Ira’s grand nephew was really his son,
Adore knew. And like all wild lads always
misunderstood, sees shadows where the sun
never sets. Bobby’s the kind who must thaw
before rising from his cryogenic
capsule called Winter, six months every year,
going to join the water worshipers
. . . so why haven’t I heard of him before?
Rocky asks. Belle sits beside Johnny Boy,
she prefers to call him, and he lets her.
No objections. He says, I like to talk
to myself about myself. Who would care
if I didn’t? He drinks another beer.
Why did he wait so long to enjoy life?
Rocky wants to know. So does Belle. So talk,
Johnny ne Juan Flores ne Flowers thinks.
He begins to explain why Bobby is
Ira’s kin and first thing you know he’s gone
too far. They are lost and he’s on the loose,
running away from home, far to the north,
up the highway running by the rivers
until they become lakes, cities are towns,
he hires himself out for any odd job
the age of Reagan leaves to be cut back
during a second term. You have to know
how far he is from Chicago to know
why Bobby became a country bumpkin,
give or take a Blue Ridge mountain or two.
You don’t know why what you think makes you sneer
in your can of Jax. Bobby would drink beer
only in bottles, said cans carry germs.
You had to stay overnight to get there,
but the Great Lakes were nothing new to you.
Michigan, Superior–what did it matter?
Pero Dios mio! He had to leave
after one night in the house on the hill
above Grand Marais, Bobby’s mother’s home.
When Ira was working the docks he made
a child with a woman tourist who stayed
too long and then long enough to mother
ever after a child who hated where
he was born. He didn’t like anything
about New Orleans, said he might drown
someday if he stayed, and at age thirteen
was gone to stay. From Grand Marais he went
to Walker hiring on as Leech Lake guide
on the same boat once owned by the father
of Mary Welsh, once Hemingway’s widow
but dead now. Bobby stayed in the hotel
on the lake and ate in servants’ quarters,
he liked to call them. He was his own man
by now, the ditch-digging jobs behind him,
one trip all the way to old Virginia
west of West and north of Carolina
one trip too many. He never forgot
his grandmother’s tale of being orphaned.
It was the War between the States, she said.
My folks were killed by Yankees. I was left
to cry until I got hungry and went
to the neighbors and asked if I could eat
with them. They said, Sure, honey, you can eat
and sleep here, we could use some help around
here, we’ll go bury your folks tomorrow . . .
After observing obligatory
silence, Rocky says, Why don’t you two walk
it off and let me work. Johnny, go see
if Adore’s free to meet Belle, they might get
along like a mother and a daughter,
one eighty, the other sixty, Belle knows
the story. I’d like to know more, Belle says.
(12 March 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander