In the dark you can feel the mustiness
of old houses better than in the light.
I like to smell what moves through a house left
to right or right to left, no matter what
you see out of the corner of one eye.
Adore went back outside. She liked to roam
through the vacant houses, the empty yards,
the gardens gone to seed and overgrown,
watching where the birds would go and not go,
she knew they knew all about life and death.
A house she could have lived in with Ira.
A house Juan’s Chicago woman would love.
A house where she heard a man shot himself
over his lover he could not marry.
A house New Orleans put up for sale . . .
You had to admire dreams and the dead man’s
grief-stricken lover grieving forever.
You had to mourn yourself that house was lost
because her mama lacked the money down
to buy and could not even pay the rent.
It was the cooking smells, not the love smells
she loved. Love’s smell was there for an instant
and long gone by the time the house was closed,
to be opened again only when folks
who had serious money came around.
Her mama moved one way, she the other.
Her mama kept up her ju-ju. Adore
learned gris-gris. What could the difference be?
Her teacher told her, and said never tell
anyone whose tattoo cannot blossom.
Adore had no tattoos, mama either.
Adore went to the skin shop for flowers.
Amaryllis would cover lots of skin
with deep red and white umbrella flowers,
so why did she choose a Venus fly trap?
Eulalie would admire Aphrodite’s
Roman name wailing and taunting the world
with one foot following the other out
of the tide flooding the sand, the wonder
of it was it fed on insects not men . . .
Adore was still young when she was tattooed.
No man ever saw it in her dark house.
The shape went from her neck around her thighs
beginning to curl where her wet place was.
When her mother saw it she liked to die.
Goodness, child! you gone crazy? Eulalie
will be coming to you when she needs help
with her own inconsolable, red grief
and she won’t leave her loas at the door
but bring them on in as fast as she can.
Would the loas have wanted blossoming
flowers like iris with its rainbow plume
or nasturtiums and their pungent spiked leaves . . .
That was the year she kept flowers alive
by letting rain drop through the ceiling cracks.
(13 February 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander