“But most resplendently attired of all,” writes Bell Irvin Wiley
in The Life of Johnny Reb, “were the Louisiana Zouaves,
whose trousers were of scarlet cloth, cut in such fashion
as to suggest the term ‘bloomers’ to derisive comrades,
belted at the waist with large blue sashes and bound
at the ankles with gaiters of white; jackets were heavily
adorned with varicolored lace; shirts were of blue, cut
low to reveal sunburnt throats and hirsute chests;
headpieces consisted of fezzes, perched at angles
indicating the jauntiness of the wearers.” My Rebel
forebears in that conflict were, in contrast, “natives
of the Southern Appalachian area, ambling along in
bearskin blouse, nondescript trousers and rawhide leggings,”
as nondescript as I must appear today, bushy-bearded
midlife mountain man restlessly prowling the restless
French Quarter, hankering after contemporary Zouaves,
you descendants of those colorful Creoles and Cajuns
who fought beside my ancestors in the long War
of Northern Aggression. Inveterate admirer of men,
too-polite predator consigned by age and propriety
to ogle, not devour, let me praise nevertheless the honey-
bearded, tattooed dick-dancer with perfect pecs gyrating
atop the bar at Oz, the chunky-assed cub serving Sazeracs
in Desire Oyster Bar, the scruffy-goateed guitarist in
a purple fedora playing beneath Royal Street magnolias,
his open shirt revealing a sun-burnt throat and hirsute chest.
You’re as jaunty and resplendent in peace as your great-great
grandfathers were in war, oh tasty sons of Louisiana.
This gourmand praises your oysters, muffulettas, etoufées.
This frustrated asshound of a Daddybear salutes you.
This celebrant of Southern manhood would gladly pay.
Jeff Mann has published five books of poetry, Bones Washed with Wine, On the Tongue, Ash: Poems from Norse Mythology, A Romantic Mann, and Rebels; two collections of essays, Edge and Binding the God; a book of poetry and memoir, Loving Mountains, Loving Men; five novels, Fog, Purgatory, Cub, Salvation, and Country; and two volumes of short fiction, A History of Barbed Wire and Desire and Devour. He has won two Lambda Literary Awards and two Pauline Réage Novel Awards. He teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech.