Pretty soon he wakes. He dreamed somebody
he knew said his name following the phone
ringing all the way to where he had slept
without dreaming and looked out, it was dawn,
and he could smell the city in the air
as always. An old friend whose name he can’t
pull up and damn sure won’t ask who he is,
he knows the face, the body, the gait in his walk,
how he seemed to love to listen to Juan’s stories.
Juan has one sister and three brothers. Did they have,
ever, a mother, sure never had a father . . .
Asked where Lisa was, he hesitated,
thinking, You mean Lisa Alvarado?
but waited, kept quiet, thought a minute,
Why’s he asking? He have a jones for her?
and said, Home, I assume, where she lives now.
Now? the voice seemed startled. Yeah, where I live with her.
Oh. I tried to call, there was no answer.
Well, maybe she’s with a friend. Try again.
He didn’t know he was doing it until phone
sat once more in its cradle, looking like Buddha,
and that made him smile. Where was the bo tree?
I woke when the phone rang.
I wanted to sleep, so when I hung
the phone back on its cradle, I slept.
I had nowhere to go, today was Sunday.
I could go out for the Times-Picayune but why bother?
I’d just wind up drinking café au lait con beignet and a tear
would drop off my numb face thinking where I wanted to be
All those trulys, you’re beginning to mimic Hemingway . . .
Why can’t you find your own words, hombre?
You don’t have to weep for where she is and you are
until you know you’ve been here too long and no way
you’ll get back in time . . . not to Chicago, where you know
so little you get lost every time you go out on the street alone.
Not that you know New Orleans any better, it’s just known
from way back and that way something sticks in your craw
If I were there what would I do now? What would she do?
Where would we go? Who would we see?
Why would we love each other
if this was all there is?
Why can’t we be happy
living alone? Why
do we feel all this and let it go back to where it came from . . .
that dark place I always remember as Goya’s
Prisoner on the bench straining mightily to break his chains
He has no plans but that fits him to a T now.
He still thinks he may call her but he knows
that is not enough.
He walks the long way, the very long way
down all the streets on the way to the wharf.
Here once Irish Cathleen saw a body slide into the lake
and what was it came up and dragged him down,
he couldn’t recall, thinking she said, A shark,
well, were there sharks in Lake Pontchartrain.
In the Mississippi. And when was that? Way back . . .
Irish Cathleen was alone here that time.
Here twice, with a husband the first time.
Planned a trip together after that,
cancelled, like the trip to Cuernavaca
to see the gully Malcolm Lowry’s book ended.
Now he could compare the last twenty years
to those he involved in living now.
Mama Ju-Ju could tell him all about
the future. Why fuss about the past?
There were swarms of tourists on the wharf . . .
He wanted a drink but one only led
to more. He was here to kick the habit,
kick it for good. No better way he knew . . .
kick the fucker where it was all around
The guy behind the desk grunted hello.
In his room Juan dialed her number, waited,
no answer. He lay back on the bed. Hard
mattress, ideal, he knew, to keep your back
Sunday was the worst day in the week.
He got up, spruced up, and went to dinner.
Antoine’s no less. The Court of Two Sisters
tomorrow. That way his money runs out
in no time.
I don’t know why I’m writing this today.
It’s the most boring thing I can think of,
going from one place to another and in
a tizzy worry worry worry about your honey
when you oughta worry about what you do
You oughta not drink and go spend money
on the phone, stay on it till she answers,
she will, she always does, you gotta persist,
you know what happens if you don’t, first
thing you know you’re back to being
So he goes down to Bourbon to see Ray Fox.
Ray Fox’s mother is dead. She had a life
that was good, Ray says. Juan knows why
she said that before she rolled over and died.
He went with Ray that time to make sure she
Then he goes to Tchoupitoulas to see Rocky.
Rocky’s pal Big John, who was head waiter
at Kolb’s before it closed, has been gone
a long time. Rocky says he must be back
Juan sits a while listening to the music.
He would come to New Orleans to hear
the music if he didn’t know he must have
at least one other reason to come down here.
why he’s here, why he’s staying on, you know
as much as he does by now. You don’t know
where she is.
You are bored beyond tears by now. No need
to read on unless you care what happens
Even then you may be sorry you stuck around
until he found the place where the water stopped
His mama would be resting easy, she’d be dry,
why did he have to know where, he was a glutton
(9 January 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander