The kid and his henchmen were back in town.
How was Baton Rouge? Like always, a wash.
Catch anything? Nothing. Nothing to eat.
Want a drink? No money. We have to go.
Would you mind staying at Adore’s tonight?
I’ve got a lot of work to catch up on.
Sure, man. We want to get something to eat
first. . . . And off they went. If this was his son
Juan thought he must have a defective gene
to turn out like him. Where did it come from,
and who was his mother, was he his father?
like the kid said, who was not growing younger
and would soon require a new name. Who was
the kid? Juan wiped tables, puttered behind
the bar, remembering seeing Iroquois
carry the child in her belly around
town, and naked at Puffer’s Pond, bathing
at daybreak, Red Man the dog frolicking . . .
Cathleen could never have children. She had
nothing there. The doctors took it all out
to save her life. Because she was barren
Cathleen could experiment with her sex,
letting the pimp talk her into tricking
one night: she would take calls, he would marry
her that way, beyond the law. She liked it
when she gave men pleasure and they said so.
A month later she retired. He lost it,
she yelled back, her Irish temper against
black rage. O my! Juan wondered how in hell
she got herself in such a fix, fucking . . .
When it was over, she asked to come home.
Her black Irish, olive skin, Gypsy eyes . . .
Her mind like a net catching what there was
in the air she breathed, the accurate view
of this world humans were always building
and unbuilding, wasting humanity
by not listening, never talking back
to respond to what was said, not what life
on earth threw up indicating no way
in this world would words save your sorry ass . . .
She didn’t talk like that. He did. He had
a name that made you think he had Spanish
origins. The name did. He was anglo
sired by Manuel Flowers, killed in the war,
in the Pacific; renamed to become
adopted children of Manuel Flores
of Mexico City, a businessman
whose mother, Magdalena, was an heir
to those here before the Spanish arrived.
He wed Nell, loved her and her four children
without compassion for any but these
anglo kids, their anglo mama, and his
mother. Magdalena was a Christian.
She talked and prayed to Jesus every night
in her Tarascan tongue. From Patzcuaro
she came alone down here, outlived the man
with whom she had one son before he died,
and now smiled inside to see these people
happy in Manuel’s hands, his only life
cut short one day, being on the wrong street
to live to see his anglo family
grow old with him in this largest city
in the Americas, some said the world,
where Johnny Flowers became Juan Flores,
Charley Carlos, Paul Paolo (which was
Italian . . . Garibaldi Manuel’s
European ideal, someone who got
things done, like Juarez, Zapata, Villa . . . )
and Sue Susanna, the old-time anglo
girl’s name during gold rush days in the north
American continent. And then now:
Manuel Flores passed over into land
above the clouds, where he would dwell ever
after, and Nell crossed the border. Back home
she set up shop. She loved New Orleans.
(27 February 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander