Thursday, March 17, 2011

Aphrodite's Map


There are always words that can’t find themselves
much less other words.
Let them alone to wander where they will.
Every thought begins with the eye,
continues inside
where what? . . . will? . . . resides.

Alienation. She asked what my take
on the word was. I said, It may not mean
now what it did. That’s fair, she said.
(I wanted to add . . . long ago. But why?)
She was not only beautiful but bright.
Passionate cook, lascivious in bed . . .

Those were her words. She baked. She grieved one man.
The first, her idea; the second, his.
He may have thought she left her passion where
her face and body showed if you had eyes.
In bed it was what happens afterward
he may have arranged to fit his ideal.

You can’t be lascivious and not play
Aphrodite’s game. She’s a whore, a bitch,
and neurotic forever after birth.
I have known women who sold their bodies
–two from whom I came, and one I married.
I don’t know what alienation means.


When you take off your earrings, baby,
you’re ready to fight. Moira’s mother,
Bette, didn’t want her holes ripped
before she crashed the heavy beer mug
against the head of the woman
telling her lies on the stool beside her.

Moira was home, Bette could do this
if she were drinking long enough,
and so she did. The blood didn’t start
until they were on the floor and Bette
had her down, beating her with both fists.
Then the blood ran. The men stepped in.

No respectable man with high ideals
allows women to brawl, not even here,
on the edge of the pier, where Maria
tends bar during the day and doesn’t see
much she hasn’t seen. O maybe a man
now and then walks in for a beer

and talks to her in low tones for an hour,
he doesn’t want anyone to hear him,
she knows, and until she gets to know him
he’s up for grabs. Her love is her son.
He is the San Diego surfing champ,
her subject of straight-out delivery.


Irish Cathleen is another story,
saved me from Bette and that Maria.
I’ve known her over half a century.
She came after Irene Castenada,
but stayed, or I stayed in her heart
where I had to be when she was fucking.

Other men, I mean. She was that gorgeous,
voluptuous, painted lady, cute doll,
and she didn’t care what she was called,
though it hurt like any man’s sister would
and I had one, who hurt bad. Susanna
didn’t like to talk it out. Rain fell long

but drizzled in Seattle, the pavement
always wet save for the summer.
Then it was warm. Susanna undressed
and masturbated in her back yard
rather than be tempted by a man
she didn’t know and maybe never would.

Irish Cathleen always came back to me.
I was always free. Now her pimp got tough,
she learned alienation. She loved
the guy but he was black and she only black
Irish with olive skin but with red nails.
He wanted to own her. No one owned her.


If someone’s called Naomi, name her Ruth,
though that doesn’t make me Boaz.
The world is very large without a globe
on your desk. Victoria Falls,
for example, is not named for a queen
whose legacy is repression,

it’s just somewhere in colonial
Africa, where revolution
has kept its distance. How would I know why?
How could Moira, named for Greek fate?
Her mother fights in bars and mourns
the death of her only father, murdered.

Her mother is the daughter of a Jew,
Judge Roth, whose New Orleans court
was the one nobody wanted to see
him pass judgment on them. Not quite as bad
as Isaac Parker, the Hanging Judge,
the desperados called him in Fort Smith.

Irish Cathleen would have gone to jail
for Willie. There, she could always write.
Juan made a movie, she the sole actress,
playing the part of a brothel madam
(his mama), last madam in New Orleans . . .
She liked the role, wondered what it was like . . .


I have loved four women and only
they could dwell in my heart, where you can’t see
anything but them, one at a time . . .
Irene was the first, then Irish Cathleen,
who left so many times she never left
for good or bad, She was Irish

like my mother Mama Nell / Madame Doll.
Her father was named for Robert Emmett,
the Irish martyr. On the gallows
he cried at the top of his voice,
Erin Go Braugh! words tattooed on the arm
of her father in a port in Shanghai.

Paula’s father retired from the navy.
He was dying when she left me.
She may have thought I was dying.
She believed my love for her had died.
Though it had not, she knew what she needed.
I cannot tell you how I grieve for love

unless I say the name Maria
Teresa , only Leila Shulamit
a goy gringo like me can love
forever and never see, only hear . . .
she I must conjure! . . . Alienation . . .
Where’s old Aphrodite when you need her?

(17 March 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander 

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