Monday, September 1, 2014


I have no idea where the sky goes at night, or the dark by day. I do know I am dying, as we all are one day, one night or the next followed by all the other days and nights bequeathed to us. I no longer know, but it would be good to know firsthand again, before the sun is gone and the moon's light goes out,  the love bodies make when I want to be so warm I would have her feel what I do and she does, whomever she may be if she arrives or if I find her home.

I am going out today to buy a malamute to keep me company, the kind of dog I have wished I would have befriended when I was its age now. As it was, I loved the sheep dog, Tippy, I named for the white streak on the very end of its tail; the black one my father named Nig and told me outright, before I asked, that the dog's name was short for "nigger."

I knew my father was reared among people known as "poor whites," and I thought: He was so young to learn all of the fear and hatred that his own father taught him was wrong with his world, and my father believed it was so until moving north and west and homesteading in a valley, where growing up it dawned on me that the lessons his father taught him, whose spell he came to hate and drove away, were a part of what I would come to believe was at the heart of the hell on earth that humanity suffered then and now and no one knows how long the earth itself will survive human greed, the sickness invariably working hand in glove with human cruelty.

Also, there was the female collie puppy, whose name my mother remembered all the while she was still alive, for she too saw the little one she named Sala--don't ask me why . . . saw her dash through the rows of grapevines we were pruning and on the dirt road running beside the vineyard the car meaning to pass did pass, but only after killing Sala, and unlike the others--the truck and car whose drivers stopped to pick up the dead and take them, with me, home--this car left Sala in the dust without stopping, speeding up so no one in our family would ever know the driver's name. Also, beside that road was the ditch where Rosie Milton, little sister of a band of rowdy boys . . . the ditch where her body was found outstretched and her throat cut.

At least the quiet girl screwing the kid from the reformatory farm, Buoyville, did not die, at least not then, and she might have gone on to grow into the woman and he into the man, to become what they would need to be if this American romance had not been dashed by the eighth grade teacher cum football coach, who followed them one afternoon and caught them making love--fucking I heard it called it then, when I was nothing more than a candy-ass. He caught them humping, as I later heard, in the boxcar by the flour mill on the outskirts of town. She never came back to school, nor did he. I learned a lot of valuable things from him--cursewords mainly, which he called cusswords. I had learned them when we were binding library books, and somehow he knew I wrote stories, though he never said how. I found that from the librarian, one of the lady teachers who listened to what I wrote from the fourth grade on; she told him and then told me what she said ("I know stories I could write, too"), but only after he was caught being happy and making the girl happy in the only place and in the only way they could.

As for me, what did I do? Arose at four and cut asparagus until eight, when I went off to school, and when the school year ended, Joe Esparza hired Jess Maltos and me to work by ourselves his asparagus field from four until noon, and afterward we plunged into the city pool, then slept where our mothers kept their houses quiet so we would not wake until dusk. After asparagus came a cycle of harvests in orchards growing cherries, apricots, peaches, and we worked with all of them. Picking cherries in a bucket hanging from the strap around the neck, we learned to use the ladders the owners called spikes, which reached as high as the limb strong enough to hold the where we needed to strip the tree; but first we leaned the spike against the limb and climbed a step at a time until we knew the ladder could bear our youthful weight, and then near the top we tied the ladder to the branch we believed would hold us, and if we were wrong we probably would not try again, though as it happened we were not only young but lucky. And to end each day we yarded out the full boxes of cherries under the trees, stacking them so they could be moved quickly to the beds of the trucks--usually two, sometimes only one--when the drivers arrived early next morning to haul the cherries off to the plant to be processed, it was called, before our next day began as the sun was still rising.

Then we thinned apricots and plums so that what remained would grow to a size large enough to be acceptable for market, and the rest of the mob of greening fruit we let fall to the ground. Then we picked the apricots, but never the plums; we could not do everything in a late spring, summer, and sometimes early fall. Next came the peaches, the pears, and finally the apples, which we picked later, staying out of school to work that last harvest of the valley's fruit, for by then we were going to college, you see.

Those were years I worked--in fact, managed with Jess's help to fill empty boxcars with hundred pound sacks of spuds, they were called--in the potato warehouse where I met Irene, who was younger than I, but with her I--we--shared first love, or so I learned to call it after those days ended. Because we learned to love from each other, we wanted to marry, but she stayed to finish school and I went off to college, which put the Cascades between us, and when I could no longer find her anywhere in the valley, I remained on the other side of the mountains, in that city on the edge of the waters of the Pacific, and there I began a new life, though the old life lingered inside somewhere during my days and nights until I found a woman who has never left me, at least not to stay.

The rest of my days were devoted to learning why I am here to do what you may call art, even though I don't because, to me, it is only writing, and it never makes claims on me that the best writing I know always involves. But that may  be because I seem to take life too lightly now, though beneath the surface it is difficult to make the art I would do, but only in secret--not like what I'm writing here, but the work (I like to call it) concerning what the poet Yeats deemed, in his final years, to be the only subjects worthy of a serious mind to explore . . . "sex and the dead"; and I have been trying to expand "the dead" to consider how death itself weighs upon a body whose pursuit of a Dionysian ecstasy was the most crucial concern of my youth, or what I sometimes call, my misspent youth.

Of late I have written, and seriously so, what are known as satires, and I even have had the sand, or gall, to compare mine with Swift's "Modest Proposal," which I have tried to teach, a job that is more labor than work to me, possibly because the young--and even many among their elders--consider Swift's essay a primer in cruelty, either because they have never read it or having done so refuse to re-read it until they realize that satire involves the creation of another world to set against the immense follies we know from experience, if not from learning, are all that indulge us until death--having gleaned the chaff that becomes our most important material for art, despite what the books say, those I never read now.

(1 September 2014)

copyright 2014 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Designated Griever

Finally, I was no more than griever.
Knowing no father, she sought one.
Another man is rekindling her fire.
Art might save you from anything.
Playing soprano sax straight out to life,
Sidney Bechet grew happy in Paris.
Love's little death was the discovery
Of any body's own Ponce de Leon's
Fountain of Youth between lovers' legs.

Call me Cunt, she said in the beginning;
Call me anything, but love me
(She stopped saying). She mothered me
With anger when she said I transgressed her
New code, revealing intimate details
So the old world might see the new.
She knew there was no need to fear
My absence. I floundered, regret
Flooding me with shame she chided me for.
Growing small, I asked forgiveness.
She said, Don't worry about it.

All that time, the half of one year

I knew her, she was welcoming
Another man into her arms
To restore her youth--a rose in her hair,
Smiling at last, kissing him with rose lips,
Prancing naked to lure his cock
Between her legs. I remember her last
Words to me were I want you inside me.
When our half moon turned into the New Year,
She said, Oh, did I forget you had a birthday?
Her way of starting to show me the door.
As another August approached, she said
Only what she could measure twice to cut.

What I prepared once reading the shadow
Of Emily Dickinson in Amherst
Wearing white on her second floor upstairs
Was the mania that led me to knock
On the door of the white house she died in.
From the river Styx, Jonathan Edwards
Reached the Connecticut, his Northampton
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Left behind the doors of heaven and hell,
The wife of his youth, Sarah Pierpont, gone
Forever. He was crossing the bridge from
The vale of his church to the town Amherst,
Named for the Lord who brought smallpox blankets
Among those who were here long before him,
Where the preacher takes into marriage the poet:

Much Madness is divinest Sense--
To a discerning Eye--
Much Sense--the starkest Madness--
'Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail--
Demur--you're straightway dangerous
And handled with a Chain--

You who were my Esperanza

I saddled also with Preciosa:
You had said you wanted more than one name.
Now you forbid me to send couriers
Couriers to your newly minted door,
Put your hair back in the pigtails
I loved so, and cover your breasts
With the bedsheets you have smoothed and now tuck;

And I am left to remember only
The sweep of your gallery of still life
Photographs made by the men who came
Before me, before you called me
my love, my husband, my lover, my father
Leaving me behind my own bay windows.

(30 August 2014)

copyright 2014 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, August 29, 2014

Designated Griever (earlier)

(a revision of an earlier draft thought lost
before finding it here after writing what I
offer above as the still unfinished
but, at least for now, final version:)

I was always, finally, the griever.
Her father long gone, she sought him.
Then a lover came to make her young.
Art saved me from everything.
Playing his soprano saxaphone
Straight out to life, Sidney Bechet
Was happy. Love's little death
I called the body's Ponce de Leon
Fountain between my legs.

Call me cunt, she offered in
The beginning. Call me anything
But love me, I heard her say.
She mothered me with anger
Once I transgressed her code
And she had no need to fear
My absence. I floundered,
Regret releasing a flood
Of shame she chided me for.
Growing small, I asked forgiveness.
She said, Don't worry about it.

During the time I knew her,

the last half of that year she was
welcoming a lover to her bed
to restore her youth: braiding her hair
with red ribbons, prancing naked
to lure his cock between her legs.
Her last words to me, I want you
inside me. August led to New Year's:
Oh, did I forget you had a birthday?
she said, leading me to the door.
When August returned, her tongue
said only what she could measure.

I was prepared by the lady in white
upstairs, or so I drunkenly thought.
When I knocked, no one answered.
I had come to Amherst as the war
in Indochina began to reach its end.
I was here to read and that way have
new dreams: Jonathan Edwards
snuffed out by the pox the Indians
around him suffered, his Sinners
in the Hands of an Angry God left
in his grave when he climbed out
and in my dreams returned one night
to the Connecticut River all the way
back from the River Styx. On the bridge
between his town and hers, Edwards
forgot Sarah Pierpont, his true wife,
to marry Emily Dickinson, who wrote:

Much Madness is divinest Sense--
To a discerning Eye--
Much Sense--the starkest Madness--
'Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail--
Demur--you're straightway dangerous
And handled with a Chain-

Esperanza I saddled with Preciosa

since she sought more names
than one, had forbidden me to send
couriers to her newly minted door,
put her hair back in the pigtails
I had admired; the rumpled bedsheets
she covered her two breasts with
smoothed and tucked: her many
still-life moments of loving those
who had come before me
to be the father, lover, brothers
she had sent away to their lairs.

(29 August 2014)

copyright 2014 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Year Is Over

Poems seem to disturb the spirits--once at Gogarty's when I was reading out my Calvary and came to the description of the entrance of Lazarus, the door burst open as if by the blast of wind where there could be no wind, and the family ghost had a night of great activity. From all which you will see that I am still of opinion that only two topics can be of the least interest to a serious and studious mind--sex and the dead.
                      --W. B. Yeats, to Olivia Shakespear, October 2 (or 4) [Postmark 1927]

I learned to lean on one side
and ingest the waves of luna

I learned to lie in the space
of the hollow of your body

What did you learn, winter
window with your curtains

Did you weep with loving
someone like me or was it

no one's business, not mine
who taught you to fuck sex

when I went over into death
and left you with your boys

Today was your birthday love
forever too far off to be young

Floyce Alexander
(August 28, 2014)
to her

Blue Night

This is
the smell of the place,
beauty to cherish
and put you to sleep
knowing she was there,
your first sight waking,
the sound of her voice,
not needing to hear
what she says but you wait,
knowing you will know
so much more than before
she arrived to keep
the promise of her youth, having found you
too late.

This is the song
that has no ending:
Take me under cover, shine the flashlight where
Mercy doesn't live but pity does, and fear
Out where in the light of the moon
The dogs of death snarl and slaver and swoon

Here's where it ends.
The truck backs up to the door
The door in the back slides up, it's easy
You almost hear the voices as a choir


So goes the first day of her disappearance, folly of my doing nothing.
God damn, I mutter, she was not only beautiful but her mind was
And her heart if heart is the color of her eyes
And I don't know, I put her portraits where I could find them
Once I learned to run through the register without grinding
The gears, a year old now, cutting out at one hundred twenty.

(Wednesday, 27 August 2014)

copyright 2014 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Memory of Earth Moving; or, 6.0 on the Richter Scale

                                                  for Jonah Raskin,
                                                  remembering talking about Rudy Wurlitzer's novel
                                                  Quake, walking the hills outside Sonoma, California,
                                                  Summer 1984

In Napa, rolling hills crumble,
The earth beneath opens and wine fills
The sun's frantic shadows moving side
To side where the fall sweeps gravity
Like a broom wielded from the sky
By precipitous, inconsolable
Fingers forming a fist out of a hand
Bone by bone.

Wine country Napa struck by a quake
As one waitress was talking with
Another, the day idling by,
Moving toward noon gone moribund,
Memory hard up for words to fill
The gaps opening where once we talked
In the mold of newfound friends unprepared
To be angels, ever!

                                                       In Napa riddled 
With grape stains mimicking sunset
Pouring down.

                       Summer 2014

                      (24-25 August 2014)

copyright 2014 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, August 24, 2014

6.0 Richter Scale

In Napa the rolling hills crumble,
the earth beneath opens and wine fills
the sun's frantic shadows moving side
to side where the fall sweeps gravity
like a broom wielded from the sky
by precipitous, inconsolable
fingers forming a fist out of a hand
bone by bone.

Wine country Napa struck by the quake
as one waitress was chatting with
another, the day idling by,
moving toward noon gone moribund,
I am so hard up for words to fit
the gaps opening where once we talked
in the mold of strangers unprepared
to be angels now, in Napa riddled
with grape stains mimicking sunset
pouring down.