Clerk asked him, You want gold or silver paint?
He’d chosen gold before. He said silver.
He lived on one side of the cottonwoods
running down the median. He was young
enough then to keep choosing. He could walk
all day and never have to drive his car.
How could you find a better way to live
other than on your feet, total control . . .
Cathleen liked silver. Paula chose the gold,
but that was years ago, when she was young.
Irene didn’t wait to choose, she was tired
of his plans. Nor would Leila wait to choose.
Cathleen had the wheel rigged. It was her call.
Paula simply left. Irene found a man
worthy of her needs. How about Leila . . .
All this he was pondering while driving
back to Crescent City by the half moon
route: turn west, then south, then east, riverbound.
De Soto never made it all the way
via the Mississippi. In those days
you got killed for killing other people
and their family and friends, even if
you were a Spaniard looking for the gold
your king was promised by Coronado,
to whom Turk from Zuni said, Mas alla
so those in their armor, on their horses,
would keep going farther away from home,
Turk’s pueblo not even by the Rio
Grande. These were cousins of the same men
chopped off a hand and a foot from each one
taken prisoner atop Acoma
in reprisal for failing the first time
they scaled the great rock and were beaten back.
Other people, on the Mississippi,
made sure DeSoto and his soldiers died,
even the obligatory friar;
in exchange for gold Spaniards offered God.
The more impossible it seemed to love
Leila the more he yearned to be with her.
Cathleen lived on both Summer and Silver.
But not so she didn’t take vacations
from him when he went far away from her
in the same room, the one with high ceiling,
and like the one on Summer, a fireplace.
This house even had a big porch with couch
they set out so the passing drunks could sleep
above ground rather than under the house.
On both Summer and Silver, Cathleen left.
She always returned. She said other men
bored her. Only he could satisfy her
appetite for cultural enrichment.
All other men did for her was fuck her.
He drove to Ray’s garage to stash the car,
took a taxi to Bourbon, and told Ray
he’d changed his mind against Albuquerque,
he couldn’t give up on Leila this time,
Ray said Leila? Maria Teresa,
Juan assured him. And Adore, I told her
I would stay with her as long as she wants.
I’m a fucked-up hombre, Ray Fox. Do you
know how I could find work to get by on?
I’m running out fast. Not that I can work
full time, I just need enough for Adore,
we split the food for electric
when candles don’t work. I rented a room
in the hotel before I went to Nell’s,
I mean Doll’s house that Peggy runs if she
can stay downstairs instead of going up
by force of habit when she was a whore.
Why don’t you take nights here and me the days?
I should spend more time with my family.
Agreed. They spit on their palms and shook hands.
Walking back to Adore’s, Juan passed the HOT
HOTEL keeping one eye on his shadow.
(14 February 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander