two

     into two praying palms

     to Stills

     to still the wailing

     for one Sunday all the churches stopped shaking

after 22 intercepted our city’s lost son & took him home

     then we knew we’d be marching in


but are we gonna get there with our bodies?

     maybe not

          but we need our legs, our feet to second line


we need our mouths, our lips to consume

to wake to freedom from Rose’s[3] chicory café au lait

to burn for blackened cocodril from the grill

     cooled by alligator pears stuffed with crab meat


Pere whispering the reign of his grandfather Isaac Newton Marks

my third great

king of rex

embers threatening the throne suspended with song over the streetcar rails run parallel, never touch

leading the unification movement:

     tinder merging with wind

          waiting for a spark to carry


my hometown is one fire after another

street taken over & falling apart


give in to the ghost dance

ghost dance

give in to the ghost

ghost the dance

dance the ghost

ghost give in

to the ghost


into the ghost dance


Denis formed from Dionysius in the veins of family trees

     taken from behind by the African gods

     we drink on every corner ‘til they’re goddesses

     my aunt is slurring my name again at Bacchus

          & i know my response will just be spilled

wine on the riverbarge

     staining the poque[4] chips with my fingers’ want

i put my life on the line

     before the turn

          into a new king’s death

what does his funeral sound like?

Taj Mahal with ten tubas

textured by flambeaux torches & feathers

circling the face of Chief Becate Batiste[5]

     mirrored everywhere especially in flight

          each bird a film


my memories of the

State Palace Theater

     cascading from wedding cake balconies

          rolling in a sea

touching everything & being touched

a woman finally breaking free

i love black people

& in his kindness

i love white people

but to pretend to care about a decaying baby’s bones from another century[6]

     when you have a body darkened by work & beats

          made real by the American sun[7]

               answering the call for a country & a culture

is an impossible offering

best to bury it before the goddesses try to taste the pillars

     & let its cries drown in the ghost crowds


swelling through the sousaphone

thickened by the bass drum

curling to the trumpet

this could finally be the wave

that carries us away for good

if the world were made anew

it would be in the line

shooting this march to shore


Hot Eight


they all promise nightly

& even though they keep their tone

     riding a crescent night

          where we choose the colors & the meter

          still the sun enters

               & asks for a rest


maybe this revolution i keep living in my head isn’t asleep

but a brain fire we can’t quiet

a heat we can’t cool

L’Ouverture sparked the sale of Louisiana

     & launched steamboats carrying our name[8] to Natchez

even as we spread

with the river it rages

& washes away our faces

krewes still float expressions

every mask a triumph

     in a dream we stalk loudly

[1] “Sha” is Creole for the French “cher” meaning dear.

[2] Straight Outta Compton

[3] Rose Nicaud bought her freedom by establishing the first coffee stand in New Orleans in the early 19th century when New Orleans was the largest coffee port in the country.

[4] The original name for poker, which came to America through New Orleans.

[5] Founder of the Creole Wild West tribe, which many consider the first Mardi Gras Indian tribe.

[6] “But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming ‘the people’ had never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hair and hue is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe they are white.”

-Ta-Nehisi Coates

[7] “It is the white man who creates the Negro. But it is the negro who creates negritude.” -Frantz Fanon

[8] New Orleans was the first steamboat to operate in Western waters.


Phil SaintDenisSanchez is originally from New Orleans. His work has appeared in Voicemail Poems, Alien Mouth Journal, Origins Literary Journal, Reality Beach, and Sonic Boom Journal. In addition to writing poetry, he produces and composes music that blends electronic forms, soul, turn-of-the-century classical, the samba rhythms he studied in Bahia, and the brass and marching band traditions of his hometown. He records under the name SaintDenisSanchez and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.