Everette Maddox was the poet laureate of the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans, which was where his ashes were buried in 1990, after a jazz parade around Carrollton. This song was recorded by Slaid Cleaves on his Unsung album. The lyric is included in Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum, an anthology of writings about Everette published by Xavier University.

Tyger, tyger, burning bright,
Through the forests of the night.
Everette’s was the hand and eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry.
Everette, could cage it in a
Line of thought, a line of verse.
Everette knew what words were worth.
And Everette’s words were diamond words.
Whenever you heard them, something stirred
Inside of you.
‘Cause that’s what poets do.

Oh, Everette, he never et
A square meal in thirty years.
But men don’t live by bread alone,
And you could find him any time,
Slouched upon his high chair,
Drinking scotch,
And staring at his crotch.

He slept on sofas, slept on floors.
Some nights, he slept out of doors.
Napkin backs and envelopes
Were the places Everette wrote
His masterworks,
And all of us young 

Turks gathered up the scraps
That Everette tossed into our laps.
That’s how Everette won his fame:
We’d print them under Everette’s name,
Every year or two,
‘Cause that’s what poets do.

Who was the man behind the mask?
None of us ever dared to ask.
Poetry was Everette’s shield and sword.
Despair could be its own reward,
When despair was polished hard,
Until it shone, like a precious stone,
Where all of the pain could sparkle through.
‘Cause that’s what poets do.

And all of us at the Maple Leaf,
Knew that he would come to grief.
Some folks live so close to death,
That you can swear you smell it on their breath

Yes, poets dream, and poets drink.
Poets live life on the brink.
Poets smoke, and poets die,
And if you ever ask them why,
They’ll tell you, they don’t have a clue.
They’ll tell you,
It’s just what poets do.

So, Everette’s body turned to ash,
And we all had a mighty bash.
People came from near and far,
To toast the bard at the bard’s bar.
We knew he would have done the same for us.

And Everette, wherever you are,
Leaning on some heavenly bar,
Sloshed upon some sacred stool,
Where God serves His holy fools —
Even while you damn Him to His face —
Everette, I know you’ve got His grace.

And as I listened at your wake,
I saw how only you could make
Triumph out of tragedy,
Tragedy into a divine comedy.
Your words, your words will outlive you.
‘Cause, Everette,
That’s what poets do.

Bluebonnet Border SkinnyWords and music © 1992 by Steve Brooks and Frog Records
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