Propinquity: Saturday then Sunday.
Insanity of days, horror of nights.
And here we are in the middle kingdom . . .
Falling short of where we thought we would be?
If we were near each other, where were we?
He made himself a pallet on the floor.
He went down to St. James Infirmary,
she was stretched out on a cold slab:
Baby you can look the wide world over
and never find another man like me,
Easy rider, look what you gone and done
He had himself a dream or two, or three.
Saturday, today, they strolled the market
to buy flowers to make their room smell sweet.
Or they would go for a ride on the El.
Or walk by the lake. Make love afterward.
They went on making love until they slept.
When they woke they ate together and talked
until she had to go to work, and he wrote
the rest of the story, how he found her,
Mama Nell, Madame Doll, madre dulce
still in her coffin, among flamingos
in bayou ravaged New Orleans wind break
letting the Gulf pour through, the wind get in,
and nobody brought her home, she stayed there
waiting for her son to send some money.
She would if he asked. She was in his dreams
telling him what he oughta do for her
now she could no longer do for herself.
He could live in her house full of ladies
who would love him whenever he wanted,
but Lisa Alvarado loved him now
in Chicago, said he could stay inside
till she returned, then they would walk and talk
how the day went, for one, then the other.
Home now, where he knew no one, no one knew
Lisa’s kept man, what did he do? He wrote?
Poetry? Shit, girl, how do you get by?
You work, why don’t he? Does he have money?
. . . and they told the truth, they shared the laughter
and the sorrow they met so late in life . . .
She went to synagogue, he went to mass.
She talked Spanish mostly, but French and six
others: "I moved around a lot, I was
a magpie." She was an intellectual
who didn’t show off what she knew but said
what was on her mind and behind it too . . .
She was the brightest in his firmament.
Her dusky skin gave off its own shimmer.
She wrote poetry too, but on the sly,
she had a day job, running an upscale
café. High hats and heels came in for lunch,
returned for dinner in tux, evening gown,
and a roll of bills to show they enjoyed
what she had to offer from the kitchen.
He was a kept man all right, kept quiet
and at his keyboard where he did his time
all day long, his own prisoner. Of love.
What do you do with a life that’s ending
soon but not yet, don’t you have to try out
all the scenes you have in her head, play back
one by one a life that almost ended
more times than one, and those stories needed
telling too, but first there was this story
of a drunken papa playing Russian
Roulette with his baby girls and laughing
as they shrieked, but nothing roused
their beautiful mother passed out on pills.
Don’t you try to learn about this city
like you once wanted to learn Seattle,
San Francisco, New York, Boston, even
Albuquerque, from earth covered over
to where the sky came down and settled scores
between people and they went off to make
life more or less what it already was,
everywhere he went, walking all the time,
writing down what he saw, whom he saw, what
they said, how they said it, why they said what
they said, he didn’t ask why, they told him . . .
Lisa said, You don’t have to go out there,
you can get lost in your own head, honey.
Here’s how it went. Stayed the night in the house
on St. Charles, placed a call and here she answered
and the fawns in her voice followed the doe
into the middle of the clearing, sun
brighter there than anywhere for the bear
shambling through trees, crashing into bushes
and on through till they lay down together
as though they were the lion and the lamb
of legend all gussied up to take on
skeptics, doubters, cynics, who don’t believe
love thrives any way but theirs, and they may
be right but Lisa knows and Juan’s learning
Chicago listening to her tell him
what happened after she was born and why.
(15 January 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander