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