Her mother stripped and did hand jobs mostly but straight fucking too.
She didn’t know about any of it
and, if Roosevelt could help it, wouldn’t
ever have to deal with those cesspools of shame. She could stay whole.
He needed to take her and Virgil out
of New Orleans.
Their mother’s name was Samantha too but worked as Savannah.
She never cared to see her little girl or her little boy.
He knew she stayed doped up to keep going.
He wished he didn’t feel like he’d failed her,
she had been a perfect wife to him and mother to their kids
until they left Arkansas and came here.
He looked in vain for work and she stayed home
because he believed that’s how it should be.
One day she went for a walk and ended up on Canal Street.
With her children, one holding each of her hands, she walked right by
this place with STRIP JOINT in neon, making a note to herself
to go back and look inside. She went home, fed the kids, put them to bed,
Roosevelt arrived, he had been drinking,
they fought, he struck her, she fled, returned to Canal. The STRIP JOINT
operator liked her looks, hired her on the spot,
after hours she learned firsthand the back room.
The guy who hired her, Roscoe, said she could sleep with him for now,
which turned into an eternal present.
Roosevelt found her not long after, he’d heard she lived in there
and made a scene one day, punched out Roscoe,
and fled the scene when he heard the sirens.
He told the children their mother had gone back to Arkansas
and asked him to tell them how much she missed her sweet family
but her own mother was dying, her father feeling poorly,
and it was only right that she care for them, she would be back
as soon as she could.
By the time he got the job at The Saloon he was desperate for a paycheck.
Now he made sure to have a woman come in and care for them
and walk them to where he was, it was on her way home.
Every night or early morning, when they should have been in bed, he walked
with them to get ice cream, whatever they wanted,
and they all laughed, cracked jokes, and were happy
all the time, day or night. Samantha was the one missed her most.
She wrote letters to her mother, Roosevelt said he mailed them.
He dropped them off at the STRIP JOINT, left them with the bartender
trying to watch for Roscoe to leave before he went inside.
He never saw his wife. He heard she whored
after hours. He hoped she read the letters.
He would soon have money enough to move back to Arkansas.
(24 March 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander