It’s the old gift. Not exactly ju-ju, but his will do.
He can see where he’s going before he gets there.
It’s the Flores, the Flowers, the bane of the world
inside, down by the gullet, down by the craw, down
in the gut and out both ends when you overflow . . .
He looks for one of his mother’s friends. Goes down
to Tchoupitoulas on the wharf. Place is grown up
and dicty, even topheavy tourists strolling there all
happy like, but he’s not here for any other reason
than to ask the bartender Rocky, who used to know
mama’s place so well he could bring women there
and mama didn’t care, she had girls who went down
that street, a pocket full of change and what future
could be imagined now that the cops wanted theirs,
so they checked in to mama’s house, said Hello, Doll,
and Doll returned the favor, Hello and good morning
for it is early, most of us still sleeping from the night
before, won’t you sit a spell and I’ll serve you chicory
and beignette. Now what can I do for you, sweet thing?
and the story inevitably was I need a job, I’m a good
whore. Doll disliked the word and was quick to say so.
Juan lay on his back on the bed in Hotel HOTEL.
He could see why he was here, he was here to make
amends for not seeing her through to her very end . . .
He even knew who would be here to tell him stories.
This was his book, he dreamed, his double decker
novel about a woman mothered children without
a father, at rest in the Punch Bowl in old Honolulu,
before she changed her name from Nell to Doll
to go into business in New Orleans, too late to pay
like it did in the old days. I like it better than Hawaii
and its trade winds, she says, summer here’s still best
because it’s hot . . . who’s talking now? some new girl
or mama Doll? There was no stopping–you dreamed,
you didn’t ask questions, not if there were no answers.
(7 January 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander