NEW ORLEANS, LA — I saw souls leap up when the first plane nosed into the building. They hovered there, translucent and stuck. That night I went to Church of the Holy Rosary on Esplanade, to Mass for the first time in ten years. I prayed for the repose of those souls and they faded to sky, wisped away from the roiling smoke.

I imagined my bookish New York friend, elbows and glasses flying, hauling ass in front of a B-movie dustball, tumbleweeding helter-skelter up a Manhattan street. It made me feel better. Then he was musted in dust, cremained. I couldn’t remember his phone number or address. Dumb panic.

I cry in public and I’m not sorry.

I can’t think straight now.

Next door here in Mid-City, the wifebeaters and their wives, the childbeaters, are getting drunker than ever. They’re drinking Cobras, refueling for the long haul. They’re armchair generals, foam beer at the mouth.

In the suburbs off River Road, their Coast Guard Reserve Yes Massa Slumlord is sweating. He was always in it for paintball weekends and the money.

They’re patrolling the levee. In World War II my Mom said they had submarines in the Gulf of Mexico, lurching whales trying to watch out for us through smudged portholes.

I know a woman who’s been waiting ten years for an honest-to-God war to make her real. She has a kind of Gulf War syndrome. Says she didn’t get to go last time because she was too fat but everyone else did. Her code name: Hawkwind.

My computer friend wants to know why they keep saying we’ll have to tighten our belts, cut back on civil liberties, as if civil liberties are chocolate kisses or double chip ice cream. He dreamt that in the morning he woke up and they had outlawed tan pants.

Every night I’m scared the Pentagon will do something bad while I’m asleep. They tell lies now on TV every day. Someone’s keeping secrets.

They want us to kill a pile of people just like they did. Make a bloody rubble to call our own. Play king of the filthy mountain.

My ex-adman friend is fighting mad. He wants the dirty twin tower logo off the TV screen. His wife just died. He can no longer stomach packaged tragedy.

On TV a kid asked, “Are we David or Goliath?” No one answered him.

My Mom asks me, Why did they do it? Her head hurts. She just can’t get in the minds of people like that, she says. I don’t know, she keeps repeating, I can’t imagine.

Dashboard rosaries are back. I saw several on rearview mirrors too. Virgin Mary Mother of God booking down Airline highway.

Stop saying how they jumped from the windows. Stop showing those dangling window-ledge legs. Stop saying it is like the dark side of the moon. We are not Neil Armstrong — we stumbled and grunted our way out of and back into the ruins. Rappelled into the tomb. Bush led desperate men in a graveyard pep rally. Bush chanted slogans on the burial mound.

The Pope might be crying.

I said a Novena last Tuesday. Many women here think Lindy Boggs could work this out. She wasn’t made Ambassador to the Vatican for nothing. Praise be to the holy congresswoman who voted “no,” forever and ever, Amen.

Where are the mothers and sisters and peace-speaking women? Why are their lips zipped shut?

My friend calculates out loud: If we destroy all states that harbor terrorists, terrorists who hijack women and rape and scare children into looking over their shoulders, where would we live? That would be all fifty United States.

In Mississippi last weekend the serial killer who bruted my friend from us hack-sawed and strolled his way out of the Perry County jail. He settled into a waiting car, that hometown terror, and slipped on some new clothes while Barney Fifes were out searching for an Arab in a haystack. No one knows where he is or what he’s doing to another woman and no one cares.

Two women in Louisiana have volunteered dead body dogs that dredge the rivers here for little girls. People need closure, they said. They are on their way to New York and looking forward to traveling some overseas.

A golden retriever was a World Trade Center guard’s best friend. He lies in his crushed kennel in a basement while his owner lives.

My basset hound barks when I cry. I don’t need a Grief Consultant to advise me on sadness.

A friend who went to Jim Garrison’s trials here after JFK keeps shaking his head. He thinks the government knew. I can’t stand the thought. I am scared. What if he’s right?

I’m so disgusted I can’t think.

Let those poor souls rest in peace. Get that red, white, and blue parade bunting the hell off of them. I’ve attended two Last Rites. My mother and my sister almost died and the priest smoothed the way. Then they Lazarussed out of their hospital beds in white hospital gowns and watched The Price is Right.

I suggest Peace and Reason as the official religion of agnostics and atheists.

Today I saw a shrink-wrapped tank piggybacked on an eighteen-wheeler headed west on I-10. The tank was bound tight and white like a plastic sports-drink, or a medical instrument. Who do they think they’re fooling?

I tossed three dollars in a fireman’s rubber boot wishing well. Not all firemen are saints. Like everyone else they die pointlessly before they’ve made up with their wives over who was supposed to wash the dishes.

My Godmother e-mailed me a chain-mail prayer and I broke it. There were others involved.

I have an atheist godchild. Somebody e-mailed me a hate poem and it rhymed.

They canceled the Saints vs. the 49ers, blocked off the Superdome.

A New Orleans NFL player said in between bench presses: I think I’m like most Americans. I care about life in this order: God, family, football. Many agreed.

Who has the football now?

Why is anyone talking about the baseball season to underscore the magnitude of anything?

Going back to work is not my patriotic duty. I’m sick. Sick to death.

Now what?

In New Orleans women pray to Mary in groups. They close their eyes and finger their worry bead rosaries and hope beyond hope. Some power-walk while they’re at it.

Once a friend drove me to Violet, Louisiana for a sighting of the Virgin Mary. We stood in line for hours to see Mary in a bathroom window. The window shifted colors and hologrammed right over the toilet. I couldn’t tell if it was her or not. Mary now resides in a blue cement grotto in the front yard of the old people across the street.

Mary wasn’t necessarily a virgin. In eighth grade I had to kneel before her statue and wait for her to cry blood tears. She never did.

I have a new doctor. The Sacred Heart of Jesus beat in briars on the clinic wall while she stethoscoped my heart. My doctor is a Spanish lesbian Catholic who hands out mints and Kleenex and red rosaries to her old lady patients. The rosaries are in baskets on the appointment counter, next to the rainbow pride pens.

I’m scared to go to my anarchist friends’ house.

I want my mother.

No one better touch a hair on my little sister’s head. She and her mentally retarded friends still love sodas and cookies and Porter Wagoner and life every day. They had a birthday party last week. Steal a clue from their book. Let them be.

If we wage war against states that harbor terrorists, will we take out Texas first?

I will not go to work and act as if arms and legs did not fall from the sky.

Don’t get a stomachache. That’s just what they want you to do. Don’t be alarmed. That’s just what they want you to do. Don’t go to Mass and get down on your knees in confusion. That’s just what they want you to do. Don’t skip Mass. That’s just what they want you to do. Don’t think. Don’t stop to reevaluate your entire situation. That’s just what they want you to do.

I will punch the next person who says, “That’s just what they want you to do.”

Those crashers did not really know what they wanted to do, only how to do it.

My friend said, “What you do is you bring them all over here, set them up with a nice car and a big screen color TV. That’ll be the end of it right there.”

Another friend said, “You know what’s scary? You’re right.”

The Federal government won’t allocate $20 billion of my own money overnight for my own healthcare, only to kill families I don’t know.

I found out I had a heart problem today.

My friend’s dad was a teen with a gun in World War II. He said he and the German boys aimed high on purpose, gritted their teeth and shot air over one other’s heads.

My friend’s dad in Mississippi said, “Allah, Allah, Allah… bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.”

I had to explain to a friend why people hate the United States. She said she never knew. I told her I’d clip her the article.

I had to defend a black Kenyan student from a black African-American student today. I didn’t need a budget or an M-anything. My recipe for world peace went down like this: “Two hundred something Kenyan people died in the bombing on the U.S. embassy in Kenya. Twelve Americans died. Please open your books to page nine.”

