"My friend fills in the lost spaces I lived.
He knows where I was, with whom, what I did.
He is my teacher, brother, confidant.
Now he no longer hears as well as I
we write back and forth with the space between
allotted only for the work we do,
must do, need behind us now we are old
enough to anticipate the next world.
If he is half a dozen years older
and hears less than I, I wobble as I walk,
my heart beats too many times to push blood
along, and I was the one who took Keats
at his word: '. . . half in love with easeful Death,
. . . before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain . . .'
though he and Irish Cathleen say Shelley
is my ghost. Who saw Ozymandias.
Who knows 'the daughter of Earth and Water.'
The Necessity of Atheism
hammered into the church door down the street . . .
Howard, I swear, knew all the poets once
who answer to me only with the name
they have in common: Anonymous.
He traveled with them to the ends of earth.
The leper saint, the madonna whore, all
those from whom I learned the savage lessons
only he knows because I told no other . . .
for my first teacher drank his death swimming
from one end of a pool to the other,
a glass of whiskey his prize at each end,
and his young, tall Irish black-haired beauty
named Beatrice, as God knew His Dante
awaited him, the greenhouse keeper’s son
so much in love with her, his only wife,
he knew there was nothing he could not do,
for there she was letting him be a boy
again, believing that because he was
her poet, her teacher, her lover,
he would husband her as long as she lived . . .
or so she thought until she saw his lyric
body taller than hers floating face down.
"I am more like the dead than the living,"
Juan tells me. He can rarely bear to know
the truth. Then he tells me what McCord said–
what he, memory’s paragon, had done:
"There was the black bear crossing the highway
near the summit of Lolo Pass, no moose
like the one Howard’s son Asher saw there . . .
With Drum Hadley in the passenger seat
and I in the back seat with my Christine
and Howard watching us chase that black bear
down the hill, loping across the meadow . . .
No way I could have, I insisted then,
somehow forgetting Howard had four doors
to his car. And then Howard remembered
the last time he saw beautiful Paula,
the night before he flew to Ohio
where he lives now jogging my memory
like the long-distance runner he once was,
telling me the three of us wandered out
to the balcony where the party was
high above the pool awaiting our dive,
so down below we stripped to underwear
and the three of us frolicked in the face
of loss, Paula and I about to leave
each other, she going north and I south,
and all I recalled was the bus she took
was a Greyhound left from downtown Pullman
on a Saturday; bought her a ticket
in the hotel where Dave Hill died of drink.
She said she would be back, I watched her go,
and she did return, just once, but who needs
miracles when he is so blessed with friends?"
(15 February 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander