Like every other thing that lasts out life
the past changes what the present is like.
If a kid is a solitary back then,
he becomes a hermit as an old man.
If you read this far you want to stop now
and go back to Cervantes, who makes sense.
That’s where I, Juan Flores, wanted to go
now that I had saddled myself with debt
not only to myself but to Carlos.
Carlos, dead in the morning in a gorge
so far east and north you need a compass
much less a Rand McNally map to find
where Chesterfield is. It’s only Carlos
I believe maps should have been made to find.
Wring their swanlike necks. Send them home ravens
or crows strutting out the window all day
Paula stayed home, night coming on, then sleep.
Paula, too young to be wife to a drunk.
And I was the drunk. I, Juan Flores, drunk
from drink the moment I left my office
and my only friend willing to submit
to my errant ways, the tall typewriter,
a Royal upright that I did not own . . .
until bars downtown closed at two o’clock
and after Paula was gone, drunks came home
with me, their huge German shepherds killing
my cherished kittens, but another drink
and more to follow and you would forget
until the next time, starting the engine
and blood and fur flying from the fanwheel.
If I, Juan Flores, could go back and live
bad days over again and make them good,
don’t you think I would take you up on it,
Mama Fate, Daddy Doom, Sister Dreadlock.
I have a penchant for beauty and love
that beggars the question, How long to live
does the hermit have? As Susannah braids
her hair, Nell’s coffin floats, and daddy dies
daily in the Honolulu Punch Bowl,
I go out now to drink café au lait
and munch on a beignet and plan the words
I am not writing now. Now I am slack
in my mind, limp at my elbow, lame thoughts
blossoming faster than weeds in a field
of flowers that grow only in the south
so thick you can call them a field. I know
I need to walk. It’s early. I will stay
out here as long as it takes a woman
in her eighties to recover from sleep.
Adore, who insists I stay in her house
where I will look after her and have time
to do what I must. She says, Don’t worry
your sweet young head over this old woman,
I’m tougher than you are, that’s why I walk
at night without even knowing I do,
I’m doing dreams, I’m working on the life
that comes true only if you want it to . . .
I want her to tell me about Ira,
she insists her work is in the future,
mainly Maria Teresa and me.
The only bar open at dawn is Ray’s.
The Saloon never sleeps, he likes to say.
Today I go by and I find it closed.
Paolo will be sleeping with Georgia,
giving her all the money he brought here.
Rocky is planning Big John’s arrival.
I find a phone and use my card to call
Maria Teresa. And she answers.
I ask again the inevitable
and she promises to think it over.
If I tell her I love her she tells me
she loves me too. I ask her to sell out
and start something here. She wonders aloud,
Can a Chicago girl go that far south
and be satisfied without going on
to Mexico, Guatemala, and south
to Patagonia. I will be there
as soon as you call and say, I am free.
I want to hear you say it without doubt
in your voice. I want to hear you want me
to be with you wherever you want me
to be. You must let me love you like men
want women to love, without the paper
and the pens and the keyboards everywhere
I turn. You sent Paolo to get stuff
I gladly gave him. When will you be through
writing about everything you don’t know,
leaving what you know for others to do . . .
I say I don’t know. I say this is work
I must do before I die my own death.
(23 January 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander