There were bees humming in his head.
A whole hive, worker bees around their queen.
In his human world she was called Cathleen.
It was her nose and lips that were perfect.
And in the old days, honey in her hive.
Old? Not so long ago. Before this house
there was her Citadel. And he lived there
not at all. She fucked whomever she wished,
and once her whoring days were at an end
she prayed to God to take away her urge
to go to bed and get to know this man,
any man, maybe even you, better . . .
Take away my libido. I am Yours . . .
And now they no longer slept together.
She slept above, he below. And the stairs,
when he had to take them one at a time,
only she climbed and descended. Happy,
she called herself. And he was happy too,
he worked more now, he devoted himself
to words, too many, too few, all the words
he needed to go along with the sights
he saw, the sounds he heard, the memory
of maybe a little vision thrown in
to sweeten the pot. Stir it up and pour.
Betsy, when she cooled, asked him if he called
Cathleen, like she had said he ought to do,
so he did. Other things always come first.
He wanted to feel like she had nothing
to give him now, and he still had nothing
to offer her, even if he wanted.
It took him years, a lifetime. Here he was
in his mother’s house with a loose woman,
the fathers would call her and dismiss her
to the back of the room, put her on sale
in the dark corners, and auction her off
between her regulars and first timers.
Where would he walk next? Where would he stop next?
Wouldn’t he be better off in his own car
turning north now as he had turned south then . . .
He called Cathleen and left her a message
saying, See Paolo at Susannah’s,
I need him to go to Chicago now.
He knows Maria Teresa. He knows
where she lives and how to get where she is
keeping for my sake, she said, manuscript
I wrote and the one Carlos left behind,
ask him to get them, tell him I said bring
it all down here, ask Ray Fox where I live.
She asked him how he was. She was worried
he wouldn’t be taking care of himself
now that she was not there to care for him,
O she didn’t blame him for going there,
she said Chicago was too cold, windy,
all the weather came off Lake Michigan
and curdled the marrow between your bones,
anyone in their right mind would go down
to New Orleans to live, even me . . .
He did not invite her. And you know why,
don’t you, dear reader, if you’ve come this far,
touching your way like a blind man with cane
or braille, naming the smells one at a time–
good food, good women, perfume, aroma
from the kitchen, your nose between her legs.
Who was she if not the one who lived where
he was lost when he stepped into the air.
Who was she if not the one who called him,
Come home, wherever I am . . . in his dreams.
Ask yourself what you would do, dear reader,
if you were here and she was there, and Hell
or Heaven was right around the corner,
wouldn’t you set about moving the earth
around until the north was in the south . . .
(20 January 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander