I had a friend in Seattle who came back from Manhattan.
And from the Dominican Republic and Vietnam,
a journalist there and co-creator here of People.
Back at the P-I where his father died on the job
he became managing editor where before he was cub
reporter. Life had sent him to the wars. Out of Seattle
fifteen years. The volcano Mount St. Helens erupted,
he wrote a book about it, his children were all here,
their mother in the East, he remarried the Indian
lover of a lifetime, teased her with Sacajawea,
she came back with a word he did not know, it meant white shit,
and he knew it, she told him, that’s all he needed to know,
don’t forget it, she laughed, and off they went to fish rivers,
. . . when she said the word bantering one day he asked what
and that began the thing he did not know what to do with
but mix martinis and sit on the dock, fishing alone,
and she gathered him to her and the doctors told her
what seemed to be happening, he was now another man
suddenly old at fifty-five, run out of memory’s
lifelong tape, stopped before he noticed, so where would he go
with her when she was here, and she stayed home to care for him,
did he know she loved him, his wit, the way he told stories
that were nothing but true, she could smell war when she heard it.
Now he was fishing with his father and drinking again
two pitchers of martinis between them, and caught nothing
but he smelled the death his father missed, even his own . . .
She hired a woman to watch over him, she went back to work,
time passed with the tides, the lake washed up fish already dead
and he quit drinking, maybe fish could stay alive then,
pulled his line from the lake, looked in, and her word came back
and as quickly left the moment he slid over the side.
He had forgotten nothing, only what her word meant.
(30 March 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander