Friday, December 31, 2010

El tiempo / Weather

a Maria Teresa

Nada, ninguno nino ni nina, esta mi amor en el cielo cuando mi amor esta en la tierra.
Nothing, neither boy nor girl, is my love in the sky when my love is on the earth.

The currents run both ways. There is the flux and here is the churning emerging
so gulls can sit on whitecaps and porpoise slice the waves with their nimble diving.

Foam fills the tide on its way in, with whatever is out where no one ever swims to,
they are so determined to dance on the high waves with only their bodies to ride.

You’re never sure where your words are from or where they’re bound. It’s up to you,
you could say. The ring around the sun will stay as long as it takes the moon to rise.

I sleep under the sun. I missed the sand. I missed the lilt of voices speaking espanol.
No one need comprehend the meaning of words that sound like and are love’s entreaty.

Then the guns were carried down where the shore slides gradually, and loaded they
responded well to the trigger fingers squeezing off the first round that was so deadly.

You can wait for the warm currents of winter or the cold children coming in summer.
The boys know the heat of the girls and the girls know the touch of the boys is cool.

I want to see you everywhere, in the sky, on the earth, in the distance approaching me.
I know a love like this is prone to the weather report, her body’s heat tempering mine.

Or the way her body touches my body. The way gulls hover above what is down there.
The slant of the dive and rise of the eyes of great fish that know more than any other

being that far out, where the boat likes to take the waves and wash from side to side,
no one in that rocking cradle knows what may be done where the sea is so very wide.

(31 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander


He was growing old and it mattered he loved life
as much as her. I stayed around to see, I said
to myself during the late summer months
before hurricanes came to touch the coasts
if they could skirt the islands, pick up steam
from the gulf stream, rattle on in with winds
no one feared as long as they knew what was coming.
I knew nothing. I was not born here. If birds flew
backward I had no idea why the known world
did not know. If the character of a city
is its people, I did not know who was of here
and only by listening a long time to tones
of voices in the bar of the St. Charles Hotel
did I find her, the one with whom I had commerce.

As Ira aged his beloved Adore
helped him everywhere as though he were blind
or becoming so. I helped as I could.
The woman I found, or who found me, was waiting
or said she was. How could I care if she were there,
I muttered. She was always with me at nightfall.
Soon winds whipped the rain against our faces.
When I got up to close the shutters she fell back
to sleep. I lay in the dark and counted the years.
I was too young to go anywhere now
I had already been. The wind and rain clattered
keeping me awake remembering dalliance
for what I had wanted it to become
before the metallic taste came to haunt my mouth.

I was gone before the first hurricane.
It was not the worst, nor was it not to be feared.
Two friends, the bartenders Rocky and Ray,
and Rocky’s pal John, head waiter at Kolb’s,
met one night in Ray’s bistro The Saloon
on Bourbon. Only Ray was not amused
by the storm, closing his place early to go home
to look after his mother. I rode out
in the taxi to see if I could help.
The cab waited. I followed him into the house.
His mother was asleep, he said, and went
out to pay the driver and I rode home,
the sky moiling with dark clouds among clouds
that wanted to break through what was coming.

She’d said she loved me when she left my bed.
I was too young to care, too old to worry.
I went home. Ira sat at the table,
his horn against his lips, Adore murmuring near
his ear, Go on, baby, play me a song
no one knows, not even me, and I’ll sing
it down at the wharf where the sailors walk
and whores take the measure of boys like him,
she smiled hooking one finger my way. He started
something I never heard again, no song
that would bear upon the distance a storm
had to come, nor the human heart find sleep
he seemed to be seeking as her eyes turned
to worry he was beginning what was ending.

(31 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Annealing

                                        The love I give is intended for another
                                        like seeds set out in a trap to catch birds.
                                                 –Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (994-1063)

Some lights flicker, all too ready to die not burn.
The earth breathes, lets go a long sigh, and is filled with sea air.

She said Ibn Hazm had broken her heart more than once.
You try, in vain, to find the source.

There are always crimes waiting to be committed in the heart.
For example, you love her unwisely,

one or both of you may have the heart broken without help
from Ibn Hazm.

The votive candles flicker and go out. It’s the wind, of course.
You wait for the priest to come, then give up and go home to pray

God guide you on your way, if some other way she must go:
O do not let me harm her heart, too sweet to tamper with . . .

If there were only salt in the water, the fish would thrive.
The fishermen go back to their boats, glad they are alive.

(30 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander


                               Ira McAlexander
                              New Orleans 1965

I was once the child who went forth
every day to claim my inheritance.
I went alone, across fields, by rivers.
Ferrymen touched against the shore
offering me a place aboard to ride
but only one way. I said no and went
across that river and on down to see
the sights of New Orleans. My father’s
uncle came out to the edge of the city
to welcome me. Said Ira, Welcome
to my home, let’s go in and sit a while.
Inside the woman with whom he slept
the rest of his days and nights, Adore,
set us out café au lait, warm beignets,
gesturing to me across the street: Hear
that, Juan Flores, those are your people
singing Long Black Veil, Tennessee Waltz
and with the same second-line band
that returns from this street’s burials.
I looked out and I saw in widow’s weeds
no woman I knew yet imagined I could
walk over there, strike up a conversation,
and spend the rest of our lives that way.
She looked like my mother’s grandmother
if her skin were black but all I have is
a daguerretype: She’s lolling by a door
and it’s here somewhere, the little dog
by her feet is looking up and wanting
what she has in her hand, but look out
at the camera she does and he will slink
away, I know, unfed, and I never see
where he goes, nor where she is from
now that I have come here to introduce
my pale blood into the family equation.
Ira asks if I like the Irish playing what
they came to the South to discover, I say
good enough for me, he fills my glass
and we sip and munch our way to be
ourselves yet in concert, the sad music
in our hearts welcoming his tall wife
with her brogue and dark skin and eyes
to the table. Adore, I say, what a name
to cherish, and she replies, Too many
have cherished me and men have died
because I would not choose one over another.
They fought, she smiles, to show how they
would die for what they wanted, just like men
to have to have their way even at the expense
of their own lives. Ira reached over, touched
her softly on the nape of her neck with fingers
he played the music with, when he worked.
Adore, he tells me, is every man’s goddess,
she just doesn’t care as much as they do.
I was here for a long stay. I could walk out
and down the street and back up a boulevard
and see the shotgun shacks and the brothels
preserved for the sake of man’s love of infamy,
his cursed putting upon women the escutcheon
of his greedy shame, and Ira would tell me
stories, the one about the woman who danced
alone all her life and never wanted another,
the one about the man who could never be alone
and made sure no one else could either. Ira did
what he said. He took me to the wharf and there
he picked up his horn left there the last time
he played all night and far into the morning,
Adore standing by smoking a cigarillo, gazing
into his horn and up to his eyes that never left
her dark skin, her dark eyes, her darker smile.

(30 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Early American Annals

Less is more, we all know.
That’s why we languish
outside the gate.

Here are the horses
promised us for rain,
bareback and unbroken.

I said to you I need
to love you before the storm.
Did we have our way?

You said to me I want
your love the way I need
love to be kind, gentle.

And so the gate opens.
We are beckoned, Enter.
Nothing more’s inside

than was out there,
you say and turn
on your heel with me

alongside your dark cheek
red with the fire of love
betrayed by all but me,

and I want only a horse
and even one for you
to ride farther away

where the rain can’t reach
unless wind blows it
where the lightning hits.

What’s more, the fort
burns up and soldiers
get what they gave.

What’s less, the brass
get off, the fire ignites
embers meant for us all.

And always, someone says
smallpox blankets take
less time in winter.

Sir Lord Jeffrey Amherst
wants to build a town
where he won the peace.

Who was it died here?
he wants to know. Savages,
his adjutant reports.

Let two, three centuries pass.
No one remembers
and if they do, they know

things aren’t what they were
before we took over
the extinction of savages.

Saving our women, children,
and livestock from the devils
slaughtering for sport.

Syllogism: They do to us
what our fathers did to them,
we are the last, we record

what’s etched after the storm
in a sky keeps peeling off
layers until it bares sunlight.

(29 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Questions with Answers:


Who is he?
Why don’t they use their natal names?
How do you know they’re not?
Juan Flores, Leila Shulamit–too exotic!
even Johnny Flowers . . .


Who is she?
Who is Leila Shulamit?
Who are you to ask? Wait until you
are introduced. No one says
you have a right to know.


The people?
Don’t they have all they can do to work
for money to feed themselves
and their families?
They look after even their dogs and cats.


Now you’ve tested my patience
and not until the inferno freezes
will I answer you.
Juan has too many, Leila too few,
and it’s no business of yours who!


Because I’m not.
Why are you so public?
Try loving someone. Try loving more
than one someone.
What do you think would happen?


Why do I even bother answering?
They are answers I want to get out of the way.
I want to devote my life to my work.
I wish you would turn and try to do the same.
There are reasons the world is the way it is.


How are you? Multiply that by God only knows
how many live or die on the surface
of the earth, the planet careening
on its axis, awaiting another Chile,
and I don’t mean Pinochet . . .


The son of a bitch Augusto Pinochet,
now dead and not a moment too soon,
should have died before Allende.
I want to smear worse than dog or cat shit
over his grave, over his stone. Blot him out.


I’m not. I do no more than remember
I simply heard the news that day.
I was sad beyond words. I wanted to go
see Allende’s Chile before September 11, 1973.
I planned the trip for the summer of 1971.


In those days I was freed after eight years.
I walked away with two thousand dollars.
I went south, naturally.
Planned to go all the way to Santiago de Chuco,
when I learned a great friend had suicided.


Because of bastards like you, who won’t leave
well enough alone, you have to get your digs
in and pitch out the courage inside like earth
when the gravediggers arrive to do their job,
and all this done for the health of greed.


Yes, to continue the indictment: you and your ilk
are the scourges of the planet, you were then
and you are now. I sometimes look in the mirror
and say, Who do you think you are?
You look just like them, but as happy you’re not.


I may be the happiest man alive because I am alive.
In two days I will be seventy-two.
I now am in love twice over, mind you.
I have been, I am, in love with four women in my life,
more wealth than any rich man’s stolen bounty.


Because I’ve loved and do love four women?
How crazy can a civilization be to ask the questions
you insist upon?
Why don’t you look into your heart,
find something open that’s not a bank . . .


The four women I have loved and do love?
Irene Castenada, Paula Joy, Irish Cathleen, Leila Shulamit.
How’s that?
Aren’t you glad you asked?
You must’ve thought I was whistling past the graveyard.

(29 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Juan Flores mejor, said Leila Shulamit

What’s better, Leila, you or me, sand or sea, fingers and palms, legs and toes, all our bodies better when together, no?
They who have never coupled know little of the firmament’s delight.
Juan Flores and Leila Shulamits, par exemplar.
They know enough, but they do not remember anything together, not yet.
Juan Flores is still trying to unravel his memory in time to store new memories in his banks.
Memory banks. He remembers the horses, but not the cowboys who roped them, tied them
on the dusty ground, hauled them in trucks, their spirits unbroken
but their bodies sagging under the lash of captivity and the doom
even mustangs know because in their own language they have passed on
misery and pain, and none of them return once they’ve gone down
the mountain and off the hill, and on into the abattoir.
They are guillotined, gutted, their corpses hung high above the floor.
They will go to the rooms filled with ice.
Juan wants out. He goes. Where is she now? He knows. He goes there. She is his only love
now that he begins to remember the future.
Why mejor, Leila? And she laughs heartily, bending over in the sweet pain of such delight
she does not want to stanch the flow of tears
from such laughter. Why not anglicize me, Leila? Johnny Flowers would be put to work
in the fields, no questions asked, and there you would flourish from his vast experience.
You would become a flower, not the one you are, not peonie but bougainvillea, dahlia,
but not nightshade. Leila says, You do not know all the names of the flowers
I already am. And one is not better than another. She has his number,
she knows. He knows. They know. They go on. They will go on. They go on forever,
no matter the switchbacks, the sudden right-angle no-curves, the narrow passages.
They will go on forever. They have been here forever. They will die together.
So Juan Flores wants to believe. He is still catolica, and this sephardi-santerista woman
sees through the priests and calls them human, sees the rabbi and calls him hers.
But Johnny Flowers takes the stage when the church and synagogue close.
Santeria takes over. Voodoo? Isn’t that what the already fated call the unexpected surprise
of what cannot be known in memory but only rises through the earth
and into bodies and their spirits flowing like clouds becoming rain. That is no question,
Leila, I know these things. How? I do not know. Why? Something about where I’m from
and where I’m going, and you, where I am, whom I never want to leave
now that I’m here, for better or worse, you know
the story. It’s cliche by now. Boy and girl,
you don’t have to be at the very end to see what’s in front of you, inside you, around you,
over you, love’s surround, encampment, shelter, whirl
of sky and sun, planets aligning, stars taking their places and refusing not to move,
they want so much to keep the sky their own . . .
And so there is no way this love will fail, too much remains to be done, and even then
love goes on and on, like a body does
when it survives the fire and goes out into the open to breathe again and take life back in.

(28 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Epigraph for "Tsunami"

The heart has its reasons.
No need to question
the origin of its dark strain,
not if you know its feel,
the bright fingers whose skin glows
and will not, not ever, let go.

(27-28 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 27, 2010


If you should wake and I be gone,
trust I did not leave you behind
but only preceded you to a land
I hoped you would never see,
you had seen so much, survived
your own desires and come all
the way back to help me live
and keep my blood turning,
my bones mending, my words
no longer yours but hers. There
is always a failure in the heart.
There was never a heart gone
wrong. All your gone men knew
you wished them well, each one,
and did not follow when I led
you off to snow and ice and hell’s
little vestibule, where the wind
is colder than anything we knew.
And yet I can figure no way out
of this fifty-year obsession you
promised and fulfilled, not like
fucking one man before another
but a steadfastness no one need
ever regret, save when a woman
you sought in vain all your life
enters you and you are too far
away, not in miles but in years,
and not in age but in some other
conundrum there is no answer to–
too deep inside the part of you
that holds her bound to her life
and knowing if you left she’d die,
not her body but her great spirit,
the mortar that holds her to me,
holds me up, gives her reason
to live . . . Knowing that had gone
why live? As for me, I am gone
already, my mind waking early
and body following, cantering,
trotting, galloping, I am the horse
I always sought, the roan stallion
whose habitat was always wild,
from birth to now, but not enough
to free me from her, for she stays
where she would be, and I can’t go
where I would, my love, I am so
bound to her living the rest of life
looking into her mirror and seeing
only beauty, what no other man
ever beheld, wanting only her skin
to be under theirs and rutting alone
between her legs, and she calling it
whoring and I know it was more,
it was her father and her mother
clashing morning, noon, and night,
her mother out until dawn in a car
with a cop who was never off duty
when she said, No, you can’t have
what you want in the back seat or
the front, I have my reputation, Jack,
it is all I have in this wretched town
Spokane. And Jack did to her mother
what his crippled wife was forbidden
to enjoy. Your father paced the floor
all night. You kept him company,
he talked of "your mother" on and on.
She never offered anything in return,
your mother, simply danced in alone
and singing drunk, got ready and off
to teach another day, another night
like this following year after year
until your father lay on his deathbed
and your mother said, Let’s go out,
and like she loved to teach you how
to be with men, over cocktails, in bed,
and best of all, how to leave a man
when he no longer served your fancy,
she offered to buy you lunch and by
the time you returned to the hospital
he was dead. You had a few drinks.
You rode all the way across the state
to reach your husband, and he slapped
you across the face smelling liquor on
your breath, he swore, and you knew
you had given up too much to ever be
happy and divorced him, came to me
again. I was working when you left
on the bus to go back to Spokane,
find a cute-enough guy to be married
to when you reached Berkeley, Mecca
of all Phi Beta Kappas with a wild hair
up their canyons, but I never had a horse
and she never had anyone who held
her attention with every word he said,
not again, never until three marriages
were dead and after one with me she said
she had done all she could to get away
from me and here I was still hunting
horses in Horse Heaven Hills and in love
still with Irene Castenada, that beautiful
soul I let go and found you instead, and
why go on and on, this is the only note
I will leave behind, Irene did not receive
even this, she simply knew it was over,
maybe even cursed me as the gringo
she gave her youth to and why go on,
said to herself, and found a man out
where she wanted to go and he took
her there. Love is never so unique
it can burrow under your new skin
and not find the old, but she must
have found a life she could not leave
without betraying her mariachi heart,
full of songs from her blood country,
and I wonder if ever she put one foot
after her other and lay in white sands
of Oaxaca as did the woman I go to now
in our every vacancy waiting to be filled.
Irene Castenada, my first, were you
the only love? And who was this man
who aged with you and never left you
but fathered your children that were his
and went to work each early morning
and never heard my name after the first
          How does love turn into a life?
Be young, Irene, even when your days
show the snow in your eyes, the lines
in your skin deepen with all your years
engraved there, and you never remember
where we were or why we were there,
you know only your life was your child
and then the next, and on, as their father
left the house of a morning and labored
as your father had, but knew a language
your father did not know, or your mother
truly understand, not when I hovered
inside and outside the house of the poor
parents of your dark eyes in your dark face
and loved me later everywhere we went
and I loved you as well as a young man
could love a woman for the first time.
And if I go now to the only woman Irene
conjured in my memory, she too a dark
beauty who loves me back and what is
such love but a way to end a long life
in beauty, the veneer of souls long gone
chipped away like the stone where horses
arrived, looked back out of the box canyon,
bolting simply to feel their long legs alive
again, as for the first time. Leila Shulamit,
don’t leave Spain, don’t let Mexico go
under when our love hits a Richter scale
too high for the instrument to survive,
and our feet entwined and lace like arms
where we lie can stay that way forever,
prepare my arrival on the next bus home.
Don’t make plans. We never make plans,
we God-forsaken lovers who eat apples
like wheat. We join where we were split
and make whole the ravenous seasons,
heal where we were torn and soldered
at the joints that couple as though love
had never happened before, though
we know the truth is all that comes
next, death’s door opening for my body
and you will have to let it go through,
sweet, you go on then, where you are
happy, I trust, and will always give
what you had given to me in abundance.
Your inestimable love, the heart’s fault
riven and waiting to send the ocean
hurtling across the miles where a world
was once.

(27 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Some of What I'm Doing Now


Where does this go when the skin peels, the hair loses its grip, the walker crouches in wait for the next sure step, and the kingfisher dives off shore, the deer loves what lets her stay alive in spite of all, the bear lumbers from side to side but makes up ground as long as his eyes see what’s coming. I no longer know questions to ask. I have no answers that I could broach and bring true with time, how can I promise the wondrous when all I own is never my own . . .

Now if I may, let me tell you again how much I love you and for you to listen to me say I know nothing may be little more than a sudden storm sending you fresh tears to brush away and let dry. I did not mean to love life without you. I did not love life without you. I do not love life without you. I do my Orson Welles voice, or Richard Burton, and who do I think I mimic but some version of myself escaped from the flat land, the pine hills, the tundra here, the tundra there, and all the rivers I loved are elsewhere, and if I took you to a river you have already sat by, listening to its sound, observing how its flow moves, sometimes in circles, usually ahead of itself, water being like blood, we never catch up until the day is late, the night near.

Before I was seventeen I loved talking to myself. I once lived like a hermit but in my forties, but I said nothing, listened when there were sounds, and dreaded what I feared, but what was that? There was an end to that. And an end to the end. How can I tell you everything?


Let the actors act, they lose the line between their roles and their lives, and the more talented lose what they have, and despite the Buddha they do not grasp, they want only what they have when it no longer waits and they have waited too long while animals drink river water, the forest harbors its birds, the birds that carry what they have to seed the roots of the trees.

The no-mind knows everything. The hand that cradles its fingers touch you. Above, the bo tree moves slightly in the wind. There may be many views of the same thing, but each appears when you rise and take your body off to the town where deer and bear go freely, though there is the sound of a bolt sliding into place and a sharp crack followed by night,

more night. And some angel comes through the window in my sleep, a fallen angel most likely. The big moon shows her the way. I take her in and she takes over and nothing ever is the same. I could complain. She may not stay. If I love her good she takes no time to think, Is he loving me or loving himself, is he true or is he a living lie, has he fallen as far as I, and why

. . . all these excuses, drawbacks, apologies, dignities and indignities, embarrassments, rigors of discipline not even I know how to follow though follow I must as well as direct what the blood does that I feel in the fingers that write this one key at a time, it doesn’t matter how fast the little black letters move, there is no end but the breath’s and the way it runs out . . .

(26 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 25, 2010


All these remarkable problemas
rout the soul, some say,
as snow falls, ice forms, spring
is memory and prospect,
my long arms reaching for yours.
Alma, I will call you, a name
nobody does not have. Alma, and
unlike all the ways I once said
the name, no one is your equal.
There are needs the human heart
believes, and those it yearns for
with every breath intent upon
the going as well as the coming,
what is new as well as unknown,
all the as wells, the pero bastas
and rhetoric like some demagogue
holding forth on the Holy Bible
from the rooftop of his clunker,
yes, I have Flannery O’Connor’s
Wise Blood  where it’s resided in
what lines the cavity of my skull
these lo! forty-five years have held,
all her words one year I read aloud,
each one, to Betty Ludington, wife
who turned up her freckled face
in a red-haired Arabian smile,
I thinking, Just like a bad girl
to go all the way and suffer
the rest of her life in consequence
of bearing her Fort Riley daughter
whose origin, no fault of her own,
marked her as one of the blessed,
the rootless . . . like you? Never,
no one is or was or will ever be
like you. The peacock lady from
Milledgeville, Georgia, born again
when eyes cherish her words
by reading each of them aloud,
she must raise up her poor lupus
ravaged body and walk down
briskly to the country church
where black folks know her soul has
more to do than lie around dead.

(25 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

To Leila Shulamit

What am I going to do with your shimmer?
Rare plumage . . .
So does our country melt under our heat.
You know what I don’t, and love you for it.
There’s too much to know. Too many bits
of knowledge gumming up the machine.
It’s the machine I have trouble with . . .
Nothing to know once the cord is plugged in . . .

Rare plumage, finding the shimmer I sought
how long? It’s the word I didn’t know
until now. I saw you in many different places
and found you where you were all the time.
In Mexico, Tina was in love, and I could see
where that happened, if not the first time
I was there, then the last. Modotti, Weston,
yet more vital the unending cause she died
fighting for. Why do I see you the same way,

beautiful, fiery, gifted in how many ways . . .
After Mario Savio
there was a woman I married the feds sought
to send away from her native country.
I recalled how you–I mean every body–
could lean against the machine to stop it,
and her courage stoked by adversity’s dare,
C’mon, babe, we got your number here,
get out of where being born’s not enough!

and no reason to leave, she up and stayed.

The old loves never leave, do they?
The shimmer of rare plumage . . .
See what you stirred in me?
How can I help but tell you?
Southern white boy with a Sephardi
Santerista beauty and a heart like a blade
that carves your name where you leave
your name, how could I bear such beauty,
Leila? There are borders. Walls. Human
waves, the INS attorney called those
who were like us without our luck . . .

Ah, so long ago now the sky has changed
too much to see for what it was, or is.
I don’t go there anymore. Not even to El Paso.
The judge is retired by now. His claques
learn to applaud in Chinese, no slur intended:
China has its own devastating problemas . . .
To get as far as Mexico City I’d have to fly.
I’d go to Belfast first. I can speak the language
my mother taught me. I don’t carry a gun
or a knife and I damn sure don’t like bombs
weighing me down. I keep my pockets empty,
reserved for the hearts I carry I’ll never know.

(27 November–25 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Sky Full of Dust above Mexico

wind blows where I listeth . . .
follow these feet down dream alley . . .

There’s the bridge connecting Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s
separate apartments above Puerto Vallarta.
Married twice, you’d think they loved such a habit, but admire
all you wish the way they could not help but want
to throw away the gift Shakespeare would have sent across the ocean
to draw him to the Globe, where she would follow
or lead, what’s the difference, he’s dead,
and after I read aloud my triptych
a guy comes up to me, says, You sound like that actor,
what’s his name? . . . I don’t know the answer, he looks back and finds
the name he’s looking for behind his back;
a compliment the most gracious ever though he didn’t know, nor did she.

Do the fishermen of San Blas still push out their boats with nets aboard
before first light? Do the mosquitoes swarm the same?
A woman alone bearing on her head a bowl of guava fruit
walks barefoot the dusty highway shoulder between some town
whose name I never knew and another I’ve forgotten . . .
No need to commend her beauty, her eyes were dark, her clothes soaked
with sweat, nothing more to be done than keep on walking home
though I wanted to stop the car and let her know
this drifting gringo didn’t want her to drop the guava
or the bowl. Yet I was no more than I was, nor was she,
nor were we all, any of us who followed that narrow road.
Shall we turn east toward Patzcuaro, lovely that first time, comparable
to what it may be now, or was before day closed its curtain,
and on to Morelia, ah, to recline in the plaza of an evening,
calmly walk the shadows half in the light
and love upstairs.

And turning back, Mazatlan like going home abandoned in a rush
nowhere, yet making new all I see a third time,
Matilda in her robe and slippers walking her girls by the sea wall,
Mama Muche serving smoked marlin before sundown . . .
I’ll shed these years, go look back or remember
if I knew how to bring you back to life
or otherwise resurrect you, beloved Mexico,
mother who never understood a word nor I anything but her smile
and now dying like a wounded bird and if I caught you in my arms
would you lift your wings when I threw you aloft
and go where the wind blows
such souls with no secrets but those you see and all out in the open
where a last shade of humanity spins a compass,
takes a reading by chance, where you swoop and thread the air.

If Mexico is dying, I wish I knew how to bring your dead back to life
and lift you up to where I found you and remember how the music
wove a little shape you called the abandon in your feet dancing back
phrasing I proposed to marry the happily ever after you murmured.

(22/24 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

"Wreathing the Air around Me"

Smoke paying out and curling back its long pulsing stream,
the heart visibly invisible,
O hoodoo woman’s moon
whose clouds darker than the sky tonight slice and glide
where they go . . . O let them go, woman,
where they can love with their rain, their thunder, lightning
and silent steps up one sky and down another
and be there when the heart shows its face,
two moons tonight,
one for each eye.

(23 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

It Vanishes

Love is no stronger than death.
Death is stronger than love.
You do not come back to her.
You wait for her and that
is not love. What vanishes
is not love. The dark day.
Snow piled where you walked
without a hitch so long.
Ice under the crust. Don’t fall,
viejo. The bones are brittle.

The body vanishes. The shovel
with bright bones and flesh
clinging to ashes. The technology
takes you in one end and spits
what’s left of you out the other.
I have been sorely unamused,
viejo, dark is your view of life
when it ends not only in death
but in vanishing. Open the grate,
stand back. Blaze at the door.

And yet there is more to love
than the life we call happiness,
a condition. No more than sorrow
once the fire dies down. Nobody
knows how to die and come back,
or love and not destroy;
those are no questions or facts.
In the boiler room the labor
intensive skill worked the bones
overtime. Pain, time and a half.

(revised, 24 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

"Dream Ourselves Awake"

What are poetry and love for? she asks,
and I in deep thought;
but deep enough to dive under a dream
to bring back love?
No, said the one with blind fingers.
Yes, said the ancient of nights, not days.

If you insist she is young, has lives left
to fill, to love her own, she will sigh
and cast her impish smile
as she leans into her red dress
to reveal the valley
between her breasts.

When she turns her back to you
like Kiki of Montparnasse
in Man Ray’s Le Violon,
the shadow between her buttocks
shows where the tub ends,
her beauty begins.

I don’t know how I found you
but when you sleep will my body wake
to a chorus for the love-deranged,
the dolls pin-struck and wholly owned
by no one, not even Mama Moon,
and Daddy Day goes where he can think,

or thinks he can. He wants to know
why can’t he trust the flow of blood,
the way it changes when he sees her?
She says I’m not beautiful like you’re used to.
Beauty he has had, but never hers. Her eyes
are old souled. He gets out of the way.

Drums staccato,
bass strummed, bowed,
keys whispered under the right hand,
winds bringing the horns in,
syncopated with the up beat,
over the chords on down.

(23/24 December 2010)

Copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It Vanishes

Love is no stronger than death.
Death is stronger than love.
You do not come back to her.
You wait for her and that
is not love. What vanishes
is not love. The dark day.
Snow piled where you walked
without a hitch so long.
Ice under the crust. Don’t fall,
viejo. The bones are brittle.

The body vanishes. The shovel
with bright bones and flesh
clinging to ashes. The technology
takes you in one end and spits
what’s left of you out the other.
I have been sorely unamused,
viejo, dark is your view of life
when it ends not only in death
but in vanishing. Open the grate,
stand back. Blaze at the door.

And yet there is more to love
than the life we call happiness,
a condition. No more than sorrow
once the fire dies down. Thanatos
is the god pitted against Eros,
or are they locked inseparably,
that is no question, nor fact.
In the boiler room the labor
intensive skill worked the bones
overtime. Pain, time and a half.

(23 December 2010)

VII: Memory and Dream of Bright Sun


She is gone. She was never here. She is
gone from me. I could weep. I am a man
and men do not cry, say all the men
who believed they taught me all I know.

Am I going to Oaxaca, where she is?
Or is she in Chicago, where the el roars,
I do not hold my hands over my ears,
but am not there. Nor am I in Oaxaca.

She is lost to me for the rest of life.
She waited, I hesitated, I stayed.
She waited and along came the man
who spliced her heart with his, loved

her the rest of a life. In the weather
on the mountain I remember bright sun
breaking through a month of rain.
Butterflies everywhere, having returned

to meet and flourish one more year.
Long waking soon followed by dream.
If there are mysteries seek riddles
that you can see through, sieves

much like no net below the mountain,
voices that stun the air, you never hear
the parrot scream. Where is the big cat
who reads strange palms to find a past?

I write endlessly and it is all full of sun
following the rain and the sun is bright,
so much so I cannot open both eyes
at once. Life enters always divided.


There is no cause for sorrow. She laughs
where once she wept and her lover feels
her heat and feeds her all the happiness
he has, love is called by no other name.

The sound of the waterfall. The din
of birds. Roar of a beast I don’t know,
I am my own demon. I could not know
where I was going when she came along.

I was in the doctor’s house and I was
writing of her trying to bring her back,
only sleeping when I ran out of words,
and then stayed so long I missed the sun

when it shone. Irish Cathleen was here.
She loved the senora, helping her travel
the path, loving the wilderness like a man
who is always wild enough to rein her in.

I am that man, she said. She knows nothing
of Leila Shulamit. That is well. I don’t know
either woman now but I remember one
holding my soul who would never let go . . .

I am aging faster than the water tumbles
over the falls, and the years never the same
years as the water over the falls is never
the same water, but it is always water.

The liver spots on my skin multiply. Who
am I to wear such flesh with aplomb,
as though I did not care to die with love
in my arms. I will go the one-way sleep

once I dream through the dust of snow
that never falls without warning, melts
in air that blows its frail breath back
to caress the Totonacans in their jungle.

                    3. El Sueno

I fall away and pool, dispersing. From here
I see only what is there. No buenavista posible.
The trees too high, too thick, and love it
or not, Leila Shulamit would be shimmering

and I pressing my body against hers, loving
what we have sought all this life, the words
to be said, the body, the face, the voice, touch
of our hands, our moist lips, our single breath.

She knows she is my final love. If she flees
to be here, she breaks her husband’s heart.
Wind follows rain in winter, crashes trees
and batters the walls of the doctor’s house.

We live in the cheapest hotel in the town,
or so I dream. Too old to make a baby.
There are no anthropologists staying here,
no tourists. We love all we want then sleep.

I continue to write half the night and all day
when she might be doing her life’s work
and because winter this year would be long
I dream we fill these arms that are empty.

If Leila and I live in Cuetzalan, above
the hubbub, the din of lies, the murders,
we know enough to be happy and stay
where we arrived, like this, loving . . .

Not that it will last. Nothing human lasts.
All I could do was come here and hope for
her brilliance to arrive, body and all, and
she does. From Puebla, all the perilous way

up the mountain, we are covered with kisses,
our bodies move like hands rising and falling.
We stop to pick flowers for a roadside grave,
she folds me in her arms, brings me to life.

How we reach the mountaintop. Dream we say
to each other all the words that have waited
to breathe. The six stories I climbed to get here
become my life. I dwell in the lines of her body.

(20-23 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

[posted 23 December 2010]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

VI: Sierra de las Mariposas


Here I am. There she is. They were here
before either of us or our kind arrived,
their feet splayed like jacaranda roots.
They do not need houses in the jungle.
The only thing the invaders bring
is plastic. They spread it over their heads
and drape it down their bodies to keep
off rain in the marketplace on the steps
of the cathedral overseen by Cuauhtemoc.
The hotel that is the archaeologist’s choice
is also open to the non-anthropologist,
a poet say. I have slept there. I have slept
very well, and I sleep at the doctor’s
in the big room where the cat sleeps
when he does. The senora stays a week.

The doctor emerges once or twice a day
to listen and to talk while all of us eat.
I do not know what we will do when rains
fall without end and the butterflies go,
where no one knows, they are fewer than
before, the doctor says. The senora smiles
and serves another dish to supplant what
has just been eaten, this time a mole to mix
with the beans she fits inside corn tortillas.
The cat has leftovers. The doctor smokes
and drinks and listens and goes back in
to his writing table. You must admire him.
You could emulate him. You have to get out
of here before you die. The senora gets up
to go and I want to go with her, but stay.

I stay as long as I want, which may be
forever if I have no say. That is the way
the doctor prefers to host the young ones
like me. They have been sent by his brother.
I am only the most recent. In his cell
Vallejo, the younger of the two brothers,
tells visitors about his brother, the doctor,
and how they could learn much from him,
he only requires they go to the mountain
he considers the top of the world, his world,
and wait for him to tell them what he knows.
That is what I get for having gone to ground
in all the days of my wandering and passion
unsubdued, like any animal with instincts.
After this, there will be nothing left to say

but one thing, what it was I learned here,
which may be nothing, and how much I left
behind that I could have learned if I’d left
later. I am thinking now I may never leave.
I have nowhere to go back to now I’m out
of heart. The gamine will never come here.
She has a life to build over every generation
she survives. And she will survive many.
And Manuela Roma lives in La Habana
happily, I must assume. All that is nowhere,
nothing, nada. All I have is a bed in a room
with a big cat pacing as though in a cage
and an old man working night and day
in a back room I will never see, nor do I wish
to see what I am only now beginning to see

ensimasmodos y en el corazon del un viejo.


I know many things but none are of any use.
I can build nothing. I can speak no language
known here, neither espanol o el indio,
Totonacan. If I were feeling up to being a man,
as men are said to be machismo in the City,
I would go south, to Tehuantepec, to be
with women. Manuela Roma said they are
not only tall but beautiful and wear colors
bright enough to blind your eyes. I will be
chaste for now, the jungle is bright enough
when sun breaks through, as it has today.
And the parrot is singing, between phrases
he is even beginning to learn from this guest.
The cat is restless but still licking my palms
in search of where my lifelines are going.

I go back into town and play pool. The boys
want to know all about Kennedy. The girls
like to stand around and smile, blushing
when you look back. I am el viejo, the man
who walks with a cane and eats too much,
or so the senora says. She likes to tease me
and treat me like a son or a longlost lover
who did not age after she could no longer
see him where he was, in the City, or was it
Oaxaca . . . I tell the boys about Kennedy
and explain no one knows for sure who shot
the bullets that ended his young life in Dallas,
Texas. Tejas? they know where that is, they
have met tourists, even anthropologists here
desde Tejas . . . They are not surprised to hear

but sad, still, to know Kennedy was killed there.


I stay in the village for market on Sunday, when
the people emerge from the jungle bringing what
they have to trade and sell. A band plays on
the steps terraced up to the church to the top
of stairs where those not dancing sit and sing
and watch the flurry of bodies in their joy moving
as long as the music is playing and the night cool.
Then, because I begin to miss myself, I go back
into the jungle, going on a sidetrip to the falls
on the way to the doctor’s house. I did not see,
I did not know there even were the falls when
I first came here. But the doctor was young then.
His maid from the city had been a prostitute
before he rescued her. She loved to make love.
No wonder, the doctor said, she made money.

I go back to the doctor’s house in the middle of
jungle to wait for the butterflies and to mourn
my lost love, Leila Shulamit. I keep her images
in memory and there she is more than alive. If
If only I could reach out and touch her soft skin,
kiss her warm lips, caress her and love her as long
as we wake and curl together when we sleep
and sleep long into the day. Mariposas will be
arriving soon . . . They once were more plentiful
than now, they are dying like the honeybees
north of here. If only she could come by the time
of the tree of life, voladores swirling around it
by their feet, their outstretched arms gathering
handfuls of air to see them through long rains
and the heat that catches breath, these two arms
lifting her up to be kissed, to be kissed always.


All words lead to her body and her bright face.
All her body is contained in her face cast down
encimismados. Or she is the gamine I called her
from the first, her mischievous smile aglow
and her body seducing my stare, cajoling me
for my manly madness. She is my Milky Way
and I nothing but one among her many planets.
I know nothing of her and she knows little I can
tell her because I do not even know myself well.
She knows I know and knows I know even more
than I can say, than I know the right words for.
She also knows the days and nights will care
for us in our aging years, and I will be the first
to die, I old enough to have been her father if
Irene and I had married and shared her child

as though she were the daughter of a sephardi
and a santerista on her father’s side. She can
live alone but I do not want her to be lonely,
ever. I want only to touch her once and feel her
touch me, and then we can wait for what’s next,
if anything, if I do not die first, if she does not
marry first, if we can abide our love being who
we are, and keep honor fast within our breast
made out of two, ours. I dream so much of her
I can almost touch her from here. Here where
the parrot mimics my sigh, the big cat growls
when I close my palms and cuff it on the nose,
here where the doctor comes out on occasion
to read part of what he has been writing about
all he has loved, not only a woman but a country.

Libertad sin miseria, he calls it. I smile and nod.

(19 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

[posted 22 December 2010]

On Two Prints by Nicolas de Jesus

for Lisa Alvarado

The garden is filled with souls whose bodies are only seen when asleep,
writhing and curling like the wind around the bending leaves of trees
without roots, at work on the steps of their making, laboring with love
of life and all that can be done if it is lived happily and with sincerity.
When the garden overflows with rain the ditches rush downhill, out
to the desert where no one needs to live save those who only live where
solitude is bright in its darkness, a glow of filling the eyes with a need
that no longer has a name. And there are houses up there where family
occurs and children grow without harm in a way even animals can be
alive. I have never been there. I don’t even know where it is. But it is.

(22 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Janis Joplin - Ball And Chain live in Germany 69

V: The Acacia Tree

The senora wakes me at dawn.
She is dressed and waits till I dress
and we begin to walk by first light .
A long way we do not talk at all.
Some birds talk. The others cry,
I do not know the names of cats
living in this jungle. She tells me,
but I do not know what they are,
she says the doctor keeps one
in his house. Half a day goes by.
The way is long and not without peril.
There, in a circle of light, he lives.
His house is no casa, nor hacienda,
but a huge structure growing out
of jacaranda roots spread wide
over the earth’s foundation, or so
I will soon learn. The doctor tells
me nothing the Senora knows.
She plans to stay only a few days.
I will have to find my way back
alone, if I decide I need to return
to all that I will never find here.

The one with red hair was with me
the first summer in Mexico City.
The one who walked like her sailor
father was promised an acacia tree.
We never came. I was living alone
in the desert when Manuela Roma
arrived, Irish Cathleen already
having left to do what she loves
for money, the way she was taught.
After all of them, all of whom I know
by heart, I learn solitude. A gamine
might leave her street corner for me.
I tell her I may not be worth the risk.
She has left too many times, always
returning. She tires of tearing up
her roots, what she needs to keep
her healing the worn earth, lips
smoothing the wounds and mixing
poultice to anneal all proud flesh.
What the senora does when I’m here
now. The gamine wants to be called
by her name, Leila Shulamit. I do.

The doctor is working when I arrive.
The senora will feed me what he has
on the stove. I don’t remember what
I ate, nor what we said when we talked,
her and I. The senora speaks espanol,
and I have to ask her to speak slowly,
as she does when I reply in my anglais,
which I can never say without a stutter,
a tic, halting on the first syllable of words
I need to slide by as gracefully as I can
to the next thought that I patch with
a newfound word what I was about
to say before beginning this sentence.
By now I have forgotten what the next
thought used for words, or did I know
beforehand? All this fills up my head.
No wonder, she says, you live the way
de ellos entre dos mundos y en no mundo
de suyos. And then the doctor emerges,
he is tall, his hair is white, his skin too,
his hands are dark brown, as are his eyes.
His face is white because his hair is white.

This was not always the way it seems now.
I know his brother, the railroad worker
who fomented the strike in Mexico City
and is left to languish in jail because of it,
is his cause embodied like their namesake
dead in Paris years ago was a communist
when the word meant freedom to people
for whom a word was not all there was
to do, only to say when someone asked
your allegiance. This is not how he talks.
The doctor listens. The big cat is grown
now but the doctor bade him come in
when a cub hungry, abandoned, mother
bleeding out her life by the acacia tree,
which I tell the senora I did not know
grew here. The doctor laughs. Ah, yes!
The parrot cries, Ah yes! The senora
smiles. The doctor says nothing more.
He leaves the room. The senora says
he is returning to his writing. All day
he writes, she says. And what of night?
I ask. And she: That is why I am here.

I remember the red-haired one ablaze
with anger once we had left the City.
I remember the one who walked like
her father could not abide my memory
and left. I remember Manuela Roma
going with women and I could not abide
her, what other men said they would love
to watch and I left their company then,
I went with Irish Cathleen to the cold
country I could not continue to live in,
and the gamine Leila Shulamit worked
her santeria to draw me to her flank.
She is a santerista, a daughter of Oya
and also, she emphasizes, a sephardi
of Judia. She will wait for the willow
to bud in the middle of winter. The city
of her birth is better than nowhere, no?
By spring she may go to live in a desert
near the site of "I have become Death,
destroyer of worlds," Oppenheimer wept
uttering Krishna’s words, the passage
from mirror to bomb, its windswept ruin.

If I know all this by heart, it is your heart,
gamine Leila Shulamit, your santerista
umbilical to Oya and the impossible thing,
a child born from love and nothing else.
It is your heart, Leila, that is all our hearts,
compass of where I’m going now I’m here,
where I was always meant to be. A week
and I will learn the news never discussed
above the border, where people are robbed
by silence, "the radiance of a thousand suns."

The big cat comes to me and puts his nose
on the palms of my two open hands
and licks the lifelines, why I do not know.
You would know or your true kin would
and I remember you said I would discover
in jungle on top of the Sierra Oriente
outside Cuetzalan and its huararche clad
indios with feet splayed like tree roots,
I would discover nothing you could not
have told me in bed lying next to my skin
that was always white, as white as my hair
though when you look you see only blood.

(18 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

[posted 21 December 2010]

My Woman, He Said

His eyes want to see her in her beauty
mark dappled all over her ravaged skin,
move down there the way opening for you
the closer the dark seems, the more you want,
the more she gets, the words going away
to let the night say when the day begins
and if it ends, the black bull of her dreams
rocks back on both hooves sinking under her
plunging her ten nails so deep in his heart
she can’t see why she’s my woman, he said.

(21 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Song Deeper than Earth

Something so dark in me I pull it from my ribcage and wear it like a heart,
the angelic muse who kept me alive but whose deep wound is the bull
that gores me where the well opens, deep water looks back with its face
blacker than dust under ash that is night whose clouds do not let the moon
show its eyes once I lower the pail into the mouth of the stone and stand
waiting to hear the bottom sound its gurgle, then I raise you, my gamine,
in my arms that will hold you and never let go and drink with my stamen
lowered again and always into the dark, the deep glow of your flower
to bring back nothing but my death and die into you a thousand times
beyond death’s mound of dirt piled where no feet fear to be pulled down.

(20 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 20, 2010

IV: Historia Cuatro

Birds are called elevators.
Paths are called sidewalks.
Trees are called temples
or skyscrapers. Scrape
the sky? Might as well
operate. In big buildings
that spread more than rise.
Black and white stick figures
are known as denizens.
They buy and sell and are
what their own skins wear
in the city whose twin is
no Siamese. Separated,
not cut apart. Use a knife
called a river or a gun
from the Alamo in a city
too far north to ever know
what to say about the bill
to take away your rights
and replace with the bill
you must pay immediately
to avoid reeducation camp
at Santa Rita. Bay windows
on Polk, echo of hardwood
floors, Murphy bed down
and out. This is the fourth
life. The most difficult.
To tell. To get started on
telling. In St. Francis’ city,
birds are not elevators.
Watch the pigeons strut
in Union Square. Tourists
feed them. Walk all day,
never tire or have to stop
until dinner and then go
on. Night is the best time.
Moon is full over hills up
above Mission and Market,
where the bus comes in
and goes out and the poor
shoot dope in their veins
to stay in one place. Rich
people, the poor, money
going out as it comes in
to feed the dealer’s habit.
In the financial district
little gusts of wind blow up
Chronicles and Tribunes
the traders have left behind
to catch BART back in time
for martinis down the street
in the foothills of Berkeley.
Think of it, I used to live
where the fires every year
were quenched by the rain
every year, all on schedule.
Think of it. Who cares how
we have come to live now?
There is too much to do
to listen to this old story.

Except I’m on el telefono
in Ibero, she’s on the bidet,
we have only a few more days
or nights. On Calle Hamburgo
the minister of culture says
we can go live in La Habana
and do nothing but poetry
as long as we read aloud
to those who make cigars
not only in Tampa but off
in sugarcane countrysides,
or so the romance sounds
from here. She pulls close
and spreads her red hair
over my belly. Go to sleep
that way. But not before she
has her say: I don’t believe
in Cuba. I agree to think it
over, for her sake I do not
add aloud. But I never do go
and it’s too late now, a life
is a life. Then a death. Then
what? Nothing more? Who
said who knows? Not I, love,
queen of coitus interruptus,
belle of papier-mache dolls
as big as we are in chairs
we sit in when they’re empty,
mistress of easels and a stone
woman looking up and rain
in her eyes still dark clouds.
But I’m leaving her behind.
She will be broken up, melted
in a furnace hotter than this
one I tend when I’m at work
to make a living wage a habit.

When I’m out, when I’m off,
when I can, I’ll catch a ride
to the Viceroy, they always
have a jacket to wear, bring
your own tie and be seated.
It’s a little under the street
but safe. A loaded firearm
under the bar. Doors front
but not back, no windows.
What’s good here? Try the
filet mignon. May I suggest
a wine? Why not? To think
I shovel coal for a living . . .
but I did not always do this.

Donald J. Bonnington paints
only on Sunday. His stride
covers a lot of floor space.
He’s a serious man at work.
What do you feel? and why?
After your EKG, make a date
to meet all the bright white
feathered ones, Robert Ripley
and his staff–O is he the one
who wrote Believe It or Not?
Same guy. Different line
of work. The mind has many
mansions. Do you know
Roethke? Ripley asks me. I
reply, Haven’t met him, no.
I keep hearing the stories.
They go around the table.
Poets are good for something,
to analyze if nothing else,
who in this burg could read,
or even have time? Soon
I will shake his hand. Roethke
will die on an island, at swim
with drinks waiting each end
of the neighbor’s pool, now
a rock garden like Ryoanji,
but a memorial only to him.

Where is the laptop saint?
Pacific Palisades? No, same
old boulevard, same old skill
looking for dinero y comida
esta noche. The mission’s open
so go there and listen to God
say His Word through human
beings anointed for such words
as these. Why not eat first . . .

That’s enough for now, all
four stories are prelude. I can
read the signs. Not the words.
Peligro. Entrada. Salida . . .
I’m on my way up a mountain
I know well. Each curve looms
ahead. I love to drive this way,
straightening out switchbacks
with both hands or even one.
The senora has sopa caliente
to serve the gringo. She smiles
and listens to you talk anglais
so she can follow what you say
and then she says it en espanol
and we could go on all night
like this but I must get sleep
if I’m to leave early while dew
soaks the grass on the one path
through jungle to the Doctor’s.
Who’s not even a doctor now.
He writes all day and sometimes
continues into the night, just
so he can find a stopping place.
Where he knows where to go
when she wakes him and says
how the day looks. The trees
fold their canopy and seem
to weep. And you are welcome
if you try very hard to be kind
to the parrot and the big cat
pacing the room like a cage.

(17 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

[posted 20 December 2010]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

III: Mine Own Damascus

                          poetry’s three levels? air, fire, water . . . and what of earth?

 The slaver on his journey
struck down by conscience
he calls God. Where do I go now?
he asks the light in his eyes.
Are we not all ruthless? Why not
accept we cannot do otherwise?
That voice inside his head bids him,
Get up, begin to be alive
without taking lives.
Love who comforts you in the street.

Sitting in a carrel chair
at the bottom of the library stacks,
I look down at her
looking up between my eyes
reading black words on yellow
pages that crumble when turned.
Her voice recites perfectly
following what I read. She warns,
Do your own. I look everywhere
for her in the slow rain of Seattle.

At mass the priest reads from Paul’s
letters. I am ill with Revelations.
At home I read The Iliad, or Force.
Starving herself to death, she ends
the war leaving all that she is
to her teacher, veins running white
with the weight of motion stopped short
of deliverance, bodhisattva girl,
slip of a lass in her own French village
dying, who does not go without a word.

I who have labored all my life to live
in this city of clouds and rain
know there is a way if you can map it
with your feet. How else trace the work
that rises to your fingers
to go beyond the skin over your skull,
this poetry all that is left
at the end, when our business is done,
and doors open only to lock
behind you to give you rest.

My teacher brings paper and books:
‘Write what you will, I do not believe
you. Say your life is a fraud? Show me
the fugitive you are. The ghost inside
dwells there only at your pleasure.’
He leaves, I open The Roots of Heaven

because I’ve put aside The Need for Roots
and deracine I am in Africa,
Morel hiding in the high grass
shooting back at the elephant hunters.

In my captivity I learn the three levels
of the voice of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf,
knowing nothing of her collaboration
with fascists as their darling of the ball.
When the tape ends, the lady with red hair
kisses me and goes. She leaves my portrait.
I never ask her who I am to her,
I help the stevedore to the shower,
we are both weary of working the hole,
he does not even remember his name.

My days as Samaritan are over,
I am delivered to a shallow ditch
and taken for dead. Who will stop
to listen if I breathe and take my pulse
before covering my body
by pushing down the banks with a shovel?
Why do I need the assurance of love?
Simone Weil surely asked her god.
Who then am I to be resurrected,
this miracle a farmboy’s city love.

I love the sephardi who makes menus.
She tells me her Jewish name is Leila
Shulamit. I am to keep it secret.
I do write it down the way she wrote it
and I am in the seat beside hers now
on the road home, where soon she will arrive.
There her friends are brewing coffee
to warm her body coming in from cold
that would feed on flesh like the carrion
that before me have left her on her own.

Now she calls, Juan Flores! and I arrive
where what is seen and heard is contingent
on every motion the mind makes
knowing: In heat is cold, in light is dark
night, in heaven hell.
Is dread dispelled by fear warping to map
the truth of everything under stories
masked by stories? And who will know
to render any, much less all?
Life’s underbelly all I never knew . . .

Am I a blackguard who needs crime to curl
my body lying in the dust, struck down
by your voice I may never hear
now I am all I ever was and all
I would ever be to follow this road
in search of the roots that would end my war
on earth, the fourth level of poetry,
where love’s conscience thrives to run true
and around its curve, a road two can walk
though only I know mine own Damascus.

(16 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

[posted 19 December 2010]

II: Gardens of Babylon

They hung their luscious teats above my open mouth.
How I reached up with my lips for their grapes.
There was my first, my last, and in between each one
the first and last. Why catalogue my loves?
Irene gave me succor in my callow fevers of desire.
Because she was the first, I loved her most.
Her father did not understand my words, nor I his.
It was the look on his face and the look on mine
crossed over on the boat of joy and smiles.
Irene never translated. She was love
in all its offices. She opened doors:
All led to her sinuous body where
she let me pour my newly discovered love
and mix with hers our fountain of desire.
Offered me her youth, I my own to her.
The priest of the church seven miles away
asked her in espanol if I were catolica. She said
everything with her eyes, knew priests were men
under their skirts, their collars, their black shoes,
and always, that day or another night,
she sat with her back to the car door, talked
with me of the days to come, none were past,
and asked if I would come to the house on the Rattlesnake Range
and call upon her and escort her out
and drive not far if the night were as warm
as summer, or into town where autumn
never became winter, and our bodies
were together even with our clothes on
where mufflers crackled when the engines raced
standing still. The Dairy Queen. The drive in
movie. The year I was in hospital
I came home to find her jerking sodas
in the only drugstore in town, the rich
brother of the rich congressman paid her
what she took home to her father, mother,
her baby brother born not long before
I went to live in the city. She stayed
to work a second job in the summers,
throughout the harvests working the night shifts
on the line in the local canneries.
If I had no ambition and she no family, we would
be there still, together, going nowhere
mesquite, dust does not swirl around the house
like all others in the Rattlesnake Hills
except for their Cadillacs and TV
antennas. By ours there would be a child
outside between learning to read and write.
You know the story of hanging gardens
–imagine them flat where nothing could grow–
and one day we moved to my father’s house
to work the vineyard I had always worked.
He was dead, my mother’s mind gone somewhere
she called Arkansas and herself Velma Conley,
watching cars kick up dust on the road
before it was oil, when it was gravel
and the cars all carried strangers she knew
by their Southern names, like her best friend Blanche,
Retha, Craven, Jimmy, the Harrises
Lorene, Manuel, and Bobby my family
someone else’s when I was not yet there.
And who was this dark woman with the mole
on one cheek, who deplored how tall she was,
but loved that I was no taller than she.
It turned out I lived in Seattle, Irene in Granger.
I went to college, she worked her two jobs
until one day I came home, she was gone.
Maria Camacho said she married
and left no address. Maria knew her
family and mine, mejicana y gringa
viudas con soledad, el padre del Irene muerto tambien.
My mother said her own name was Lorene
when the roots in her garden spoke to her
and the flowers in their beds by the house
listened. Where was the king of that village?
Who would fill the terraces with color
if not the king? Did he not harvest fruit
on the mountain where her son and his friend
of the Yakama hunted the mustangs
in the Horse Heaven Hills, where the mountain
left the trees and entered a wilderness
the civilized saw as dogfood quarry,
what you herded home worth more without hooves
in the slaughter houses of Sunnyside,
where Irene introduced me to the priest
and on the hill above town gave me love
I never forget. Nor have I forgotten
the dream my friend and I vowed we would live
when we owned what no one could take away.
We would corral those horses in the box canyon,
stand watch between us day and night
and when the law arrived, and the talking ended
first I, then he would die for the horses
whose ghosts still roam there, he swears in my dream.
I hear their hooves where I am, always there
where terraces are called hanging gardens
in a city named Babylon.

In the city Seattle
I dwell seven stories off the ground,
and when I say Earth or Flower I mean
Irene Castenada, her name from kings
who routed her father’s people one day
beyond memory. Nor have I seen her
for the hundred years that this garden grew.
I dream of kissing the mole on her cheek.
I wait for the plane to bring her to me
across the mountains and take us back home.
I am not sad, I am grateful, I love
long walks. We are allowed to be alone
only then. Her tall, lithe body with mine,
today we have gone into Mexico
to gather our lives and wed each other
the only way lovers like us marry,
in joy of desire no one need question
where the dead dance with their horses
never broken, to the mariachis’
Vamanos and we blow them each a kiss.

(15 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Seven Stories


In the city
they wrap you
in their white
wings and fly:

From here
the red light
the night black.

They carry
you where
you sleep
to dream

but you know
elevators because
this was the second

the first in the city
your friend asking
you never answer

now on the edge
of the lake,
football stadium;
above, seven stories

about to be told.
How I kicked
across the highway,

how I rode the horse
my friend led
to Grandma’s house
giving me the bridle,

the horse weaving
its hooves between
the persimmons
all the way to town–

creak of the saddle,
smell of leather
the horse also heard,
no doubt smelled,

and that is only one
story, six more to go
but that’s all for today,
the one with white wings

says, ascending.
I keep on with the story
telling to myself
looking out the window

wired for safety
between the patchwork
to find a horse to ride
on the earth, and make it

to the country
where I was born,
my gift tethered
and fed and stalled

for one night
so another day is
another story
and then five

to go, the girls growing
to be women and I
approaching manhood

the very long sixth
story, followed by
mine own Damascus . . ,
how so like a blackguard

caught in flagrante delicto,
as my city friend says
though he refers to
something not a crime . . .

that leads to this fourth story,
where I am, where
birds are called elevators
paths sidewalks, trees temples

or skyscrapers or simply
buildings where denizens
buy and sell and see how
they wear their skins . . .

and after that, the third story
I already know by heart,
it is my heart
or was then,

before and after red hair,
sailor’s walk, Manuela Roma,
whereupon Irish Cathleen
returned, she said, to stay

and that begins
the penultimate story
still to be lived or written,
I don’t know which, . . .

if ever I may love my gamine
until finally I I die happy
and go on loving all
my world’s seven wonders.

(14 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 17, 2010

Los Retablos

Somebody says, God damn! why you choosing San Juan de la Cruz
for your patron saint? –The fourteenth of December comes and goes.
I recite "en la noche oscura de la alma" but he doesn’t know illiteracy
when he hears it, or he’d say, How many summers did you live there,
in Mexico? And I’d say, If you can call it living. And he’d say nothing
more. You can’t stay in the City two summers in a row and remember
everything a near half century later. You could get all wound up, jive
yourself, but Hilda Gadea was there only for an afternoon, red fingernails
flashing like I already said somewhere, throwing sparks. In that room,
Che dead a year. Don’t tell me you didn’t approve of what he tried to do,
you just slum around his remains in your head. Urn of forgetfulness,
ashes and bones of hell quiet after the guns in the Bolivian jungle
and cackle from the generales who think the peasants know nothing
to do but shuffle in the dust and smile. Could fat shits even guess why?
I can’t abide it, I want to say, but don’t and go off and drink my café
con leche in the cantina out the door of the hotel where we are staying
as long as we have dinero. I don’t go back. I walk around the corner
to Palacio de Bellas Artes, where the Siqueiros triptych hangs, the cry
La Nueva Democracia straight out to the spectator: Cuauhtemoc under
the knife; Rivera’s four panels of Carnaval de la Vida Mexicana, then
Orozco’s Katharsis. Who remembers now Teresa de Avila covered up
Juan’s self-inflicted wounds and kissed his feet, and norteamericanos spit
in the street and swear disgust is not their greatest expression of distaste.
From Mina y Buenavista, up Calle Alvarado, the zona rosa is open now.

But I’m in Tokyo as long as I can bear it. Then back to the Kyoto digs.
I could be in Chimayo if I’d stayed home. I think of a little mountain
that loomed as you round a bend on the highway nearing the village.
It looks larger than it is. And beyond the sanctuario lies Las Truchas,
then Las Trampas. They paint what they feel on the walls of houses,
pero no iglesias. Red letters and black, it’s all the same, but not to those
who are told to be quiet and choose to speak. I understand such impulse.
The guy who asks about St. John of the Cross could never understand
why there’s never a human reason to sweep altars clean of los retablos.

(17 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Another Night of Dark Soul, Three in the Morning

Last thing of a night, reminder to awake and sit za-zen.
The master is in town, bamboo in hand. Say nothing
you know or don’t know, disappear into your body,
but welcome him to this house with bay windows
not in San Francisco. Next thing, share morning tea,
slow calm setting over the brow, frost on one window,
sun through the other, I have run out of words. What do
they do? Nothing can come true through words only,
Words, like tongues, grow quiet and, with a body, leave,
one cat following another, back and forth, my itinerary
in precis. After the master goes, I hear echoing
on out where the scar heals a reprisal to blows.

In Japan a bridge leads through the house across the floor,
eyes aligned with eyes, one way to love, a line across rocks
to the lagoon where I have never forgotten the way. I am
nowhere now that the no-mind is up for auction in the West.
Here the noumenal world takes its course through no aid
of mine, I have so little to give abstraction. Or that is all . . .
They say the storms assaulting Kyoto leave temples unfazed.
I have heard the lash of wind carries the words of the dead.

(3–4 a.m., 17 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Of Leila Shulamit and Her Pagan

Her shimmer falls with rain that turns to snow.
Does she know him now? Or is he one wraith
more would turn joy to sorrow in lieu
of love? Does she ask only to be loved?

Ice lies under a blanket of powder.
Tires grip all they can. She knows to keep her
feet vigilant, heel and toe, poised
to free the car to carry her to bed.

Where is she now? Maps that fall to the floor
of his house leave her tracks on the hard wood.
He could never love her more nor she him
than in absence seeking only presence.

And how can love breathe? How can they know now
in the wilderness of cities and plains
with her lips tattooing the face he wears
to meet hers at the end of this journey . . .

--And this man having written his new love
in the characters only she can read . . .
a man whose limp is a little less now
that he feels her conjure him at her side . . .

Will love work now the night is so far gone
loneliness is painted with solitude’s
acrylic shades, and could he fill her with
such warmth he could never give another . . .

What is this silence but the bowl he fills
with a prayer that she come here to be
dazzled by the day’s joy and the night’s calm
and never be memory for his heart’s

dull ache without her. How can he say more?
He may. The sound of water in winter
roars, heaves the ice that breaks, whose voice he writes
in patois under the cacophony . . .

–Thus is written one part of her first day.
Let this be her talisman to keep her safe.

(16 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Long Way

The love of my life. What is it compels us to go on?
The body slows, but the mind becomes stronger
each day. The desire to live fully:

Love has its curious way. The arms holding you
and would ask only that you hold her . . . Arms
aching for other arms, lips for other lips, body
for another body:

Is that the way? Count them.

I am dying in a dying country. You are the more
alive. May we see America again as one flesh.
America without borders, without secrets.

There are miles. There are rooms. There are trees.
There are rivers. There are mountains. I remember.
There is human love . . . the long way.

(14 December 2010)

Copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 13, 2010

Memory's Banks

"There is a kind of pressure in humans to take whatever is most beloved by them and smash it"–Anne Carson

1. trust do not dishonor

What is there to us we don’t yet know?
Will you ever? Or I?

What does a heart do when it breaks?
Throw away words and see.

I have nothing more to say, I said. Then began saying it, endlessly, breath out of breath.


He remembers how he got here, sure. You gotta want to, first of all. Then go. What’ll you find? Look at all there is. More than eyes take in. Tongue talks. Mind meshes. That’s life over there.

This river’s not Lethe. The gods go after. They take tiny steps, the weight of memory is too much to bear, and they are humble in their power to take on your life and show it to you a reel at a time.

3. take your time

Let’s dance on broken knees and go to bed and fuck forever, I love you so in the dawns I know now.

That old canard about Orpheus, how he couldn’t help but look back and lost what he was going to have and the maenads caught him by the river and disembowled, dismembered, and dutifully sent his corpse down to Lethe’s falls.

Who believes it?


The angel came at dusk. He wanted to tell Jacob what to do. Jacob wrestled with him all night. Nobody, not even God, tells Jacob what to do. He ends up taking the angel’s advice. You climb the ladder that you build first.

She was very kind. She brought water to the elders. They were too greedy. They took her body. They destroyed her youth. Elders? of whom?

All the stories are stories. Ruth and Boaz. Jonahand the Whale. The wisdom. The prophecies. Stories must be true before they become stories. Who says? They who tell the tales, who lived them, no matter when. The mistakes men make are called history, their triumphs the same, but their stories lies, at best imaginative fabrications to curry favor.

After so long in the city, she moved to the country. Now years later she’s coming home.


Reynolds dreams of Isabel. She dreams of Tim. Juan Flores dreams of Irish Cathleen. She dreams of flowers. He is calling himself by that name, save when he sees the gamine on the street corner beckoning and he goes. He dreams of the gamine. The gamine dreams of him.

The gamine. What is her name? Irene Castenada maybe. Tall, slim, loving without end. No, not her, she’s happy now, a mother somewhere, aging with the pores of her skin in a smile.

The gamine. She is the dream. She is blood of his blood, bones of his bones. And she says it seven ways.


I was walking by the river today. I saw her in my mind’s eye. She was walking in the woods, and did not want to leave. Tearing up her roots, she called it. I asked, What roots do you mean, my love? She said, These, and undressed and pressed her nakedness against me, These bones with this flesh that I made myself in the kiln of my God’s foundry.

I was walking across the city then. It was night. The cars were lights and sounds. The stories I told myself were set in Mexico City, but only after Mazatlan. In those days I drove. Now I walk. Los Angeles is not a city for walkers, not for long distances. Wilshire to Fairfax. And back. Web between thumb and forefinger tattooed. Pachuco? Gringo.

I walk everywhere. I stop and talk to bums. I buttonhole bankers. I do everything but sing. I need her piano for my voice, they are inseparable. I have gone from her and stayed. I am going farther soon, further into myself, where the falls give upon a calm pool and after that another river, this one for keeps.

The gamine is named and known and loved and treasured and unforgettable, ever, and mine always, I cannot be too clear, I run my own inquisition and my only witness is the one who stands accused, myself, and I listen, and I talk so I can listen, and I want only to go to be with her. The gamine. We are growing older as we wait to meet. Why do we, I mean I, wait?


There is a place in the South where the fireflies light up nights the moon sleeps behind clouds. The no-see-ems. The pine trees. The little mountains, the hills, the one-way houses you can shoot a shotgun through and hit nothing but where the door gives on another door. Windows always open. It is so hot there you can’t wear clothes or stop making love, ever.
I wish I could remember how to get there.

There are places in the North you can freeze to death in no time. That’s how you get out of the wind. Fear. There are places like that, frozen until you thaw the ice, all that water below. I love the taste of cold air. It tells me I will live a long life, longer even than the one I’ve lived.

Irish Cathleen. The gamine. The woods. The city. The air. The wind. The rivers. The great mountains of my childhood. One for each eye through the window where I sat many hours.

Otherwise, the fields, the orchards, the vineyard, the canneries, the warehouses: the jobs.

The job of love. Of staying alive somehow without the love of one but with the other’s love, depending on how much I take away when I go to give all there is of me left to remember.

                                                           again, to the gamine

(13 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander 

On Two Poems by Sandra Cisneros


for Franco Mondini

In Spanish it’s naturaleza muerta and not life at all.
But certainly not natural. What’s natural?
You and me. I’ll buy you a drink.
To a woman who doesn’t act like a woman.
To a man who doesn’t act like a man.
Death is natural, at least in Spanish, I think.
Life? I’m not so sure.
Consider The Contessa, who in her time was lovely
and now sports a wart the size of this diamond.
So, ragazzo, you’re Venice.
To you. To Venice.
Not the one of Casanova.
The other one of cheap pensiones by the railway station.
I recommend a narrow bed stained with semen, pee, and sorrow facing the  wall.
Stain and decay are romantic.
You’re positively Pasolini.
Likely to dangle and fandango yourself to death.
If we let you. I won’t let you!
Not to be outdone I’m Piazzolla.
I’ll tango for you in a lace G-string
stained with my first-day flow
and one sloppy tit leaping like a Niagara from my dress.
Did you say duress or dress?
Let’s sing a Puccini duet–I like La Traviesa.
I’ll be your trained monkey.
I’ll be sequin and bangle.
I’ll be Mae, Joan, Bette, Marlene for you–
I’ll be anything you ask. But ask me something glamorous.
Only make me laugh.
What I want to say, querido, is
hunger is not romantic to the hungry.
What I want to say is
fear is not so thrilling if you’re the one afraid.
What I want to say is
poverty’s not quaint when it’s your house you can’t escape from.
Decay’s not beautiful to the decayed.
What’s beauty?
Lipstick on a penis.
A kiss on a running sore.
A reptile stiletto that could puncture a heart.
A brick through the windshield that means I love you.
A hurt that bangs on the door.
Look, I hate to break this to you, but this isn’t Venice or Buenos Aires.
This is San Antonio.
That mirror isn’t a yard sale.
It’s a fire. And these are remnants
of what could be carried out and saved.
The pearls? I bought them at the Winn’s.
My mink? Genuine acrylic.
Thank God this isn’t Berlin.
Another drink?
Bartender, another bottle, but–
!Ay caray and oh dear!–
The pretty blond boy is no longer serving us.
To the death camps! To the death camps!
How rude! How vulgar!
Drink up, honey. I’ve got money.
Doesn’t he know who we are?
Que vivan los de abajo de los de abajo,
los de rienda suelta,
the witches, the women,
the dangerous, the queer.
Que vivan las perras.
"Que me sirvan otro trago . . ."

I know a bar where they’ll buy us drinks
if I wear my skirt on my head and you come in wearing nothing
but my black brassiere.

(from Loose Woman)
* * * 

The Seine runs along.
Merrily, merrily.
The river. The rain.
Water into water.

A blue umbrella fading into fog.
A child into his mother’s arms.
Buttresses leaping delirious.
Wind through the vein of trees.
The rain into the river.

Tomorrow they might find a body here–
unraveled like a poem,
dissolved like wafer.
Say the body was a woman’s.
Ophelia Found.
Undid the easy knot and spiraled.
Without a sound.

A year ends
merrily. Merrily
another one begins.
I go out into the street once more.
The wrists so full of living.
The heart begging once again.

(from My Wicked, Wicked Ways)

* * *

1. The Glamour of Evil

One always wonders why the church calls glamour evil, or vice-versa. What is there about beauty that might offend God? Don’t tell me glamour is not beautiful, and vice-versa. Why divide the spirit and the flesh?
          No one who reads these poems seeks to judge them. Do they? Why should we want to be less than human? We may well never be more . . .
          It’s hard not to know what to do with these poems. They are by a moxie mejicana who lives inside herself the way those not as brave as she live outside, burning and burning with rage and desire. She can’t help them, she will help them–it’s up to them. She can convey, impart, evoke how it is for her. If we are going to know anything about this country, we are going to have to listen to her. Read her.
          There is a story, undoubtedly true because in it she’s in trouble with the so-called city fathers. She paints her house bright colors and the city council explodes in fury. She defends her way of living. She writes another poem. And another. She writes a novel. She writes stories. And other stories. She’s already told how it was to grow up in Chicago, chicana. She stays close to home now, next to her own skin. She’s in San Antonio in one poem, in Paris in the other. A reader likes to know where she is. What she says and how she says it makes a reader feel more grounded somehow, like this gringo who dreams he lives somehow, for some reason, in a barrio nobody leaves until somebody else is born, and then not too soon, mind you.
          I want to call her a moxie mejicana, but it’s not for me to say. She says who and what and why she is Sandra Cisneros.
          How much, to me, the poet resembles a gandy dancer laying down tracks on a railroad through the nerves. In one poem she’s in Venice and elsewhere, one of Pasolini’s ragazzi, all this time celebrating life and death in a bar in San Antonio. In the other, shorter poem she’s not talking but taking in a moment in Paris: the Sienne. Notre Dame. Our Lady. The joy of life, the inevitability of death, the waste, what remains, the turning of time over into another year. The flow of the faces she sees, the foreboding of what she hopes not to see, not here, not ever, but that’s not possible. The longer poem provides the limits of the shorter one. Or does it? What Paris evokes is simply a world apart from her bright house, the lively bars, the laughter, tears, the time, all a way, hers, it might be mine or yours, of paying homage through the breath of blood and bones to the beauty of flesh, its own flow–what survives through poems as well as music or visual art–any art that respects its limits and still must break through and try to surpass them.
          She’s wholly herself. Anglos call such selves individuals, but usually only when they refer to those of like skin and speech. They, of course, don’t know the half of it. Or even a quarter. Or an eighth. Or a sixteenth. Or nada. Hard to say. What are Anglos worth on God’s market? Spaniards? Latino/as? Let the Market decide, eh? You may as well destroy those who bring no money to the table. You do, Market, you shed them like a snake sloughs its skin.
          Myself, I need to see through the haze a country throws up between its citizens, so blurry we believe it’s foolhardy now to risk seeing ourselves in the so-called other, too threatening, too mind-numbing. We could go down to city hall and ask the town council to give Sandra Cisneros everything she wants. It’s not much. Not as much as you have. You don’t have her. She has you if she wants, but she doesn’t need you, she has her house. She lives there. Let her alone, but listen to her, read her words, learn to grow up. She’s a good teacher, one who makes you laugh at least as much as weep.
          Why not let her be herself? Ah, but that’s the trouble, no? You can’t let people paint their houses blue and red and yellow, flaunting their disrespect for the laws of the city. Besides, property values . . . think of your neighbors. But what if she started something? People loving rather than fearing each other, say, based on who they want to be seen as when they are next to whomever this is I don’t know and doesn’t know me but maybe that’s because I don’t know myself.
          These are not poems so much as raw slivers of life, even the brief capture in Paris of condensed time, its ephemeral and evocative and inevitable passage. Yet it’s in San Antonio where the surface of life bleeds like a human soul, lively, energy without end, or fighting the soul with the mind like two hands grappling with some angel dreamed.

2. La Paloma

Where I once lived, there’s a bar under a bridge going over railroad tracks to and from downtown Albuquerque. La Paloma I want to call it. In La Paloma men and women are happy to be alone with each other and with themselves. They dance and laugh and drink and talk and flirt and fight. They have no need of strangers. You go in there and depending on your entrance the silence may be ice or go unnoticed. The door opens and for the moment it takes to go to the bar and order a beer and make yourself comfortable, you may be and most likely are happy. But to stay, you have to earn your keep. You have to mind your own business. You talk their language as best you can and they may even applaud your diction. Or you keep your mouth shut and pull it off. I knew one guy took a friend in and he just smiled and flaunted his pearly whites in a gesture of what he thought should indicate goodwill. They got it. When I was alone I tried to actually feel what the room would be like if it were empty. That way I settled in and drank my beer. This guy with his friend, they must have thought they were in a place not only novel but a comedy, one they imagined seeing themselves see themselves: these gringos being in here, where they might as soon have their throats slit if they don’t stand back slowly from the bar and pull their pockets inside out and make the gesture of standing aghast, showing what they have that the others do: See what we have! Nada!
          But on good days, and always in the early afternoons, before the booze flows too fast, say to yourself, even then, Look out, hombre, your magic is about to evaporate. Clear the air that may be full of suppressed outrage. Don’t even think, just drink and live for the time you’re here as deeply inside yourself as you can reach. It’s good for you. To others, your very presence is likely to be an insult.
          You think you can do what you want in La Paloma and walk out like you walked in? Look at us, these eyes might say: We have scars on our faces, on our hands, pull up our shirts and see the scars on our bellies, drop our pants and show the scars we have down there, and listen to how I say it, there’s a scar in my voice, and another scar somewhere not even I can see it. You see, a knife never knows what or who is at the end of its blade, they skewer the one who wields them as much as those into whom they are thrust. And that’s one way to read these poems, maybe.
          Imagine the simplicity of what happens. Cops come in here, like they do, and tell you to break it up. You stand back, they let you alone. For the moment. That’s all anybody has and you may has well make the most of it. Imagine! You have to put yourself in their shoes. And they can’t afford your fancy shoes. Your cut of clothes. Your hat size. Your money belt. The way you waltz in and out like you own the city. You don’t own us, their eyes say all a body needs to say: You don’t own La Paloma, you don’t own the dove .

Floyce Alexander

(13 December 2010)