( . . a story told again and again yet always with the same denouement . . .)
Once you reached the crossroads you were unsure where to go.
Take the left to go with me, or keep to the right with another.
Blue Suede Shoes was playing on the turntable in the basement.
When no man was around to dance with, what else could you do
but dream? You were the only woman with whom I could fuck
without disrobing and come on in, but my God! you yelled loud
and if Elvis drowned out your cries, it was not because I came
in your sweet pussy, honey. You had gone the left fork, you went
home now, safely (you thought), but thanks for trying, better luck
next time. No, you said nothing of the kind. Species, but not genus,
phylum in question. Only I was angry. With myself. Next day
the red-haired long-legg’d woman who knew how to get what
she wanted drove a Healey into town, entered my office, took
me to lunch. I bought the car, married her after New Orleans.
Up north her brother was a jailbird. A nice guy gone inside
for being drunk and later, loaded, and what would I ever know?
Save this: His sister was raped on Bourbon Street by an hombre
who claimed to be a stevedore and make more money than me.
He must have read my mind. She danced with him while J. B.
Borel of Algiers, for the night away from his wife, filled me in
on how to catch catfish, cook them just right and eat your fill,
offering to take us across the river home: You got all the hair,
not her! he drunkenly laughed (though hers was on her head).
In Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop I started talking about Watts
with a one-armed lawyer on vacation from D.C. and his friend
living here year round, and after she disappeared on Bourbon
they helped me hunt for her until I said, Go home, and looked
and never found her, only Tchoupitoulas, which I never forgot,
until she found me where she lay on a bed in a fever dream
bleeding down her thighs, soaking towels covering the sheets.
She was telling the story of what was happening in that throng
gathered behind a garden wall filing up the stairs to the bed.
Next day she could not recognize them. Nor were they found,
ever. John Biggs III, Kolb’s head waiter who had been CIA
under Allen Dulles, walked with us every street in Vieux Carre.
Up and down Canal. The marriage lasted two years together
and another year separated until divorce. I gave you up for lost.
Paula appeared and I loved again. A year and we divorced.
You wrote wanting to see me. As luck would have it, my Irish
self left town and drove to Marin to sweep up your Irish self
and take you with me to Massachusetts. It did not go well.
Nothing did then. Until we left the Rio Grande to dwell
by the brow of the Mississippi. You changed, I changed,
luck itself changed. Yet even now I can look at your friend
and see in memory the cancer nurse from London in Manhattan
the night she sat on my lap and I slid both hands up her blouse,
unhooked her bra and tongued her nipples, naked at closing time
saying yes, she knew many men but could love only one at a time,
and next day we fucked or tried to in her East River walk-up,
but inside her she cried, You feel like you’re splitting me apart!
and afterward we drank sake with our braised hors d’oeuvres
in Little Tokyo. Even drunk I could see clearly the narrow shaft
where I mined her thighs seeking what no one but you, I knew,
would ever be, my forever newly discovered, uncovered quarry.
(20 October 2010)