T.A. Noonan

     for Lisa Curley

At Google Maps I saw oak, tires, and dirt on the roof
of the old Xterra and my father's house in Lakeview.
His shingles blended into clouds; were they always gray?
I sent pictures to my mom: pls identify msg back.
Her text: cant tell pics too blurry. Imagine all that water
thick with oil-slicked rainbows—dark swirls on brass,
tarnish no polish can remove. That month I called
every member of my family in Louisiana. My phone bill
skyrocketed. I thought if I could fill all the holes
of miscommunication, the city's engineers could patch
the levees. (A child's logic.) I watched Weather Channel
coverage every day, gold pendant with my father's badge

number shining at my throat. I remember how his badge
always fell out of his pocket when he climbed the roof.
Don't worry, he said. I won't lose that to the holes
in my pants.
Inside his kitchen, the classic rock channel
hummed Styx, and kids down the street rode backs
of bikes and buses until sunset. At dinner parents called
names over the air from their porches. The house in Lakeview
had an oyster-shell driveway and gutters curved like the bill
of a cap. Mockingbirds roosted there in the spring, their gray
feathers smooth against aluminum. From the flat patch
of lawn in the front, I could just make out the brass
trim on a neighbor's boat. I never saw it on the water;

my dad was surprised that no one stole it when the waters
began to rise. I'm sure he thought fear of his old badge
played a role, but everyone knew he'd retired. No brass
band, no gold watch, no banners: just a pat on the back
and a farewell to the force. His neighbors still called
him Sergeant, though, except under his own roof.
Habit, I guess. (Maybe he did have power.) The Lakeview
cops had known him for years, well before the first bit of gray
brushed his temples. They got him through the rough patch
after his divorce—helped him build a fence, dig holes
for trees in his backyard. They showed him how to channel
his lingering frustrations into home improvement. Bill,

the lieutenant two blocks down, covered the lumber bill
when Dad decided to build a patio and backyard water
garden. Failed. Later, they drank Turbodogs and called
the project a glorious attempt. Their voices rang, all brass
and balls—good men, good times. I pressed my back
to the wall while mosquitoes left their red, raised badges
along my thighs. They chatted it up as I sewed a patch
onto my skirt. Visiting my father's house in Lakeview
meant listening as he talked and filled ashtrays with the gray
remains of unfiltered Camels. His voice like History Channel
narration, he recalled catching a drug dealer on the roof
of a middle school. Alone. I never questioned his plot holes,

and he never asked why my clothes had so many holes,
why I stole food from his pantry, or why my credit card bill
was overdue. He thought pinning shirts together with brass
eyelets was a trend—like those ratty, tu-tone patches
on my skirt. I never told him I'd been evicted, that the roof
over my head was a bus stop terminal, that my lake view
was rainwater in a grate. I was broke. Dad jokingly called
me a bum, and I didn't know how to answer him back.
I was one. I looked like one. (Even my bras were gray
and frayed.) So I laughed. He ignored poverty's badge
on my clothes, blamed it on cheap soap and hard water.
There were always more pressing things, like which channel

carried the Saints game, or if the priestess who channeled
Marie Laveau renewed her vendor's license. The holes
in the system allowed peddlers to double in brass
on the streets. I knew tarot card readers who patched
software in cafés, a mime who sold jewelry out the back
of a taxi. That kind of stuff didn't happen in Lakeview,
not with my dad on duty. (He never knew the girl he called
daughter hustled to pay for college.) My tongue and the roof
of my mouth shriveled when I heard he took his badge
and gun during the evacuation. It's okay. It'll be like a bill
of review
, he said. They'll reinstate me once the water
At the time I was reading Thomas Gray;

I saw the flow from Pontchartrain in every line, gray
afterbirth of lakes and rivers rising in the Irish Channel.
But no gems ran in that costly stream. My friends called
me morbid, tried to distract me—cue the haze of playbills,
movies, gallery openings. I thought of the news: badges
flashed, DVDs commandeered from under a Wal-Mart roof—
in the name of the law. No one asked me about Lakeview,
just the French Quarter. To them, that crooked patch
of road was New Orleans; it had escaped the floodwater.
But they'd never seen spring skies in Metairie, its brass-
colored sunrises divided by half-size goalposts. My whole
childhood centered on watching Morton Anderson's back

stretch as he kicked the football, split those poles. Back
then, local teens lined the training camp fence—all gray
sweats and wide palms. Eyes peeked through wood-holes,
fingers tugged those tallisim of "cooler than cool": brass
wallet chains. Lanky boys wrapped their lips around water
bottles, sat on sidewalks and curbsides, claimed their patch
of concrete beneath the shadow of a 7-Eleven roof.
Our apartment smelled of tires and Raid; Dad never called.
He was too busy working, whipping out his badge,
catching criminals. If I'd scanned the police channels,
I'd have heard him, but I was busy studying the latest bill,
the next transportation project. No one mentioned Lakeview

in those Times Picayune editorials. Of course Lakeview's
roads are bad, the engineers said. Decades ago, back
when this was all swampland, the streets were underwater.
Bet that brackish mess would have reached the roofs
of some of our homes.
(That water—same shade of gray
as the pelican on the flag who drips heart-blood from her bill
to feed her chicks.) The money went into buckets of patch;
workers drove up and down the roads, filling only potholes
big enough to swallow toddlers. Reporters from Channel
4 WWLTV swept in, flashed white teeth and press badges,
said that everything looked good. Meanwhile, the big brass

downtown signed fresh contracts with silver and brass
pens. Someone always complained, usually a Lakeview
resident, but never my father. He had his own holes
to worry about: small, necrotic wounds with black and gray
edges—angry, festering. Each month, a new wave of bills.
Visits, drugs, treatments with prices through the roof—
and no insurance. Two months before Katrina, I called
him for the first time in years. I needed a loan; my water
had been turned off. But he'd just paid the doctor and patched
a hole in his ceiling. He said there was no way he could back
me. The line—our connection—cracked, the channel
a few cycles off. We fought about money. I threw my badges

from Golden Key and The Gold Club in his face. His badge
hadn't protected me; I'd still had to fight. It took brass
balls I didn't have to tell him how I footed the bill
for my college education. We knew we could never pay back
one another. (On television, CBD skies reflected blue-gray
on glass, silver as coins and what washed out in the water—
leaving a ghost town the tours never promised.) With holes
in his tongue, he promised to call, keep in touch, patch
our broken relationship. I asked to visit him in Lakeview
for Christmas. He said, I'd love to have you under my roof
We were finally talking on the same channel;
the lines, clear and open. For the first time in years, I called

him Father. I didn't hear from him again until he called
me, crying. The police department needed all the badges
they could get. Everyone was quitting—even the top brass—
and he couldn't desert his home, no matter how old and gray
he was. Then he told me how he'd watched a girl drill holes
into her father's makeshift coffin, how she'd tried to channel
silt and blood out of the box. I listened as the fear of water
dammed his voice. (He was a crawfish in a kingfisher's bill,
little claws reaching up to pinch—until his mudbug back
was whip-snapped against a tree.) I didn't ask about Lakeview;
my mom told me later that, according to the mildew patch
on the walls, the water came within two inches of the roof.

I know it will take more than a few trailers and a reinstated badge for my father to patch
New Orleans. Bills pile up, money runs out. The crews roll, but no matter how many holes
they plug, more open. (Sometimes I hear a voice calling me, but I can't find my way back
to the porch. The city—outlined in gray—lingers; the Bucktown fleet glows black as brass
against the sun. Every clock in Lakeview is wrong; only the shadows on the remaining roofs
tell time. I see my father standing in a quick-cut channel, and his ankles catch on the water.)

T.A. Noonan is the author of several books and chapbooks, most recently four sparks fall: a novella (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, 2013) and, with Erin Elizabeth Smith, Skate or Die (Dusie Kollektiv, 2014). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Reunion: The Dallas Review, Menacing Hedge, LIT, West Wind Review, Ninth Letter, and Phoebe, among others. A weightlifter, artist, priestess, and all-around woman of action, she currently lives and teaches in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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