In Jefferson Parish they closed the schools so the whiteshirts and blackshirts wouldn’t beat the brownskins. Too late.

Chief Pennington stepped up patrols in Arab neighborhoods. No one has used the term “hate crime.”

On talk radio Governor Foster told a scared Arab father that his family had not been harassed because Louisianans don’t act that way. The State Policeman had to butt in, say the police would respond if the lynches came.

We would rather eat Domino’s and watch body bags delivered from a broken building than walk into our own kitchen and make four phone calls to tell our employees in Washington that they’re fired.

People who talk into microphones on TV don’t necessarily know anything. Their voices are only being amplified.

I don’t want to start World War III today.

My lesbian cop friend from Oklahoma was positive crazy white people did it. So was I. Tuesday night she took her pistol to a shooting range.

They are playing that Lee Greenwood song. Nothing good ever comes of that song.

I’m scared.

Women and children first. Every man for himself.

My artist friend is dying on Louisiana Avenue near the Mississippi River’s dirty docks. He found a 1980s Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog and then a dusty windshield in the Quarter told him God Bless America/Drop the Bomb. It freaked him out.

Someone stoned brought me an offering — a crumpled Nostradamus print-out.

My friend is a do-nothing liar. She told me she had stopped watching It. That It was getting her worked up, and she couldn’t do anything about It anyway, much less send a letter to someone saying killing is wrong. Did I want a coffee?

I did want a coffee.

I also wanted a hammer in my head.

Last week I saw my own heart Dopplered and thrushing across a computer screen. It was a white ultrasound baby, pulsing and blipping. It bleeped plane landing signals with all valves: hello/goodbye. Hello sweetie. God, you’re working hard — don’t you want out? Who stuck you in there?

I think everyone should see their own heart beat by the time they’re in eighth grade. I do not feel so special since I watched thirty minutes of the only thing between me and not.

If I should die in rubble, you have to promise you won’t let crazies rally blood justice all over me. Lay me out on a cooling board in my Mom’s living room and bring her green bean casserole and coconut cake. Then lay me down in red clay inside a nice pine box. I want friends to tell jokes on me, a jazz funeral afterwards. I would like the electrician Mr. Quintron to serve as a pallbearer if he has time. He plays nice organ, cleans up real good. Ask him to wear those red L.E.D. shoes. Bring his Drum Buddy.

If I die because people are stupid, don’t give me a twenty-one-gun salute.

When my father died someone stupid said, “Just think. Now he’ll be in Heaven with Elvis and John Wayne.”

When my Aunt Mary died, they slid her into an above-ground down the street.

At wakes I’m supposed to kiss my relatives goodbye in their coffins. I try but I am heartless. I can just now finally touch their hands. When I die, you don’t have to touch me. I can go by myself.

I slid a can of Coca-Cola and a shiny coin purse full of my Grandmother’s old buttons into my Grandfather’s coffin — underneath his left arm. He liked Coke and dancing. My Mom helped me.

When will we admit that nothing will bring someone back? That we too will fly there one day.

My friend’s millionaire aunt watched the whole thing from her telescope in Stamford. I asked her if she trusted our government. She said, “Yes. Why? Don’t you?”

I feel so sorry for people dying choked in office work. My stomach burns all the time now. Personnel records ticker taped and that was that.

Today New Orleans was unreasonably beautiful: a meaningless blue sky, a barbeque day. Birds wrestled for seeds from my feeder. A neighbor’s parrot whistled the Marine’s Hymn. Someone asked me to help plant a pumpkin patch. I want the season change.

I’m not seeing the souls hanging around the buildings now. Women around the world prayed them up quick so they wouldn’t get stuck in Purgatory.

Can I stop going to Mass now? Not everyone kneeling down in the incense cried. I suspect deathbed conversions, my own in particular. It’s dreadful, all this responsibility. Still, if we don’t pray them up, who will? They might hover forever over their old broken desk selves.

Plus did I hear right? They called from the planes to tell Mom to calm down? Said it was going to be okay.