How can he keep going on without aim
or purpose? The blues are no right answer.
Purple nights, bone white days. The flesh between
their bodies is a balm that gives them pause
in the melee that is everywhere now,
what will we do to live, where will we go?
Would she go with him or send him alone,
or take away his keys, keep him at home . . .
There’s just the dust from nearby live oak trees,
shawls the rich girls wear made from Spanish moss,
plantation mansions and sharecropper shacks,
just nothing, just something, just a little
farther, further down, stop in the next town,
find the bar, play some cards, make some money
he can stretch all the way up to Memphis,
where the crossroads are where the devil waits . . .
You saw this as you heard a song was played
with what was at hand where you were dirt poor,
nobody wanted you hanging around,
you didn’t care what came out of your mouth,
you raised up frogs in jars from polliwogs,
crickets, fireflies, shrikes owned the restless nights
sweat soaked the bedclothes on the back screen porch
where that boy came by to show you his thing
and what you could do with it if you liked,
you let him in, hustled him out at dawn,
there’s nothing you could not feel on her own,
you even wrote down your name, I adore
and crossed out the I and raised up the A
so you would have something to say in town
if ever you left the beloved’s house
and you would, you always did, you had to . . .
It wasn’t your mama’s fault if you failed
to keep her happy, you had much to do
and when you’re as old as a young girl gets
too many stars stay up in the sky nights
lying on your back where Congo Square used
to be, where slaves would break laws on Sundays
and dance and spoon and do all the wrong things
but better that than fugitive running . . .
Now she’s old how can Adore carry him,
she lies alone, wraps the sheets around her:
You gotta come on home so I can sleep
without waking, wondering where you are,
but I never pined for the boys like boys
pined for me, I just raised my dress, they came
flocking from some parish across the lake
and like a good girl I always said no . . .
(6 March 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander