Wednesday, March 9, 2011

No Second Line

Her name was Belle and lived in Birmingham.
When she came to she wanted a "stiff" drink.
Rocky gave her the bottle and she drank
until she choked, then threw up. Still naked,
she sat on Big John’s grave and stretched her arms
as though beckoning them to lie with her.
She was good-looking for over sixty.
Her red hair reminded you of Big John,
except his didn’t come down to her waist.
She knew Rocky from the old days. He helped
her to her feet, she stood, she said how good
to be alive, they helped her with her clothes,
that took a long time, they were both so drunk
and she groggy with grief and had to stand
on one foot and then the other to dress.
Then she walked around, coming back to life . . .
They staggered a little, on either side
of her, Rocky passing the bottle back
to Juan and then back and forth all the way
to the wharf, to the bar where Rocky worked.
There was the kid and his crazy buddies,
the kid the craziest of all. They came
over. They wanted to meet Belle. Juan told
the kid, Take your pals and get out of here.
The kid whined. Juan stood. Rocky cooled them down.
The kid left, File and Driver following.
The kid didn’t have a name of his own
except the one he had borrowed from Juan.
Kid Flores. He was in love with boxing.
So he said, claiming to train in a gym
daily, sparring with fighters twice his size.
Or so he said. When they were gone Juan said,
Good riddance, then laughed: I always say that
when he goes away! They wanted to know
who in hell he was. He claims he’s my son.
His mother sent him here to look me up.
Or so the kid said. He saw me one night
in The Saloon and exclaimed, There you are!
Belle asked about his mother, Did Juan know
who she was? A woman in New England.
The kid had said her name was Iroquois.
What is it? Belle asked. Iroquois, Juan said.
That’s what she called herself. Her dog, Red Man,
was her only companion. She would sleep
in my bed nightly during a bad time
in my life. Couldn’t keep a woman home
if she were sober, and wouldn’t stay home
myself . . . Belle said, Oh . . . Did you marry her?
Juan told her, I was already married.
How long did she sleep with you? Long enough.
He changed the subject, to the musicians
playing tonight, a trio like Ira’s.
He told her all about his grand uncle.
Belle listened, holding onto Rocky’s arm,
her head against his shoulder. When they left
the bar, they stood outside the door, talking
about Big John, Belle was okay with that,
she was a little drunk but that seemed fine
with Rocky, hand in hand they walked away.
Juan walked to The Saloon for a nightcap.
Ray asked if he would work tomorrow night.
Since it was closing time, Ray had a drink
with Juan. How was the send-off for Big John?
There was no second line, Juan said,
telling about how he and Rocky found
Belle on John’s grave in the altogether . . .
One drink with Ray. It was time to go home.
Didn’t want Adore to see him like this,
so off he went to HOT HOTEL, to sleep.

(9 March 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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