Artemis slayed Orion. His bearskin
rose into the night sky, where stars outline
his body’s margins. You can see him there,
hunting. I do not know his prey now,
nor do you . . . the myth says he died for love,
the love of Artemis who was jealous
and if she could not have him no one could.
When I drove at night I parked in rest stops
and looked up and there he was, hunting.
In motel rooms I watched Some Like It Hot
and The Misfits, well, any movie
she was in, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,
even The Asphalt Jungle, her first role.
Like every young man I was in love . . .
imagining myself an old man, rich
and possessive of her charms;
or young and buying diamonds
for her (or my other love, Jane Russell);
or the aging cowboy hunting mustangs
only to find his last love on the plains;
or in drag, wooed by her in dress
diaphanous to the eye, her breasts
in outline like Orion's wife on earth,
her lips on mine, the web between her legs
too newly woven to have been there long.
But I was betrothed already,
my beloved and I clandestine
creatures of night in Seattle bistros.
Three decades and we were married again,
the first had failed. We lived in an outpost
of the Great Lakes, where she had come to teach,
I with her. There is one story only
she taught me, when she was not even home . . .
the Lakota breed Nancy looked across
the room at the photograph on my desk.
I didn’t know Karenlee played softball,
she said, startled. I turned around, looked.
My beloved’s hair had been died blonde
before she came here. Her Danish grandma
stopped nearby on the way west. She was hired.
New Scandinavia, she called it.
I wondered, she would quip, if that was why . . .
In the photograph the blonde was swinging
at a pitch. In bed Karenlee asked me
in California, What will you name me?
Daddy called me Kee, and so did Mommy.
I’m known by that name here, in Marin.
But it makes me sound like I’m still little.
Karenlee, I said, conflating her names.
Nancy gestured when I asked, Where? . . .
I never understood why she married
the white guy who worked as a janitor
except they had two boys together . . .
She was a looker. I saw where she looked.
That’s Marilyn Monroe . . . Nancy said, Oh!
. . . a story I never tire of telling.
Karenlee reminds me her intellect
won her honors throughout America,
in the west, in the east, the middle west
where we were living now unhappily
but closer than ever in our one-flesh
biblical fulfillment. It was our past
we could not overcome, that long ago
time all lovers may find a burden
as we did. I had been some Orion
back when her husbands were deserted
when I came to California and she
was whom I called, hardly able to wait . . .
She called my wives when she was in town.
Now she looks up with me at the night sky.
(for Karen Lee Clarke Alexander)
(24 March 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander