Saturday, December 25, 2010

To Leila Shulamit

What am I going to do with your shimmer?
Rare plumage . . .
So does our country melt under our heat.
You know what I don’t, and love you for it.
There’s too much to know. Too many bits
of knowledge gumming up the machine.
It’s the machine I have trouble with . . .
Nothing to know once the cord is plugged in . . .

Rare plumage, finding the shimmer I sought
how long? It’s the word I didn’t know
until now. I saw you in many different places
and found you where you were all the time.
In Mexico, Tina was in love, and I could see
where that happened, if not the first time
I was there, then the last. Modotti, Weston,
yet more vital the unending cause she died
fighting for. Why do I see you the same way,

beautiful, fiery, gifted in how many ways . . .
After Mario Savio
there was a woman I married the feds sought
to send away from her native country.
I recalled how you–I mean every body–
could lean against the machine to stop it,
and her courage stoked by adversity’s dare,
C’mon, babe, we got your number here,
get out of where being born’s not enough!

and no reason to leave, she up and stayed.

The old loves never leave, do they?
The shimmer of rare plumage . . .
See what you stirred in me?
How can I help but tell you?
Southern white boy with a Sephardi
Santerista beauty and a heart like a blade
that carves your name where you leave
your name, how could I bear such beauty,
Leila? There are borders. Walls. Human
waves, the INS attorney called those
who were like us without our luck . . .

Ah, so long ago now the sky has changed
too much to see for what it was, or is.
I don’t go there anymore. Not even to El Paso.
The judge is retired by now. His claques
learn to applaud in Chinese, no slur intended:
China has its own devastating problemas . . .
To get as far as Mexico City I’d have to fly.
I’d go to Belfast first. I can speak the language
my mother taught me. I don’t carry a gun
or a knife and I damn sure don’t like bombs
weighing me down. I keep my pockets empty,
reserved for the hearts I carry I’ll never know.

(27 November–25 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

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