The Mardi Gras Tree

Later this afternoon, when the last parade has passed,
when the floats have passed, and the truck floats, all one hundred and eighty-five,
when all the Shriner candy has been tossed from the Shriner cars,
when the tawdry plastic beads have all been tossed, and the aluminum doubloons,
when the speakers have been switched off and the trombones returned to their cases,
when the fairy gold has all returned to trash:

Someone will have to clean up all this mess.

The washer-trucks will come roaring slow down St. Charles and Vets Memorial.
They will slice the refuse from the asphalt with great knives of water.
With great circular brushes they will push the refuse along.
The police officers will double-tap their sirens: whoop-whoop! whoop-whoop!
Holiday’s over, festival’s done, school’s back in session,
Rules temporarily suspended are back in force. Behave yourselves.
Children, get off the streets, get out of the way:

Someone’s trying to clean up all this mess.

The magic has dispersed. This disenchanted avenue,
where adoring crowds pressed close last night to glimpse the King and Queen,
is stripped of royalty. Royalty strips off sequins and feathers.
Your ears feel stripped. They ring in sudden silence, merciless with memory:
“Dear God, did I say that?” Your throat is raw, regretful.
Diesel fumes do-si-do with the odors of vomit and garbage and piss.
The avenue resumes its work-a-day commute. The work week resumes.
Wednesday dawns too soon, daubed in ashes, but otherwise:

Someone will have cleaned up all this mess.

Almost all. The children still find treasure, glittering,
forgotten in the grass, broken and bright.
A forgotten beer will turn up in the fridge behind the Coke.
And on Bonnabel Boulevard, on one crepe myrtle tree,
on each of its smooth-pale limbs, where the crows call,
the beads will hang in their eternal hundreds, purple and green and gold
and every other color that’s cheap to manufacture.
Stranded in between, the budding bumps of leaf-furl and future blossom
are already dreaming a carnival rain of petal and pollen,

And no one’s going to clean up all that mess.

[Nicole J. LeBoeuf is a New Orleanian writer whose poetry and short fiction have appeared in Sycorax Journal, Daily Science Fiction, and the Atthis Arts anthology <em>Community of Magic Pens.</em> Her work is also forthcoming in the podcast Cast of Wonders and the online journal Dreams & Nightmares. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and, for the time being, two troublemaker bunnies they are fostering for the Colorado House Rabbit Society. Nicole would normally skate roller derby with the Boulder County Bombers under the name Fleur de Beast, but there’s a pandemic on, so for now she skates Boulder’s sidewalks and bike paths in the pursuit of exercise and delicious take-out. She blogs at and publishes very short fiction four times monthly for her subscribers at]