Wednesday, March 9, 2011

If Tonight Were the First Day of Lent

He was fucking drunk. HOT HOTEL was dead.
He let it be. He swayed against the walls
groping up the stairs. He didn’t like noise
when he was trying to sleep anymore
than the next down and outer. He had time
put in he could draw from, it was that much
and he’d survived it all, he showed himself
and no one else what he was made of then . . .
and went to sleep after making a call
to Chicago. There was nobody home.
I guess I left nothing behind back there,
he muttered in so many words, or too
many. Chicago’s life was all its own.
Why be concerned? Don’t you have enough now?
He could be drunk there and wish he were back
in Big Easy. He needed a rebirth,
he wanted new skin. New flesh wouldn’t hurt.
He could see when he was sober. And hear
music more than words, and he never knew
if his words meant fuck. He was goddamned drunk.
He moaned and groaned and then he went to sleep.
He would wake first thing to greet the morning,
he dreamed, the sun in his eyes, dark glasses
pocketed, a lovely woman walked by
without a how do you do and he said
nothing and yet wanted to say hello
but since this was a dream there was no need.
The wind whipped up whitecaps. The day was new.
She had long hair, her body almost tall.
If tonight were the first day of lent, drink
the day away when you should be working.
The cars whirred by splashing, throwing up mud
on the banquette . . . No need to stand around,
go on in, the floor show starts when you end
your search for nothing but your own mirror
and rather than put up with what you are
you look a long time. The go-go girl,
they used to say in the days of his youth,
pushes aside the curtain and prances
with breasts swaying and nipples hard, private
down there, no need to have to sell yourself
. . . he was waiting and waiting was too long
to be here. He was with her then and lost
in her hair, her legs wrapped around his waist,
he was feeling like a young man again
and she was telling him she was young too,
don’t go too fast and leave her in this dump,
protect her from the night, watch over her,
it’s your fault you brought her to this city
and put her up high like some goddess wench
no woman in her right mind wants to be . . .
He woke and looked out the window, people
were still out carousing, this city had
no shame. No wonder he’d loved getting drunk
here. You could never know nightmare from dream
in New Orleans, where everybody
went along with the crowd and stayed alive
by their own wiles, if they had nothing else.
The trick was never offer anything
you couldn’t come through with when you had to,
and you would, sooner or later, time was
shorter every day, think how the years go
on their little feet down into the swamp.
He wasn’t about to give up a thing,
everyone had to scrap for what they have,
some were more fearful nothing awaits us
at the very end: They live out their lives
asleep. I wish I could, he dreamed he said
to her and she said, Watch your step, honey,
there are cottonmouths wherever you turn.
Therefore he waded close beside her now
and thought of alligators upriver,
but that was a nightmare and this was dream.
You had to worry if you confused them,
or if you woke too soon to know you had
mistaken one for the other and let
the excessive swamp close over your head.

(9 March 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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