Felix’s Oyster House, Richard Weaver


Felix’s Oyster House

 

It’s not every day,
Thanksgiving Day especially,
when you stand in line,
inching forward, happy
to have made your way inside
and off the sidewalk;
not every night
when you wait for those
ahead of you to be taken
to their seats and allow you
to move another 3 feet forward
with your new-found cohorts
into the clamor and clustered noise,
the clattering of dishes
being gathered, conversations
rising and falling, merged
and melodious. It is the Quarter
after all where life glows and growls,
panders and parades, primps
and pretends that normal
is a tail worth chasing.

With two parties ahead of us
we’re feeling good. Time
our sudden companion. People
being shepherded (emphasis
on herded) out the door.
And then time collapses.
Compresses titanium-hard.
The man before me, clearly tired
of waiting, falls deadweight at my feet.
Thanks? Giving? Feast? I feel
guilty for moving backwards,
stunned at what has happened,
somehow trapped in amber
without an archeologist to prise
me free, faced with untenable
options or Hobson’s choices:
to stay or bolt? To pretend
nothing has happened
and all is well. Or to admit
that food has become
an unappetizing afterthought.
I turn to make my exit saying

I will meet up at a friend’s place
several blocks away. I am pulled
towards the river; all of New Orleans
responds to it corkscrew call.
Over towards Chartres and away
from Canal, down Chartres
to my haunt of haunts,
my safe-place during downpours,
the Napoleon House, where I once
waded blocks to be, and drank
every Guinness in the house
as the knee-deep water drained
and where I drank a few years later
with Raymond C. and later Seamus H.

But the Napoleon House could not offer
what I wanted: something to numb,
something to unhinge or unsettle,
a shot to the brain that would jolt.
I went down a block to the next corner bar,
the Alpine House. A dive, a sleaze joint
with no classical music or waiters
dressed in black with starched white shirts,
but thick with the afterhour noise
of painters and artists, and serious drinkers,
and, more importantly, green chartreuse.
Liquor d’Elixer. 160 Proof. A brain rearranger.
One shot and I came back. The green world
revolved around beignets and croissants
at la Marquis patisserie. Around the smell of books
at Beckham’s Books or la Librarie. Not oysters.

_________________
Richard Weaver

 

Review by Robert Joe Stout

The ease with which Weaver tells his poetic stories slides one deftly into the New Orleans he writes about. I liked being there with the author and Borges, sharing a literary event that like several I’ve experienced—chairs against a wall, businessmen in the doorway, a surreal merging of poetic wonderland and everyday downtown bustling. The blending of caring and irony is feel-good smooth; the conclusion appropriately realistic (where is my New Orleans cookbook that Frank Gross inscribed with colored ink French Quarter curlicues?). Both the author and Borges emerge as real live personages; I felt delighted to meet them and share their experiences.

On the other hand the Oyster House poem, though well-told, seems a bit disjointed. Weaver’s mastery of detail and description seems to dissolve when the person in front of him abruptly collapses; the alert, accurate observer becomes intellectually subjective making this reader wish for elaboration of what would seem to be the catalyst for what’s happening in the poem. Nevertheless the writing has vitality and the New Orleans characterizations are very well done. I lived in the Irish Channel there for several years, though before the time that Weaver describes. Both poems prompt one to want to read more of Weaver’s work.

 

Review by Laurinda Lind

This poem is a romp I will never get to have in New Orleans, a romp which happens only after the first part of the poem when time “[c]ompresses titanium-hard” after someone passes out in a restaurant and the intermediary solvent of the river leads to redemptive gin joints where the second kind of spirits are able to buoy up the first.

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