My backyard neighbor in New Orleans
invited us to St. Joseph’s Feast
in someone’s home. The altar
in honor of the saint was laden
with candles and food—pasta. fish,
fig cookies, fruit, bread shaped
like crosses and saws for the carpenter,
blessed bread to freeze later
so that you can toss a piece
to the wind and prevent a hurricane.
All this in thanks for the fava beans
that the saint provided for humans
and cattle during time of drought.
I took a bean that day and saved it.
Later, after I’d moved away,
my neighbor sent me more.
This was before Katrina
when his house flooded
and his shoes were floating.
Our daughter who was born in New Orleans,
The City That Care Forgot,
now lives in the desert.
At some point I gave her
a silver lucky bean necklace,
and she wears it to this day
where the bean rests in the hollow of her neck.
The one I’ve kept for years in my wallet
has lost some of its peel
and darkened with age.
It is my amulet, nestled with coins,
legend says I will never be without.