Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Bowl He Fills

                                                     for Isabel Fraire

He moves from place to place, one lair of angels
to another. His laptop goes everywhere. With him
the bowl is hollow because he has not much time
to unriddle the truth of the Coptics come Shabbat,
all the unknown integers that pass through to stay
when he burrs up the processor to go Googling
and now Binging–bonging will be next on line,
after goggling–as he keeps going until he must
move again.

Los Angeles is warm at least. When smog lifts,
as it does now, the sun gives solace. It shines
down on him and the other angels whose houses
have a basement or an attic where he can sleep,
work, be alive like he needs to be. He does not
ask much. Always gets more. Time to work
through another link in the chain going back
to the beginning, year 1, and beyond.

Beggar bowl. Hollow? Only if you have patience
for no one. What year is this? They cadge smokes
and wheedle what they can out of empty pockets.
It’s okay, L. A., I put in my time, paid my fines . . .
I get by, but I’m holy with poetry. I once wrote
the stuff, and like all saints am glad I suffered,
if suffer I did. I no longer write poems, I eat
when I have a little food. I’m like Blanche,
surviving only on the kindness of strangers . . .
Or so the little devil in my head would have it.

It’s 2000. MacArthur Park is always open, yes.
The cops break up the manifestaciones, like
Mexico when last I lived there. No need to be
remembering. I lived it. I want to figure out now
how Jesus, born Jew, became the revolutionary
and everything else under the mythology grows
thick as jungle, to be cut through with machete.
But don’t remember. Pack up. Move again.

He won’t shave his head. He cut off his beard,
rather the interrogators did, part procedural,
part humiliating. What was the difference?
Don’t worry it. It stays. You didn’t want it to,
but it does. You go back to the laptop, to work.
He does what he can the rest of the day inside.
He goes out. Wilshire is what it always is, busy
with the damned looking for a way out of hell.

This guy wants to do a book if I can write down
the people I knew. My life lately, since I died
surviving a river of a lifetime’s ink. Hence,
What Ever Happened: "In 1965, in Harper’s,

Kenneth Rexroth asked ‘a dozen poets
of unquestioned ability and of the most
disparate tastes’ to name poets under thirty-five
whom they considered the best. ‘The names
that occured most often were Gary Snyder,
Tim Reynolds, Adrienne Rich and Thom Gunn,’"
reads the book’s back cover.

Go buy it, Pasquale, and read it for yourself.
Keep it stocked, Abner, even if books are passe
and encrypted to ensure they all be mass produced
and on line only, where I am now, translating
again. How I began reading classics in original
Augustine, say: I was a sinner and wanted to sin
until God prevented me from pursuing my shame
and why it followed me, giving me my bearings,
helping me slide through the clashing rocks,
the breeze off these calm waters abiding me now
where my mind goes on searching for the storm’s

It’s all I can do to make myself clear in the vain
hope I am another. Somewhere. Even the world
will go dark, and after that where will we be?
Between the temple and synagogue, the church
and the desert? All this I still do not and may
never know but want what I never knew I missed
until the days of my life left filling a hollow bowl

 (8 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

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