Monday, December 27, 2010


If you should wake and I be gone,
trust I did not leave you behind
but only preceded you to a land
I hoped you would never see,
you had seen so much, survived
your own desires and come all
the way back to help me live
and keep my blood turning,
my bones mending, my words
no longer yours but hers. There
is always a failure in the heart.
There was never a heart gone
wrong. All your gone men knew
you wished them well, each one,
and did not follow when I led
you off to snow and ice and hell’s
little vestibule, where the wind
is colder than anything we knew.
And yet I can figure no way out
of this fifty-year obsession you
promised and fulfilled, not like
fucking one man before another
but a steadfastness no one need
ever regret, save when a woman
you sought in vain all your life
enters you and you are too far
away, not in miles but in years,
and not in age but in some other
conundrum there is no answer to–
too deep inside the part of you
that holds her bound to her life
and knowing if you left she’d die,
not her body but her great spirit,
the mortar that holds her to me,
holds me up, gives her reason
to live . . . Knowing that had gone
why live? As for me, I am gone
already, my mind waking early
and body following, cantering,
trotting, galloping, I am the horse
I always sought, the roan stallion
whose habitat was always wild,
from birth to now, but not enough
to free me from her, for she stays
where she would be, and I can’t go
where I would, my love, I am so
bound to her living the rest of life
looking into her mirror and seeing
only beauty, what no other man
ever beheld, wanting only her skin
to be under theirs and rutting alone
between her legs, and she calling it
whoring and I know it was more,
it was her father and her mother
clashing morning, noon, and night,
her mother out until dawn in a car
with a cop who was never off duty
when she said, No, you can’t have
what you want in the back seat or
the front, I have my reputation, Jack,
it is all I have in this wretched town
Spokane. And Jack did to her mother
what his crippled wife was forbidden
to enjoy. Your father paced the floor
all night. You kept him company,
he talked of "your mother" on and on.
She never offered anything in return,
your mother, simply danced in alone
and singing drunk, got ready and off
to teach another day, another night
like this following year after year
until your father lay on his deathbed
and your mother said, Let’s go out,
and like she loved to teach you how
to be with men, over cocktails, in bed,
and best of all, how to leave a man
when he no longer served your fancy,
she offered to buy you lunch and by
the time you returned to the hospital
he was dead. You had a few drinks.
You rode all the way across the state
to reach your husband, and he slapped
you across the face smelling liquor on
your breath, he swore, and you knew
you had given up too much to ever be
happy and divorced him, came to me
again. I was working when you left
on the bus to go back to Spokane,
find a cute-enough guy to be married
to when you reached Berkeley, Mecca
of all Phi Beta Kappas with a wild hair
up their canyons, but I never had a horse
and she never had anyone who held
her attention with every word he said,
not again, never until three marriages
were dead and after one with me she said
she had done all she could to get away
from me and here I was still hunting
horses in Horse Heaven Hills and in love
still with Irene Castenada, that beautiful
soul I let go and found you instead, and
why go on and on, this is the only note
I will leave behind, Irene did not receive
even this, she simply knew it was over,
maybe even cursed me as the gringo
she gave her youth to and why go on,
said to herself, and found a man out
where she wanted to go and he took
her there. Love is never so unique
it can burrow under your new skin
and not find the old, but she must
have found a life she could not leave
without betraying her mariachi heart,
full of songs from her blood country,
and I wonder if ever she put one foot
after her other and lay in white sands
of Oaxaca as did the woman I go to now
in our every vacancy waiting to be filled.
Irene Castenada, my first, were you
the only love? And who was this man
who aged with you and never left you
but fathered your children that were his
and went to work each early morning
and never heard my name after the first
          How does love turn into a life?
Be young, Irene, even when your days
show the snow in your eyes, the lines
in your skin deepen with all your years
engraved there, and you never remember
where we were or why we were there,
you know only your life was your child
and then the next, and on, as their father
left the house of a morning and labored
as your father had, but knew a language
your father did not know, or your mother
truly understand, not when I hovered
inside and outside the house of the poor
parents of your dark eyes in your dark face
and loved me later everywhere we went
and I loved you as well as a young man
could love a woman for the first time.
And if I go now to the only woman Irene
conjured in my memory, she too a dark
beauty who loves me back and what is
such love but a way to end a long life
in beauty, the veneer of souls long gone
chipped away like the stone where horses
arrived, looked back out of the box canyon,
bolting simply to feel their long legs alive
again, as for the first time. Leila Shulamit,
don’t leave Spain, don’t let Mexico go
under when our love hits a Richter scale
too high for the instrument to survive,
and our feet entwined and lace like arms
where we lie can stay that way forever,
prepare my arrival on the next bus home.
Don’t make plans. We never make plans,
we God-forsaken lovers who eat apples
like wheat. We join where we were split
and make whole the ravenous seasons,
heal where we were torn and soldered
at the joints that couple as though love
had never happened before, though
we know the truth is all that comes
next, death’s door opening for my body
and you will have to let it go through,
sweet, you go on then, where you are
happy, I trust, and will always give
what you had given to me in abundance.
Your inestimable love, the heart’s fault
riven and waiting to send the ocean
hurtling across the miles where a world
was once.

(27 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

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