Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Reader

Spare the reader and spoil the scribe.
Juan carried his pages all over town.
He even rang the bell of the blue house.
Fats had not lived there since Katrina.
The woman said she was the caretaker,
Would he care to leave a message?
She was heavy set, darker than Adore.
He said, I just stopped by to see Mister
Domino. I thought he might have returned
already, you know, walking back
to New Orleans, and all . . . I should go,
and did. Big John’s coffin had been transferred
above ground. Should the levees break, no flood
would carry him off like Katrina did
Mama Nell / Madame Doll who still floated
some god knew where but Juan would never know . . .
There was Big Jim Robinson’s house,
not the one in the cemetery
but his widow’s double shotgun,
and thought to introduce himself
but thought again and walked on by.
That man could saw some trombone down the street.
If there were eternal life, Big Jim
would be there. You could grow up here,
and he should’ve if he’d had any sense,
you’d know how to play like Buddy Bolden,
ha ha! You could die in an asylum
like Buddy Bolden. You could be all things
to all women and still give them the eye
all over and up and down one body
leading to the next. He was a rounder,
but you could hear him play across the bridge
when you or he was all the way over
by the Mississippi, across town
from Pontchartrain. If Juan had to die,
and he did, he would prefer to die
a living legend or, at worst, a myth.
Play piano and you were Jelly Roll
Morton’s contemporary, Windin’ Boy,
and Ferdinand made it all up himself . . .
But he carried the pages all over
New Orleans. On St. Charles he dropped by
the brothel and Beth took him to bed
after reading aloud to her
what little there was to read, and she asked,
Who was from Tennessee? anybody?
She sucked him and fucked him and all for free.
She buried her long blonde hair in his crotch
and drew from him the elixir he sought
to rid himself of so he might
get through the Smokies to Memphis . . .
She rode his cock buried in her blonde fur.
The Clifft family was from there.
These Welshmen were all in the future,
their son Frank wedding Peralee Taylor,
the breed Cherokee woman whose father
died in Oklahoma state pen.
Because he was poor he stole a horse
for his little son Walter to ride.
On the true frontier he would have been hung.
Even now, his body was thrown
into the furnace, and Juan remembered
all this shoveling coal in the boiler
when he was too young to know better.
That, dear reader, is the part called
Life in the Boiler Room, to be read before
Calle Tchoupitoulas, which is right here
in my hip pocket. I read it to Betsy.
She would like to hear more, and she insists
I stay here and work and she will feed me
and fuck me and sleep with me and go where
I want, her wrist inside the crook of my arm.

(16 March 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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