Before she looked for my name in the Yakima phone book
she went with me there for a night on the town,
small as it was, she was a Spokane beauty
and thought her breasts were too large
but I loved both of them equally
and above all others I knew
firsthand. I wasn’t there,
I was in New England
or New Mexico . . .
I loved Paula more than I loved myself, that was for certain.
I love her still. Only the one who came before her
was ever loved more, and here she is now.
She rubs her dark olive skin against
the air that proves God exists
when it turns into wind.
Massachusetts, Albuquerque after San Francisco and Marin.
Her gypsy mother taught her to go where I went.
But this is about Paula, who was Osage
in her eyes. Paula, who stayed home,
Paula who left one day to go home,
Paula who married the vision
in my lost heart, its careening desire, its wonderful look
around and up and down to find whatever love
is like the nine lives a cat is said to have,
though they are only one in tiny cities
like this one, where no name
like mine can be found,
I have stepped twice
in my own tracks
to get lost . . .
Paula never goes north of Portland without her beloved now.
He takes out his sax where he has a gig and plays
Cherokee or I Can’t Get Started or Koko,
and lets the others name the next one.
She no longer smokes or uses,
doesn’t even drink now
but can keep time with the numbers in her memory, dozens
running the scales between chords talking back
to chords. He’s got his mojo working nights.
I’m happy she turned this way and left
not only me but the rest of them.
But baby, we had a ball back
when we both grew up
in leaps and bounds
and on our own,
we said back then, or I did, in what was illness personified . . .
Now see how the night out there comes down around
the walls of the world: you can see full veins
track the spoor of a needle’s vengeance
attacking cells holding our brethren:
Yea, we have gone and stayed.
(14 October 2010)