Monday, January 10, 2011


O yes you got your rain all right,
Ah it was the wind put you down
and out, broke your house and took you
in water was over your head,
until the lungs would hold no more,
hands at the ends of arms began
to flail like paddlewheels with no
power or me when I go down
to Congo Square to meet and hear
those ghosts who never stop dancing

. . . now and then he would wake up bright
and bushy-tailed like Nell would say
to her own girl and baby boys
before she moved east, or was it
after she became Madame Doll . . .
Carlos would say, I stay away
from her. My town is Fall River,
Paolo declared. Susannah
preferred Seattle, Carlos death . . .
something of his own left behind

for Juan? All it was was made up,
Carlos said. Maybe worse, Juan knew:
too much left out that might have saved
him the walk through Chesterfield Gorge,
Carlos could have made Northampton
home and put it all in the book,
the war that was the back story,
the great love that would never die,
his greater love for the many cats
born where he held them in his arms

when they died, he never wept more,
and Juan could say the same old thing,
Gotta get yourself a woman
worth her salt and make her happy
so she wants to keep you alive,
. . . he tried again, no Lisa home
in Chicago, he would write her
later, all he wanted to do
was crow over sobriety
live in the bowels of Antoine’s

last night, money shelled out to have
bisque, lobster and crepe suzette
flambe, bottles of Pinot Noir
unopened on the window sill,
waiting to christen her coffin . . .
After lunch at the Two Sisters
Juan knew he would drift to the house
and see if a girl were awake
and if she was, have her take him
upstairs for the nap he paid for . . .

At dusk he wrote Lisa: I love
this town, could you get away now
for a week to be with me here,
I’ll send you money for the flight,
I need to do something for you
and me before I lose my mind
looking for my mother’s coffin . . .
and he meant every word of it
even though he knew she believed
it should be him who came for her.

A postcard for the world to see,
happy to get it in the mail,
he never knew what she would say,
that’s why he loved her like he did,
though he knew one thing about her
if he knew anything: she would
no longer go to any man
as she had in her misspent youth,
what they had he said in common
even though he remained Old School.

Lovers were always here, then there,
like tides coming in, going out,
and he wanted to keep this boat
from hitting a reef, taking on
water, having to ditch and swim
with no shore in sight or thought . . .
Juan was sick to death of the love
that fed on memory, promised
what could no longer be performed,
he might as well be in the grave

as walk around here looking for
fresh balm on the skin of women
all of whom knew what they could do
to make a man happy, wealthy,
but not wise, he would have to do
that his own damn self, do it fast
if he wanted more, all for free . . .
Soothe me honey, let me go now,
find my own way to The Saloon,
Ray’s bar on Bourbon, quiet place

in the open air. What you do
in hurricane season? I pray,
Ray said. How long you been God struck?
Since Betsy. But that’s long before
Katrina, was it your mother
gave you religion? She never,
Ray said, had any of her own.
Then what? Ray took a while to say:
It was this woman I married
made a believer out of me . . .

(10 January 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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