The problem of address calls up the word refraction. Leaked light. Crossed wires. Ask me anything. The problem of address (1) Clear Texas sky above us as we watch the water rising slowly on TV draining slowly until the second storm fills the city up again high to the highest muck lines left behind. No one allowed back. I think of Europe between the wars— thinking the big one is over. History skips that thought. It has to. That sigh of relief, hard work. I remember the map from fifth grade—Louisiana shrinking back in twenty years opening new bubbles of water in the wetlands, sinking as the sea level rises to fill the folds of rivers’ ends. In a hundred years, the disappearing swamps will leave New Orleans a walled city on the sea river levees hanging down like frayed rope into the Gulf. Here’s the difference between zero and first conditionals— it’s between if and when The problem of address (2) No, she did not own her home. No, she did not have renter’s insurance. Yes, she’d like to be included in a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Her voice gets lost all that yelling in the background—twelve family members in one Georgia hotel room. She stops answering my questions but she wants to tell when the water came, when they blew up the levees to drive us out, she could hear explosions on the floodwall. It’s my job to make the calls—not to listen—to collect insurance information. Other girls in the office make faces at the ignorance they reach, the ones who expect homeowner’s to pay for flood damage. If the roof blew off, they’re lucky—the storm came before the flood— the house is covered. A man on the road yes, owned his own home yes has homeowner’s insurance. No does not have that policy number— those papers buried in the sludge that was his study. Now he’s angry he’ll call me back, he’ll search his car again, he asked his wife to pack their papers when he went for gas. Some interrupt my questions to ask where I am, if I’m really here, at what intersection, how’s downtown look, where else have I been through? The problem of address (3) glows on the faces you meet on the other side of the news when you are part of the news but no one knows you’re there— the news means elsewhere It’s a problem with pronouns, with they and they and they which is all you ever are in a diaspora. For me, in Dallas, riding the DART downtown I overhear the locals joking those New Orleans folks are gonna mug us better watch your back They don’t mean me, I know, but I rib them anyway, say I’m one of those New Orleans people, and I won’t take your money, this time, if you tell me where the exit is.