by Nancy Hansen Merbitz
(sung to the tune of "The House of the Rising Sun")
There was a night in New Orleans
there came a rising flood,
with wind and rain, the levies busted
‘fore the night was done.
Those with cars, they got away;
them without were through.
Wait and see what happens – hey,
what else can you do?
The mothers called their children,
they called their babies home;
their fathers brought them to the attic -
then the waters rose.
Tearin through the rafters,
tryin to reach the sky.
Then they’re waiting on the rooftops,
hopin help comes by.
Many died, and many more
had nowhere to go.
Starvin in the Superdome –
what did “Brownie” know?
The Delta of New Orleans used to
shield her from the seas;
then the plunder drove it under
This beloved city,
full of life and joy
won’t be left to drown in pity,
filthy mud, and oil.
Now it’s four years later,
Still the work goes on,
Raising homes ‘n buildin schools –
Won’t stop until they’re done.
Raising homes ‘n buildin schools,
Won’t stop until we’re done -
And God, we know we’re One.
Note from the author: I wrote this while riding home recently on "The City of New Orleans" train to Chicago, after a visit to New Orleans ... I haven't written a poem in decades, and this was as if an inspiration had come over me. I think it was the spirit of the city. This month I'm going to perform it (vocals and piano, with friends on guitar and bass) in Pontiac (my town).