The Promise of Summer

ANDREI CODRESCU

May 17, 1993|By ANDREI CODRESCU

New Orleans. -- The promise of summer is putting a sweet knot of longing in these weary bones. In New Orleans summer usually shows up in early March, after Mardi Gras, but this year it held itself off until after Jazz Fest, a whole month later.

After torrential rains that had all the Noahs in the neighborhood patching their arks, summer's finally here, pushing flowers through the wrought-iron balconies. The camellias exploded and their sweet scent now makes everyone dizzy as they float around and around in their glazed Chinese bowls. The fig trees are putting out hundreds of leaves a day and the banana trees are shooting straight up into the blue sky full of shattered crystals.

Suddenly, all thoughts of death and destruction that gave the winter its bitter flavor, seem unreal. Yes, there is still war in Bosnia. AIDS is raging like a blood-gorged serpent through the dreams of America. A child falls in a hole in front of his father and dies crying out that there are snakes down there. The ashes of children in Waco still drift on the breeze over the uneasy pastures of Texas. All these events, recent and unsettling, coiled about each other like dank demons in the wintry caves of our national psyche, are giving way before the sweet narcotic of summer.

The newspapers still flap alarmingly around my chaise-longue, the TV still screams from the open windows of the houses next door, an occasional gunshot still rings from the unpaved streets down the alleys a bit, but the flowers are advancing on the noise and anxiety, determined to conquer all with the help of the sweet breeze that whistles the leaves and unbraids the beards of moss and old men.

The music summer makes as it takes over is captured in the cases of instruments still left open after Jazz Fest. The musicians will put their instruments away in that sweet bed of frogs croaking, trees rustling and flowers flowering, to soak in until we need to be healed again by new music. I deposit my summer longing, lassitude and forgetting in somebody's saxophone case, too.

Andrei Codrescu is editor of Exquisite Corpse.

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