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

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