You knew Paolo would take up with Georgia.
The Flores boys had a penchant for whores.
But you knew that already. You knew it
from the first, Cathleen and Juan in a bed
big enough for half a dozen others
one night at a time. Why was it Carlos
who had to pay for sex in the cities?
You know it was because he wanted to
support the women his mother madam’d,
or would if they’d been in New Orleans,
also a city, but one with no peer . . .
But you knew all this already. You knew
not only that Paolo would take up
Georgia and lay her carefully abed
and Juan would clash with Betsy over names:
He called Maria Teresa a lot
more names than Betsy could think up, ever–
you knew that already, you’ve come this far,
you’ve even been let in on the secrets
nobody else knows because they don’t read
anymore, they watch, listen, talk, and go
places, but paper no longer exists,
and that’s OK as long as there’s music
and fucking after the talk, the drinking,
the good dope you grow to smoke not to shoot
and birth control and legal abortion
to keep the Flores family intact.
You knew Maria Teresa loved Juan.
You knew Juan loved Maria Teresa.
What else could you possibly want to know
before Mama Nell/Madam Doll’s coffin
turns up? or lovers are reunited
for life in the American Paris,
Madrid . . . and don’t pawn off any other
cities for this one, mix oil with water . . .
All you need to know to bring this story
to an end is Ira and Adore’s tale,
that’s going to take a few days to find
in this catacomb with all its bodies
fresh as a daisy and warm with new life
once the doors are propped open, air let in,
the sun streams through and the rain falls gently
into the bowl in which we live, truly
grateful to gris-gris conjured in our names
one at a time until they are all there
ready for resurrection, but not here,
or at least not now. New Orleans floods,
coffins float up and off, and Adore knows
Ira’s is not among them. His ashes
are in the urn on the mantle. Adore
can see where the love of her life ends up.
Any woman’s love, when the men die first,
and they do no matter what charms you make
in the one light in the dark you can see
shape themselves the talismans women know
when like Adore they take the time to do
what they were taught by their hoodoo mamas,
O mother mine! she would like to cry out
in the glowing dark to hear her own voice
echo those generations of mothers
whose wisdom filled the lines in her own skin
and there was no horror she could not face
down like demons some nights there was no moon,
you could hear his horn from across the lake,
he was never alive when Ira was
and no gris-gris could bring him back to life,
legends stay dead, how they become legends . . .
Adore could hear Ira’s horn even now,
twenty years gone by to settle ashes
in his urn she never opened because
this way she could memorize his music
playing all of it inside her body
standing far enough away to hear it
note by note inside the syncopated
silences she could see, she was that close . . .
(22 January 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander