Floating Down the River

There’s an upright piano and the church where it was played
I can still hear the fire of the music that they made
These wild priests of Coltrane as high as you could get
Now their picture’s in the water with a broken clarinet
And the bodies floating down the river

There’s the very heart of harmony, a diminished minor chord
A demitasse of Cafe du Monde into which a poet poured
From a melior of coffee, freshly brewed and filled
I saw his notebook passing by and the coffee that he spilled
And the bodies floating down the river

There’s a cracked and sunken altar and Jesus on a cross
And hanging from a pole, the soiled work of Betsy Ross
The sidewalk muralist is shouting, people can you see
All the broken promises of Lady Liberty
And the bodies floating down the river

There’s the ghost of Lincoln lying in the mud
Mother Mary’s playing Zydeco and shedding tears of blood
The last vestige of democracy was just shot for looting bread
The levees were all busted, now they’re good as dead
Along with the bodies floating down the river

There’s a Hummer driving down the boulevard
There’s Halliburton contractors and the Army National Guard
Blackwater Security, ready to attack
There’s no food and there’s no doctors and it smells just like Iraq
And the bodies floating down the river

The prisons are all empty now, the dead men have been cleared
They drowned inside their cells when the guards all disappeared
But I saw somebody’s uniform as it was passing by
Words on it spelled in blood, I guess now we’re gonna die
And the bodies floating down the river

Now many months have passed and it all just looks the same
So many dead and missing, no one knows their names
No one to clear the rubble, no one to rebuild
Some say the city died, I say it was killed
And the bodies floating down the river

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This spoken word piece, “Floating Down the River,” first appeared on the 2009 CD, Ten Thousand Miles Away.

I was in New Orleans several months after Hurricane Katrina and the inept, racist government response to it resulted in the deaths of thousands of people — mostly poor and black New Orleans residents, to be specific. The city has since been largely ethnically cleansed by elitist, “pro-business” government policies.

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