3:00 AM Café du Monde

fleur de ironwork

Hot beignet drops from shaking hand,
phosphorescent meteor of confectioners sugar
scatters sweetness to a silent Jackson Square.
The plump fried pastry sparks to life
upon splashdown in a Mississippi colored puddle,
succulent ripples breach the curb,
strut down the sidewalk, lap on doors,
then leap to the humid air,
to penetrate every lacy wrought iron balcony,
to enter the tall windows, the squat ones,
even the closed ones through air conditioner coils,
and rustle sheer faded curtains into a swinging rhythm.

Riverboat horn toots a bass line
walking that New Orleans funk into every parlor,
ceiling fans spin in syncopation,
sugar dust magic finds every snare,
tom-tom, bass drum, djembe, and conga,
and bends streetlights to the groove.
Trumpets fill themselves with urgent breath,
well-oiled trombones slide underneath,
clarinet keys snick awake to filigree atop,
while saxophones growl themselves into the batter,
guitar strings swirl against frets, banjo heads pulse with the drums,
and metal reeds bend deep within harmonica honeycombs.

From Canal Street to Frenchmen,
the entire Quarter is rocking this night song,
and only the deepest sleepers get a waft of this delight,
seasoned just to their taste –
sweet, hot, spicy, cool – swinging hard –
until the street cleaners suck it all back to silence,
punched into the dough of the city,
to later rise towards powdered stardust


Blaise Kielar received Honorable Mention in the 2022 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize for an excerpt from his memoir in progress, "Be Heard: The Quiet Kid Who Started the World’s Loudest Violin Shop." He opened Chapel Hill’s first violin shop in 1978 and retired from a music retail career by transitioning Electric Violin Shop into the first worker-owned co-op music store in the United States. He plays jazz violin and clarinet in several bands and leads the Bulltown Strutters, Durham’s community New Orleans brass band.