In the snow fields of paradise
my bright-eyed mother is calling
for Bobby to bring the blue trunk
of clothes he never wore to sing
with the pick-up choirs of angels
who were unexpected, maybe lost.
She calls across the fields that glide
over glass it’s so glare, flowers
rooting under ice she plants there
with all the loving care she smoothed
the places where they grew on earth.
She calls and hears his echo back.
Bobby was willing to go first.
Then Manuel, then Lorene., Then you,
full-bellied bear of a near man,
if only you knew where to go
to meet your brother at midnight
to dial compass the rest of the way
where Manuel is, father dead man,
and Lorene, our blue-lipped mother
tending wounds Manuel held inside
and never knew why his mother
could not love his father enough
and drove him away, where he stayed.
Abraham, Effie Clifft Taylor, both gaunt,
unsmiling, he in the straight back,
she stood as tall as him, but he was hard
as stone under his leathery skin.
Married, they would come to no good end.
Manuel, fifth son of six, father
of Bobby and Juan who was known
as Flowers because it was there
in a dream of hielo amarillo
you saw the blossoms breathing,
said, Father, why is my brother dead?
She pulls his sleeve as he says what
he had always heard, the hushed sobs
between syllables no ear knows
for sure is there, her hand a whisper
across his wet gown, her last son
taking the first in his arms far off now.
She hopes Juan will hurry back home.
Or is that where you are going?
There is an end to the snowfield.
When your brother came to her call
plovers circled the angels where
they went on with their lifeless song.
Now Manuel’s gown languishes wet
with the violent blood of a man
whose death no God can forgive,
nor can men when their sweet women
tug them away, back to the tents.
There is no other life for such men.
They pluck what they can from the ice
and tame it until it is food.
I like this life without a past.
You know what’s payoff up here
when my father’s gown reeks of blood.
for Manuel Romain, Velma Lorene Conley, Robert Rufus Alexander
(6-7 December 2010)
copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander