ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



She throws down wooden skirt-boards, / rubs concrete, rubs pilings, scratches her back on land.

Under her skin impatient horses throb, their greased pistons turning, turning.



Books by Lee Meitzen Grue

Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud  /  In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh   / French Quarter Poems  / Three Poets in New Orleans  / Downtown

CD Live! On Frenchmen Street

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Waiting for the Ferry at Algiers Point

For Reggie who tells me about the river

By Lee Meitzen Grue

We have had a long time in the dark,

looking at the moon in the water.

We see those distant lights not moving.

We are waiting to get to the other side.

This isn’t an act of faith waiting for the ferry in the dark,

listening to the hollow whistle blow away the other side.


The ships come by; they glide over the moon.

Ships are big and silent, their power pushes

water that wets our feet, their passing

sucks back barges rattling like tin cans.

There is a man who guides the ship,

but he like God has too much power and passes us by.


Here she comes, running the black water toward us,

her eyes lit with great happiness,

we can see small people inside;

she is wooden and built for us to ride.

It is for us she is landing here,

her horses treading water.


She throws down wooden skirt-boards,

rubs concrete, rubs pilings, scratches her back on land.

Under her skin impatient horses throb,

their greased pistons turning, turning.

She seems anxious to get away;

We clamber on board afraid she will leave without us.


A smell coils up from tarred rope

it catches our throats, uneasiness lines our bellies.

We are cast off.

We rush to the side to watch cold water churn.

We have come here all our conventions in hand,

but the river is broad-hipped and so deep.


We are afraid. A thin brown run-off from our street

foams at the mouth of a dog insane as two hundred feet deep.

We are wood floating between steel,

and all we carry are pieces of paper to throw on the waters, 

a thin bread,

and the music of flutes to cast upon the wind to land.


All that keeps us steady on the river

is the eye of one man.

It is the captain who stands in the dark above us,

his eye sweeping thin green bands.

His tight hand on the rein of wild horses,

their hooves beating the water beneath us.


He knows the current, corrects her slide;

he crosses the ranges, moving from light to light.

Alone he threads us through the eye of the needle.

We are his sleepy children carried along in the dark.

When we hear the skirt-boards scrape,

when we know we are safely across,


we wake and our tinny voices beg:

Take us again.

Please, take us again.

We are land’s children,

but we love your comforting hand that steers us.

through this dangerous journey in the dark.

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Source: French Quarter Poems (1979) Long Measure Press

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By Lee Meitzen Grue

Lee Grue is arguably one of the finest practitioners of poetry in New Orleans’ storied history. These superb writs are equal to the upwelling of jazz itself: from Tremé street corners, to the wayward French Quarter, to the carefree vibes of Bywater, all the way to back o’ town; this astonishing collection speaks from a mythic pantheon off yowls & beats as timeless as the Crescent City herself. “If you’re missing New Orleans, and you know what that means, you need to read Grue’s book front to back, place by place, time by time, name by name, everything that breaks your broken heart and asks it to sing. A generous, loving tribute to poetry and to New Orleans”—Dara Wier

 “Lee Grue’s work is one of the majestic pylons that keeps New Orleans above water, a pylon woven thickly and subtly from the city’s history. Her poetry weaves her personal history to the five centuries of the city’s own, a fabric stronger than the dreams of engineers. Lee Grue holds us all on the warm open hand of her music; she emanates the love that raises the soul levees”—Andrei Codrescu

Lee Meitzen Grue was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, a small town upriver. New Orleans has been home for most of her life. She began reading her poetry at The Quorum Club during the early sixties. There she met musicians Eluard Burt and Maurice Martinez (bandleader Marty Most). Burt had just come back to New Orleans from San Francisco, where he had been influenced by the Beats. Eluard Burt and Lee Grue continued to work together over many years. Burt and his photographer wife, Kichea Burt, came home to New Orleans from California again in the nineties, where the three collaborated on a CD, Live! on Frenchmen Street. Eluard Burt passed in 2007.

Kichea Burt contributed some of the photographs in Grue’s book DOWNTOWN. During the intervening years Grue reared children, directed The New Orleans Poetry Forum workshop, and NEA poetry readings in the Backyard Poetry Theater. In 1982 she began editing New Laurel Review, an independent international literary journal which is still published today. She has lived downtown in the Bywater for thirty-five years. After the flood of 2005 she began teaching fiction and poetry at the Alvar Library, which is three blocks from her house. Her other books are: Trains and Other Intrusions, French Quarter Poems,  In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh, and Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud, short fiction.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 21 April 2010



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