Chef Menteur Highway
The literal meaning of ‘Chef Menteur’ is “lying chief” in the French
language, and probably derives from the Choctaw phrase. . . originally
assigned to the Mississippi River. . . Wikipedia
Old master liar, snake road, untrustworthy
for your turns and twists as you trek
beside the delta and the great river’s trail.
Two lanes bending and curving, you wend
past the Rigolets and Lake St. Catherine.
The water channel that bears your name
formed a northern trough for Katrina’s surge.
Old lying chief, you offered an illusion
of safe travel, yet you took my uncle’s life
in an accident, injuring his children and wife.
You haunt me with memories of other losses:
trips in an old black Hudson whose dark interior
on family vacations retained summer’s heat—
the Florida relatives now long asleep.
How is it I still recall the scent of wetlands
as we traveled your way? What matters
now that your path is obsolete with better roads
and the Interstate to take us east? Old trickster,
we remember yet the lives lost in Katrina’s
tidal fury, the cross that rises in Lake
St. Catherine’s waters to mark their passing.
Stella Nesanovich is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Vespers at Mount Angel and Colors of the River, as well as four chapbooks of poems. Her poetry has appeared in many journals and magazines as well as over twenty anthologies. In 1999 she received an artist fellowship from the Louisiana Division of the Arts; in 2009 and in 2015 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is Professor Emerita of English from McNeese State University in Lake Charles,