Monday, February 22, 2016

ALONG THE TECHE

Buttercup flower along Bayou Teche
Buttercup
Last week, we traveled to Arnaudville, searching for the cottages being renovated for use by artists and writers, who can apply and receive grants to complete their work in a bayou habitat, and found seven vari-colored cabins still under reconstruction hugging the Bayou Teche. When we turned to pass back along the street for another glimpse of the residences, we spied a beautiful, spreading sea of Ranunculus (buttercups) lining the bayou and stopped to photograph the bright yellow flowers. Ranunculus means “little frog” because the flowers inhabit the same waters as the frogs that are so abundant in south Louisiana.

Live oak along Bayou Teche at Arnaudville, Louisiana
Live oak along Bayou Teche
We were following Bayou Teche, the stream that Harnett Kane called “the most richly storied of the interior waters,” which snakes through 125 miles of south Louisiana. As it was once highly navigable, communities like Arnaudville sprang up along its banks. Four in ten people in this small community of less than 2000 speak Cajun French, and if you listen closely, you can hear the uncorrupted dialect of the Acadians who settled south Louisiana. The eight-mile stretch from Arnaudville to Leonville is known as the “Teche’s River Road” and is a journey into the heart of Acadiana. Arnaudville is the home of Bayou Teche Brewing, a company that makes a brew called “LA-31 Boucanee” made with cherry wood smoked wheat and is also the site of NuNu Arts and Culture Collective where artists from throughout Louisiana gather to showcase their art.

Scene of Teche at Arnaudville, Louisiana
Scene of Teche at Arnaudville
In Arnaudville, we often have lunch or dinner at “The Little Big Cup,” a restaurant that serves some of the best cuisine in south Louisiana and features a “groaning board” on Saturdays and Sundays. We had been introduced to the town through Darrell and Karen Bourque. Darrell, a former poet laureate of Louisiana, once came up the bayou on a barge and climbed the steps leading to the deck of The Little Big Cup to deliver a reading from his book about the Cajun settlement of Louisiana entitled Megan’s Guitar. Poetry readings are not uncommon at this site.

Our recent visit to Arnaudville included brunch with the Bourques, and we sat on the deck of The Little Big Cup overlooking the bayou on a halcyon February day, talking about future glass work I’d like Karen (a consummate glass artist) to do for the cover of a new book of poetry and about Darrell’s chapbook, Where I Waited, to be published in the spring of this year by Yellow Flag Press whose editor is J. Bruce Fuller. Darrell’s work will focus on the paintings of Bill Gingles of Shreveport and I think it’s some of his best work. Just to titillate
Bayou Teche at Arnaudville, Louisiana
Bayou Teche at Arnaudville
readers, I’m including one that I particularly liked entitled “Here and Here” that Darrell wrote and dedicated to Goldman Thibodeaux, notable Creole Cajun musician who was honored in 2014 with the Louisiana Folklife Heritage Award. The poem is after Bill Gingles’ painting Here and Here:

HERE AND HERE   

Sometimes my brother lives in a yellow temple inside here and here,
sometimes he lives in blue arches bent around those songs he’d keep
all his life if he could. I go to see him as often as I can, play Quoi faire
as many times as he asks me to. For him songs stay a while then seep

back into that almost imperceptible line here makes next to a place
not here. That line is the place we were boys together, pulling plows
through black gumbo dirt, picking the cotton the dirt made, his face,

then as now, darker than mine, bronzy color that favored blue, a vow
almost that beauty would always live in our house. He seemed a race
all to himself when I knew him then. He knew no other time than now

& he took me with him wherever he went. If he held something dear,
I did. If he climbed the sides of field wagons and burrowed in the heap
of white fluff we’d picked, I did too. He taught me how to lessen fear,
to live where he lived. Here is one leap; another here is another leap.

Darrell Bourque, December 21, 2015


Bourques at Little Big Cup
Darrell and Karen Bourque at Little Big Cup


Photographs by Victoria I. Sullivan



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