Monday, December 13, 2010

Memory's Banks

"There is a kind of pressure in humans to take whatever is most beloved by them and smash it"–Anne Carson

1. trust do not dishonor

What is there to us we don’t yet know?
Will you ever? Or I?

What does a heart do when it breaks?
Throw away words and see.

I have nothing more to say, I said. Then began saying it, endlessly, breath out of breath.


He remembers how he got here, sure. You gotta want to, first of all. Then go. What’ll you find? Look at all there is. More than eyes take in. Tongue talks. Mind meshes. That’s life over there.

This river’s not Lethe. The gods go after. They take tiny steps, the weight of memory is too much to bear, and they are humble in their power to take on your life and show it to you a reel at a time.

3. take your time

Let’s dance on broken knees and go to bed and fuck forever, I love you so in the dawns I know now.

That old canard about Orpheus, how he couldn’t help but look back and lost what he was going to have and the maenads caught him by the river and disembowled, dismembered, and dutifully sent his corpse down to Lethe’s falls.

Who believes it?


The angel came at dusk. He wanted to tell Jacob what to do. Jacob wrestled with him all night. Nobody, not even God, tells Jacob what to do. He ends up taking the angel’s advice. You climb the ladder that you build first.

She was very kind. She brought water to the elders. They were too greedy. They took her body. They destroyed her youth. Elders? of whom?

All the stories are stories. Ruth and Boaz. Jonahand the Whale. The wisdom. The prophecies. Stories must be true before they become stories. Who says? They who tell the tales, who lived them, no matter when. The mistakes men make are called history, their triumphs the same, but their stories lies, at best imaginative fabrications to curry favor.

After so long in the city, she moved to the country. Now years later she’s coming home.


Reynolds dreams of Isabel. She dreams of Tim. Juan Flores dreams of Irish Cathleen. She dreams of flowers. He is calling himself by that name, save when he sees the gamine on the street corner beckoning and he goes. He dreams of the gamine. The gamine dreams of him.

The gamine. What is her name? Irene Castenada maybe. Tall, slim, loving without end. No, not her, she’s happy now, a mother somewhere, aging with the pores of her skin in a smile.

The gamine. She is the dream. She is blood of his blood, bones of his bones. And she says it seven ways.


I was walking by the river today. I saw her in my mind’s eye. She was walking in the woods, and did not want to leave. Tearing up her roots, she called it. I asked, What roots do you mean, my love? She said, These, and undressed and pressed her nakedness against me, These bones with this flesh that I made myself in the kiln of my God’s foundry.

I was walking across the city then. It was night. The cars were lights and sounds. The stories I told myself were set in Mexico City, but only after Mazatlan. In those days I drove. Now I walk. Los Angeles is not a city for walkers, not for long distances. Wilshire to Fairfax. And back. Web between thumb and forefinger tattooed. Pachuco? Gringo.

I walk everywhere. I stop and talk to bums. I buttonhole bankers. I do everything but sing. I need her piano for my voice, they are inseparable. I have gone from her and stayed. I am going farther soon, further into myself, where the falls give upon a calm pool and after that another river, this one for keeps.

The gamine is named and known and loved and treasured and unforgettable, ever, and mine always, I cannot be too clear, I run my own inquisition and my only witness is the one who stands accused, myself, and I listen, and I talk so I can listen, and I want only to go to be with her. The gamine. We are growing older as we wait to meet. Why do we, I mean I, wait?


There is a place in the South where the fireflies light up nights the moon sleeps behind clouds. The no-see-ems. The pine trees. The little mountains, the hills, the one-way houses you can shoot a shotgun through and hit nothing but where the door gives on another door. Windows always open. It is so hot there you can’t wear clothes or stop making love, ever.
I wish I could remember how to get there.

There are places in the North you can freeze to death in no time. That’s how you get out of the wind. Fear. There are places like that, frozen until you thaw the ice, all that water below. I love the taste of cold air. It tells me I will live a long life, longer even than the one I’ve lived.

Irish Cathleen. The gamine. The woods. The city. The air. The wind. The rivers. The great mountains of my childhood. One for each eye through the window where I sat many hours.

Otherwise, the fields, the orchards, the vineyard, the canneries, the warehouses: the jobs.

The job of love. Of staying alive somehow without the love of one but with the other’s love, depending on how much I take away when I go to give all there is of me left to remember.

                                                           again, to the gamine

(13 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander 

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