Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fragmentary Life

Al Scott wrote after forty years had passed
since we drank in Yakima Roy’s cabin
after he died at seventy-nine. Al
drank with Yakima day in and day out
after coming back from Cambodia
a drunk. Yakima gave Al the cabin,
handing over the key before he died.
Then I wrote "The Death of Bertrand Russell"
in Rico’s the night of his death. Paula
was sitting, drinking with me. At that time
I loved her and no one else, and I thought
we were together to love forever.
Years passed. Now she says it was so good before
it got so bad . . . writing this from Portland
where I found her forty years since our last
kiss. I still carry her around in me
like another heart. She always thought I did.
She could talk and laugh and tell me new things
any time of the day or night. I came
home for lunch, we had soup, made love. She mooned
her beautiful ass, no panties under
her apron, as I was backing the car
to the street; stopped, parked, ran to kiss her ass
and tongue her pussy before I drove off
to the office, where I no longer write
for money. I write now to remember
what memory mixes with desire
and yields such concoction I cannot call
back from my youth or hers but celebrate
here what I was lucky to have happen.
It’s too easy to remember bad times.
Waking one morning alone in the bed,
seeing her in the Kennedy rocker
in front of the picture window looking
upon the grain elevators below,
and when I went to kiss her she told me
I was talking in my sleep to Betty,
and asked, Did I take you away from her?
No, she didn’t. She said, It was wrong
to marry you when you are still in love
with her. I told her I wasn’t in love
with anyone but her. She said she had
a wildness lodged in her body somewhere
she couldn’t touch but had to let it go
wild when it was hungry, had to be fed
no matter what the cost . . . and she meant it.
At least she knows where she has been and why.
Not like my life now, so fragmentary
it’s like some jigsaw puzzle absorbs you
when you hobble to the day room and write
somebody else’s life before you write
yours. And you let Al Scott’s letter get lost.
You were reading Bertrand Russell’s memoirs
and it seemed two old men, one poor, one rich
as well as bright but born in the right place
at the right time to fight against instead
of in Vietnam or Cambodia,
and did philosophy instead of work
on construction sites, Larry Lunchbucket
Scott called himself. Never got past the first
volume where Bertrand Russell the lover
left off, until volume two, where I learned
what a man was. Finished one at Paula’s
family’s home by Manito, across
the length of that park where Irish Cathleen
grew up, and now she wakes on her birthday,
soixante-neuf in her fifty-first year
of knowing me . . . How can I call it love
we were in? No other word exists now
and always did, and we were not married
until seven years after Paula went
away. She came back for her belongings.
"Swimming in Lake Union with Irish Cathleen"
was on the kitchen table. Many years
had passed since Seattle, the houseboat. I showed
Paula the poem after she loaded the car.
"That’s the woman you should marry,"she said.
I did. Twice. I’m still reading volume two . . .

(19 February 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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