Tuesday, May 31, 2011


When the storm hovered over the house
I read Kazantzakis on Nietzsche. Paris
rain. God’s death. Dionysus embraced.
Good and evil divided. The tree
of life returned to original root,
death vanished, new life the new branch
leafing out as wind blows from off the coast.
Art’s madness curls the skin into paper.
Who says and means the word Auschwitz
who was not there? Or Belsen, Dachau,
Treblinka, endless camps each with a name.
Do not speak poetry, Adorno warned,
Not even prose resurrects the dead
whose agony was more than words can mean.
So many have died since, who can say what
would have spared them, save the dead god . . .
In the night the sounds of falling things.
I read myself to sleep. In the morning
I learned of his illness in Vienna,
I wondered if only Buddha could cure
humanity. Before I read on
I went out to gather the fallen
and wear my skin proudly, still naked
so very far from original birth.

(31 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, May 30, 2011


The next day I called Roberto, who answered, "The Saloon on Bourbon."
I said, I hear the old magic’s back. He thought I was talking about Lelli.
I wanted to talk about the loas, but Bob knew nothing of the loas. I was
not sure I did either. Just because they knew how to make me aware . . .
You know how you call someone from halfway across the world, and I
was thinking I had, and nothing is said but what happens to be nowhere
it was before you called, all you want to do is listen and say as little as
possible, you suddenly find yourself missing something, and maybe it’s
not the voice on the other end but someone you should have called instead.
Leila Shulamit. How she used to make me buoyant just listening to her.

I told him I hoped someday I could hear Lelli say, "Mister Flowers,"
as only she could say it. He laughed and said, You had your chance.
When we finished discussing business, debits and credits, all that jive,
I told him how it was working out here, that it had never been better,
going on at some length so he would not think he might be usurping some
one thing neither he nor I had thought of, at least not to tell the other.
We said our farewells the way no one ever does now, actually saying goodbye
which means go with god as every aging hombre y mujer knows everywhere.
Now you just set the receiver down on its cradle when you’re through . . .
I sat down then and wrote once more about the loas, which you’ve already

read. Rain was falling again. When rain fell I felt a jones for Judy Ewing.
Rain falling into the river I was wading that day I came upon her . . .
I went out and stood in it. I thought it might refresh the skin I wore,
give me a bath at least, feel ready to go inside and get dressed to go
to San Francisco. After a while, soaked, I went inside and called Cathleen,
told her my car wouldn’t be able to make it today, and I didn’t know why,
my skin was crawling, I said, that usually means I better not try anything
involving machines, man, I had that bullshit down pat, I knew what it was,
she said Sure, there’s no need, I’m always here, I just wanted to see you.
I went back out into the rain. I loved living where nobody could see you.

(30 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Work with the Old

He looked very old.
His back was curved
like a questionmark,
why he was called that.
With his clothes off
in the dark Adore
could see nothing.
I should say, most
could not, she could,
she could see like a cat.
Naked, she was sleek,
rippling, delighting
in all she loved to do.
He was not as old
as he looked. She was
as old as he looked,
and she looked young.
They were opposed
forces and merged.
They made love well.

Juan went out,
went to town.
Had coffee.
Paid, left, drove
to San Francisco.
In Vesuvio’s,
more coffee.
Looked over
and eyes met
with a blonde’s.
When he left
she had a man.
The Tenderloin,
then. Research,
Juan liked to say
if asked, which happened.
The night came on
and he sat in a hotel
writing on a legal pad.

Back in Lagunitas
he saw Cathleen’s name
on the machine,
called her, she said,
Come tomorrow.
What’s tomorrow?
He didn’t know.
She wanted to feed him
to end her weekend,
was the way she put it.

Adore hauled his ashes.
That’s how they talked
down here. She fixed
a pallet on the floor.
One of them must sleep.
He talked in fusillades:
Watch the moon split
that cloud apart!
The old sun sinks so slow
it wakes up new!

(29 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Among the Living

Are you ready to observe the dead?
Follow me through the lanes of graves.
Fresh dirt piled beside the holes in the earth.
Flowers adorn the dead’s front door,
where the lucky live, never forgotten.

I walk around getting thorns in my toes.
And Cathleen hers. We are on vacation.
From the present. Here we are in the past.
Uncle Clyde said he put up a new stone
on my brother Bobby’s grave, two years
older than I am. Cross Cemetery
up the road named for my mother’s people,
those who took her in when her mother left
to make her fortune. Conley Road.

In Fort Smith all the clubs on Garrison
are full, music flowing into the street.
In a café I tell the waitress
I’m from here, or is it Cathleen
saying, My husband was born here,
and the waitress does her Ooos and Ahhs
as we wash down food with Coca-Cola.

Halloween. The sky shouldered its burden,
weighing on the land, guttering its low
places. What can we do for the dead?

Clyde tells me he had a son his mother knew
nothing of. She would have feared his leaving
her alone in Greenwood, taking care
of his son and her mother in Van Buren.
His mother was more alone in this world
than anyone I would know in this life.

She was dead thirty years before I knew
my only cousin in New York City
was dead. We might have met otherwise.
How far was Yeshiva U. from Amsterdam?
And now he too is gone into the earth:
Dale Roy Campbell got fat, his heart quit,
his father remembers Ruby Campbell,
his mother, reared him to be a writer.
He interviewed Errol Flynn, Clyde recalls.
Clyde’s gone now. Errol Flynn was first to go.

In the morning we leave in a rainstorm
all the way to the Panhandle, where dust
gathers in the rain streaking the windshield
all the way to Amarillo. Cathleen
explodes, I roar back, the cafe hushes,
we eat our meal of the day in undertones.
Why marriage is so hard is the reason
we love. One another. We could have died
not knowing how much we live when we come
out of anger’s trance to caress the other . . .

(29 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Friday, May 27, 2011

Made to Order

Encourage, . . . Peradventure etymology?
Endocrinology is apt contextually,

You know something’s there when you feel
what you can’t see before you can then
because it shows.

You were saying: You can do it,
you already showed you could . . .
keep going.

We were driving around, well you were.
They had my cabaret license,
now take the other . . .

We were thinking of words like notes.
What’s minor sounds like coming up
from under,

majors were already there, like white keys
but sharps or flats are black
like words.

I coulda asked Nellie to come.
She likes the sun more than me.
The sun was shining when I was born.

Who started this? all the nonsense
meaning, Look it up and hope
the word fits,

like playing before and after turning
in your usual circles
to feel what you could hear

if you go back and play some more,
so you do,
it doesn’t sound like anything means

more than keeping time.
You lay down the beat, find the rhythm,
let me do melody.

This’s been your primer on origins, now pull
over, I want to tell you what
Gus said:

It was a golden and sunny Southern California
afternoon, and with the top down
Monk and Diz were driving along the coast.

"It’s always night," Monk said,
"because it is only light when the sun’s up."
Addressed to no one in particular.

Diz looked at him for a moment.
You are a deep cat."

(italicized passage courtesy of Gus Blaisdell [1935–2003],
"Lewis Baltz: Buried Silk Exhumed,"
Artspace: A Magazine of Contemporary Art, May/June 1992)

(27 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Farmboy in the Big City

Once the mass burials were complete,
the green-shingled slab of door sealed
the grave, the hard dirt shoveled over
and numb he walked off. He was fine,
the animal kingdom was like Tarzan’s,
but he didn’t like the books, the movies
were better for his head, they looked real.
The cats were bigger in Africa, though.

I was thinking how I’d fucked up my life.
I remembered the girl reading "Daddy"
in the cab with O’Hara and his friends
Richard and Mary. I wished I had Crow
memorized. God, I was alive! The girl
took her book and went off from O’Days.
(That’s how I remembered the name now,
knowing it was O’Leary’s really.) She had
been there while Richard was giving hell
to a librarian on the phone asking him
to bring back the book he checked out
many months ago . . . He let loose hell’s
own smoldering anger building the fire
word by word, like gas poured on wood.
The girl said she loved no poet but Plath.
You had to read the savage Hughes if not
for the poetry, then for the sake of loss.
She snuffed herself in her oven, her kids
grew up hating their father, some said,
and he remarried and his wife suicided:
it was like a tale of Hansel and Gretel
snuffed out in the witch’s cast iron stove.
Only Hansel was free. The witch dead.
Gretel limp without life, so young to die.

Then Mary came in and said, Richard,
Stop! and he hung up, said Let’s go eat
and drink, it’s the weekend! They did
what they could to give Manhattan life
it did not need. At least he was free!
He didn’t have to drive the tractor,
milk the cow, prune and pick grapes,
but read books and write poems, teach
no one who didn’t want to know what
he knew and pace while he recited what
he had just read off the page: the words
addressed to the Western wind to blow
the small rain down can rain and he
with his love and in their bed again . . .

That was the night O’Hara kept him
from getting beat to death in the bar
where he met the London cancer nurse
and loved her a full three days the first time,
after that who knew what would happen?
New York City was always his familiar . . .
Amsterdam he loved, even the name . . .
Cathleen was being Irish up in Springfield,
he returned to Amherst in four days time.
He had the itch to write a poem and make
it playable, like his late teacher once said
to do, talking to himself in prose on a page
in a book, not unlike the animal he liked
to think he was and grew a beard to be
what he imagined was possible in the mind
never corralled anyplace on the actual farm.

(26 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Old endgame lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing.                                                          Beckett, Endgame

To see her die was spared me.
When she first saw me, the day
she came home, sitting on the bed,
I looked in, she filled her eyes
with a hundred pounds of joy,
or so I read them. She slept there
before the others jousted with her
for place. She lost. There were
too many. Why go on but to say
how she loved the whipped cream
Karen Lee served with desserts
and waited until she was called,
then indulged herself on the floor.
Long ago she had given birth
after those who brought her in
to town and left her in the snow
with ice one night and drove off.
I called her Little French Whore,
Karen Lee saw her in bobby sox
sipping sodas at the city fountain.
The day after the doctor called
to say she had passed away
last night, we took the other eight
to hospital.

I recalled the leukemia
my friend’s young daughter had
in Berkeley. A stack of pages
on the table, beer on the veranda,
and after she died long fights
over who was blaming the other
for her young life gone, not theirs,
but lasted out the storm of nerves
and lived again in New Orleans
where his brain gave up poetry
and she went back to the church.
She went to where her son was,
the next and only other born.
She was there when Katrina
spilled over back home, she said,
like wearing out a welcome.

There are birds
more common than Audubon’s.
There are other cats, Ophelia’s,
Shakespeare knew nothing of.
Prospero is back in Milan
with Caliban, his bane.
Hamm and Clov look out
and see what they feel.
Oliver, Ali, Pedro . . .
three Tolstoys, two Rostovs.
Eight are left to live
out all Socrates, Miranda
will miss now.
See that one? Crouch
and scrunch up back feet,
but the window won’t give,
don’t leap. The eyes spring.
There’s another, get ready.
World outside: CAT TV.
In here life ends, grief begins.

(25 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Miranda's Island

This has not been a wonder of all worlds,
Miranda said, and she should know,
men arrived and left as she did herself,
fleeing. Rooms in the sky emptied,
who was she to believe? A day pulled up
the night like tar, or did it simply melt?
Simply? Don’t you know what in hell tar is?
Are there no rules to follow? What of time?
Weather snaked the planet like a round tree.
What kind of image is that, Miranda?
Don’t you know the music to go with it?
So many years alone, so why not sleep?
Prospero was dead. So was Ariel.
And their maker had given up the ghost
of Hamlet’s father, felled the tree of life
to mark his own grave with the Shakespeare name.
All my friends are long dead, Miranda said,
why do I live on? There’s neither heaven
nor hell. I know no words to sap my strength.
And what of Caliban? What do I do
with a poor man in a cage? Feed him what?
Let him eat grass. I have my own supply
of space where the larder was. I can’t live
two lives, he will have to die like he is.
So she hopes. The island is its own cage.
A wind comes in, tall trees shape themselves round.
Miranda writes her way out of the play.
At least she tries. Nothing avails. The breath
of eternity broods over the world.
How far can you see? . . . Caliban breaks out.
More aristocrats invade. Prospero
returns as a ghost seeking Ariel.
Their maker turns in his grave to dust.

(24 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Monday, May 23, 2011


So she comes in the night now to give you
her body to love, and what do you know
of love? You know the sky, you know the earth,
but nothing of the love she offers you
for nothing but your memory of her
to remain alive when she is quiet,
intent upon the law of survival,
that you live all your life to learn to love . . .

Abraham’s his name. From the hill country
in the middle of the Blue Ridge mountains.
What is he doing here if not for love’s
company? She chooses him for her own,
he follows, he sits, she stands, the picture
survives . . . Why was he given such a name?

(23 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Pearl and Her Son Dead and Buried

When they were dead and buried what was there
to do but leave? The place was tame by then.
The Hanging Judge had come and gone.
The killers and thieves left to save their lives.
No matter how obscure, your fate was known:
the town murmured, they knew what you had done
and what was done to you. There but for God
they saddled a horse and swung what was left
of your life to the saddle horn and rode
away. His little daughter watched him leave
over and over in her sleep.
Her mother’s sister, her father’s brother,
her double cousin, taught her how to live.
Doll said, Pearl died having that singer’s son.
Manuel Romain wasn’t even with her.
Jeff said his brother may have been no good,
traipsing around with whores on Fort Smith’s Row,
but why did he have to leave now she’s dead,
his only child with a hole in her heart,
why go where he was not known, knew no one . . .
Young Tom said nothing. He held Effie close
when she wept. Men in that country,
no matter how young, felt what the women
permitted them to know they were feeling.
The singer would not look her up, she found
a place to stand in sparse crowds he would draw
in the small towns east and west of Fort Smith.
That’s how he found out they were dead and gone,
the love of his life and their stillborn son.
He looked down at her, she was not tall yet,
and she could see he wanted to hold her
and she knew she had been waiting to go
away with him on his horse, his guitar
on his back to strum while he sang
of an evening. Fireflies danced in the pine.
She knew her way home and knew she belonged
where the only people on earth who knew
her gave her succor. Manuel Romain kissed
the top of her head and rode out of there,
the last words he said to her were I loved
your mother, I love you, I always will . . .

(23 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Surrounded by Baptists and snake charmers,
his mother and her mother and
her mother’s mother fled the South!

South of Roanoke, Blacksburg, Virginia . . .
down through Tennessee, Missouri,
into western Arkansas they arrived.

Her mother’s mother survived on her own.
Missouri to Oklahoma, mistress
to a brothel, post office, only wife

to Floyd Smith, fisherman from Alaska.
Her mother’s dark gifts entertained Europe,
ending in L.A., hating blacks and jews

–no wonder his mother loved his father
beyond all notions of amor, and mourned
his death a long while before Mexico . . .

only once Honolulu, Seattle,
New England, all America was out
of her, surviving another Manuel,

his heart too full of love for her to last,
and in New Orleans she ran a house
in the best European tradition . . .

Baptists were not as bad as snake charmers,
Mama Nell/Madame Doll told her three sons,
and taught her daughter to learn a man’s ways.

So whadya know, Johnny Flowers?
Down South they call you Juan Flores.
Why don’t you settle for, simply, Flowers?

Juan has learned to take his time making love.
He never did fare well with fast women.
He loves to remain inside a woman

until she glides with him into motion,
thrust then pause, thrust, pause, and on into night
at last pouring into her all he has

contained, when the moon turns into the sun
. . . gotta love a woman so much she goes
along with no complaint from either you

or her, like the moon makes love to the sun
all night and into the morning
when eighty-one thrusts exceed one hundred.

Still, there was the lighthearted great-grandma,
the shrew grandmother, so where did he come
from? if not from both sides of his mama /

madame? she with resilience from Mama Allie,
who said, I wasn’t in that business long . . .
Our origins two generations back?

Little did Juan know of father Manuel,
who came from hard-scrabble cotton and coal.
got out of the South by going to war,

and died. His grandfather left Virginia
to flee the law. Fort Smith was the wildest
territory, he and his brothers heard,

hideout for far worse than they, who stayed
out of sight. Sunday mornings they scouted
the countryside for a place to settle.

(22 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Saturday, May 21, 2011



In breaking one of the ten commandments,
Thou shalt not kill,
you inevitably broke another,
Thou shalt not steal.
You stole another’s life, and more than one,
in the name of saving humanity
from oppressive tyranny.
The first of the ten was first to go,
the one priests warned you to heed
lest you suffer a fiery or icy death:
I am the Lord thy God,
thou shalt have no other Gods before me . . .
Well, what of Aphrodite, Dionysus,
those despicable sensualists,
fornicators loving copulation . . .
The itch of youth passed down to age,
so much work now to feel pleasure,
but worth the labor, having started late.


Irene Castenada took his body
into her own, and forever after
he was wed not only to a woman
but to a country, Mexico,
from whence came the first and last beloveds:
Irene with her father speaking only Spanish
and her mother speaking hardly at all,
and now Leila Shulamit, her mother
Sephardi, Jewish roots expelled from Spain,
and like her father born in Mexico.
Paula and Cathleen were both from Spokane,
and there is no Spokane in Mexico.


He surely never broke this commandment:
Thou shalt not bear false witness
against thy neighbor, pero Dios mio!
He did not obey the one declaring,
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife . . .
With Honor thy father and thy mother
he heartily concurred, for he had two
fathers with the same Christian name
and one mother both madonna and whore . . .
how much more Christian could you be?
Yet Thou shalt not bear false witness
against thy neighbor was like a riddle
meant to set him back, put him in deep funk.
He asked his conscience, Why do such a thing?

Eleni Rallis danced into his life
and said she had seen where the poet’s name
was writ in water, and he slaked his thirst
after she slid out of her dress,
put his naked body between her breasts
so large for such a small woman . . .
And when her husband, his friend, sent her back
to Greece, rather than fight the two of them
drank ouzo and retsina each Friday
listening to Procol Harum singing
A Whiter Shade of Pale . . . She said there is
no reason, and the truth is plain to see . . .

Bottles empty, they parted company
until another week had passed.
When Eleni Rallis returned, Christine
was sharing his bed; she was through with him.
He missed the dancer’s tales of the doomed Keats.
He had told her all the stories you’ve heard thus far.


Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord
thy God in vain; Remember the Sabbath Day
to keep it holy; Thou shalt not commit
adultery; and Thou shalt not covet
thy neighbor’s goods . . . Why bother to repress
thyself, refusing to say God damn you?
Why not go on a rampage on the day
God rests? Surely, he felt no qualms in making love
beyond the bonds of wedlock, ah!
such delicious sin, the language a body speaks
with another body breaking into song,
some in a major, others in a minor key . . .
and why would he envy another’s goods–
provided they were no more than objects–
when he was surrounded by all his years?
He had never wanted for anything,
though early on recognized his limits:
he could not work on cars like his birth father,
he could not speak fluent Spanish like the other
father, he never paid a woman to make love,
no need to ascribe such activity
to anyone not met already, dear reader . . .


You entered one town in northern Minnesota
over twenty years before and read
on a billboard, Jesus is the Lord of Bemidji;
now you came into the same town
from the opposite direction
and there, carved in the shape Moses carried,
with Aaron’s help in telling God
what needed to be said to take their leave,
were the Ten Commandments.
Cathleen’s friend Catherine
said the street named for the Italian explorer
Giacomo Beltrami should be renamed
Church Street since there was a church
on every other corner–Free Lutheran,
Methodist, St. Philip’s, (enslaved) Lutheran . . .
None of which he bothered to enter now.


He was catolica like Ernesto,
priest who carried a gun in Solentiname,
to whom the pope refused communion
with a warning to change his ways,
return to God and turn away from those
who kill or are killed, and to no avail.
It was then he came to love the poet
Cardenal. Manuela Roma loved you
then. You wrote about how you would travel
to Managua to take the vows,
saying after Ernesto Cardenal
his paean to Marilyn Monroe.
Or may as well have done so, for all the good
such vows brought either . . . he returned to his first love
in the city (Irene was of the countryside),
when Cathleen did not go off to live in Kenya
with Jeremiah, long-distance runner
who stole her car, and she called Juan Flores
where he slept beside Manuela Roma
who said he would never stop loving his
Cathleen . . . How could they go on together?
Manuela found solace in women’s arms.


Alburquerque. With a burr through the name
of a Duke of Spain. The land parceled out
to those arriving with him, never those
native to the land that was always theirs,
no matter how the laws were parsed and spliced
to give the shits what they wanted to keep,
worth more to them than life itself.
Patricia Madrid devoted herself
to judging law that was not her people’s,
but her way to reclaim what land she could.
Her friend Felice Gonzales married my friend Gus,
who wore a pachuco tattoo
in the web between his thumb and fingers.
Gus loved to laugh. When Felice left, he would not weep.
He married an artist too young for him, left her,
married a daughter of the South, then died.


There never were believers among men,
not those I knew. Faith was a woman’s friend.
She reared her children until the children
rebelled, said No, I won’t go, will not serve,
and fled to the pool hall, the swimming pool,
dragged the main in the city of women
astronauts knighted by Queen Sally Ride . . .
evidence to prove, at last, women held their own.
Yet my mother wept to see my father’s coffin
lowered into the earth walled by cement
to ensure no worms would infest the flesh
that took its own time in leaving the bone.
Unlike the other men, I stood still;
I did not throw my rose into the dark.


Bemidji, Ojibwe. Water crossing
other water, Mississippi flowing
north then east through the lake, turning south
down America’s body to the Gulf
of Mexico . . . so startled and sullied
though New Orleans was after the flood,
its grace articulates sweet infamy,
more precious to his heart entwined with one other
who dwells in Lagunitas in the rain
starting in September and still falling
when Passover and Christmas arrive
in the Western World that is so wild.

(21 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, May 20, 2011

Becoming Irish

Battle-scarred veteran of the sexual wars . . .
You’d never know if you did not see her
naked. She dresses always in fashion.
Her face is perfect and always was, how else
lure men into thinking she was seduced . . .
Her mother taught and like some friends
lost her job caught drinking with Jack
off-duty in his car and was fired, as was he.
No longer schoolteacher or big city cop,
they went on for years yet put up in motels
instead of his black Buick four-door easy
for his crippled wife to get in and out of . . .
She recalls her mother worked for a time
near downtown in a home for wayward girls
–no wonder Cathleen became Irish Cathleen

when I lived alone all those years, penned up
my nerves like wild things only I could tame
and saw her when she was free, not on call.
All the scars, as I say, are under her clothes.
I see them easily but she never gives away
what men once paid her for. How could I,
negligent husband working for a future,
have dared believe she would do more
in our old age than see to it I stay alive?

Juan–I mean Johnny–was going to write
another passage already lived by Adore,
when Judy’s appearance in her altogether
followed him home and here, behind a door
without a doorbell and therefore not on call,
she worked her way inside his head and I
saw for myself all there was to see, ever . . .
Of course if I were Johnny, or Juan, I’d
beat it back now to see if her peacocks preen
while she entertains a man for nothing more
than what he may bring to her table if, that
is, he happens to be more gentleman than me,
by whom I mean Senor Flores, Mister Flowers,
and waiting he can listen to the river . . .

For dessert Judy Ewing is always herself.
She knows no other culinary art but loving.
Let’s go out and sit naked on the deck now,
she says. He follows. He was always struck
by the way women did whatever he wanted
as long as he stayed with them and alone . . .

(20 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Dual Sonnets


Comes the day you begin missing her
though you never knew Chicago . . .
Word is she’s moved east,
where pigeons live on tenement rooftops
and rarely fail to return home,
you don’t know why. You only knew
the deer you saw once before dawn
looking very much at home
on Amsterdam, with an unerring sense
for Central Park or some other glade
resembling that of its kin in a king’s
Deer Park. Surely she knows by now
you love her. Let the pigeons and deer be
where her eyes brighten so they may see.


It is impossible to imagine
returning. Endless walking, eyes aglow
to warm my side, I do not know how
we missed meeting in our sleep.
Such ordinary pleasures,
no need to linger, wait to be vouchsafed
but simply go, arrive, be what you are
where all your life you were meant to be.

It’s what the great divide in the sky
meant to say once you could hear.
She devotes her life now to listening.
She can tell you your heart’s direction
and heeding her plan you are always home.
No need to wonder where there is to roam.

                                                                              Leila Shulamit

(20 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Of the Making of a Song

I had stepped into the river because,
first, I wanted the rain to touch water,
to make me part of a coalescence
between sky and earth. And I had a song
when the rain was over; I sat long then
with the day hunting for its nightly feast,
which I called "Down the Line" and went like this:

‘I do love to slide my fingers along your leathery skin
and tongue your nipples one at a time full-to-burstin’
and write above your navel my name encircled with yours
and hold your hand leading you from rock to rock cross-
ing the stream’ at Lagunitas, her baby daughter quiet
when fingerpainting the bedroom, her teenage daughter
passing a joint, her son the oldest passing it on
to me, her lover in prison in Mexico, her peacocks
pacing the cage,

pero no hay amor en mi corazon, senora, ni hoy
ni manana ni nunca, senora, ni pasado manana . . .
got drunk ‘n’ tol’ em ‘bout Guatemala n damnear got
my fool hed shotoff in the woods there fuckinaround
with thosepeople who sed just split leaveusalone.

. . . Judy went inside, I stayed on the porch
waiting to see if anyone like me
came wading in water up to the waist
to feel the current now rain was over,
and no one, not even those unlike me,
came by, paused, looked up at the deck, saw me,
said nothing, Judy gone now, and walked on.

I got many facts about her all wrong.
How would . . . how could you know? Most likely, you,
discriminating reader, will not feel
implicated. Who cares what’s accurate
when there are stand-ins behind the curtain
getting undressed now that she is willing
to feed you and let you sleep and wake you

before this dream ends. If this is a film
it is all up to the editing room
to convert inertia into a pace
that crawls then rises to run like horses
or deer or wolves or bear, what you know well
and remember nothing else if not for
splicing one frame of film with another . . .

She opened the door and came out naked.
She invited me in, and I said no,
I needed to go back and see Cathleen.
She said Hubbard would not be home for days:
Why not come back and go to bed with me
when we are both free to shuck our armor . . .
Nor were the peacocks ever in a cage . . .

(19 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

China House

I told the story and read the poem.
Jules Siegel stayed in his room
writing otherwise, maybe a sequel
to "Thomas Pynchon Stole My Wife"
everyone read in its Playboy spread,
or so Jules believes. He’s a listener,
that’s plain to me after telling a tale
that was never true and never will be,
though the poem is. Jules says, A story
is either true or ficton. Nothing else . . .
adds, I know nothing about poetry.
I go into the kitchen and look out
upon bare-breasted girls in the garden
with their children hoeing and pulling weeds.
One woman will come to Jules tonight
and lie with him. The rest is up to me,
he smiles. Do you drink? No. Smoke? Yes.
He answers all my questions.
(We cut–a jump cut–to night:)
Jules is not here but young men play guitars
and young women are dandling their daughters
and sons on bare knees, their granny dresses
pulled up to their thighs, the marijuana
passed between them and one takes a long drag
and passes it on. Mostly, though, I drink . . .
Copeland is the guy who runs the place,
same age, about, as me: he’s built square
and strong as the proverbial ox
with whom I would team if we were oxen.
When the young women ask me where I’m from
I tell them the story I told Jules
without the poem, which might have saved me
if the children had not heard the tale first,
whereupon Copeland is obliged to fulfill
his duties as head man of China House,
saying if I come back, he personally
will see to it I go nowhere again.
Does that mean I was somewhere?
They should not be expected to worry
about such as I. That’s what Nowhere is.
What it is here, where one is invited
to live. (Flash back:) In San Diego
the bikers known as Hell’s Angels,
their lives are so bleak their futures foreclose,
. . . they are everywhere now the year is
Nineteen Hundred Seventy-One
and I keep writing letters to Paula
asking when she is planning to join me,
like you said you would, darling, I’m waiting.
And nothing comes back, of course.
I have no address. I have my bedroll.
The day George, they call him, handed his plate
of false teeth to a brother to hold
as he moved in for the kill . . .
that’s what happens in the city alleys
on Labor Day, and who was I to know
bad-mouthing these bastards three weeks
because Mike was his name leader of the pack
danced on the face of a girl who denounced
them here though they had not been among those
at Altamont, and neither was I
but I saw the film. Nor did I know
Meredith Hunter, the young black man
in the crowd, high and waving a pistol
when they converged with one a blade in hand
stabbing him where the blood is guaranteed
to flow out so fast no one can stanch it.
George says something like If you want to fuck
with people, here we are, and I reply
I don’t want to fuck with you people,
and walk out slowly, it feels slow, a chorus
of jeers follows me, chorusing with cries
announcing their breast-beating victory,
which will bring George great honor all day now
and as far into the night as they stay
conscious, while I go the long way
to the Bathhouse to pick up my bedroll
from behind the bar and saying nothing
like I’m quitting, you can find bartenders
anywhere, I go to the highway and thumb
my way north again, where I am now
thrown out of China House, never to return.
Nor will Paula ever arrive.
Where do the letters go, where the poems?
Next day (flash forward:) I wade the creek,
"Down the Line" on my lips, voice rusty
but eloquent, I’ve carried words in me
making up the cadence as I go
walking in the cold stream flowing
by Judy Ewing’s house, and there she is . . .

(18 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Before this, before New Orleans, before Mexico the last time,
there was Guatemala. Do you remember how
Manuela Roma gave you the people to see by sending them
her letter with you, crossing into that country,
finding those with whom you would walk
with machete and rifle, sleeping where you fell, as Peter Coyote
called his memoir. Some fell and slept forever after.
In the perimeter around Guatemala City it was kill
or be killed if you had heard the history of Che in Bolivia
and had a friend whose name was Manuela Roma,
a woman you would love later with your body as well as mind,
the soul, it is called in the West, the comfortable West . . .
And so you survived, but blood stained the scars that were lines
once before they were filled with all the enemy could ever lose,
no wonder when you told the story later it created such tremor
in voices of those who listened until your story was over . . .
You were always in love with Manuela Roma, from the time
she walked over her lawn to greet you, calling you by the name
of someone you would never know but she did and said you
were the spitting image, the phrase your birth father used . . .
and the touch of her hand, the glint in her eyes, her lips
forming the magic of her I just returned from Cuba . . .
That was the year Betty warned you about the embassy
on Hamburgo, the cultural attache who warmly welcomed
a visit if not an extended stay because You can write,
can’t you? That was the year you fought and she left
and you left and stayed where you had been when she arrived.
Snow piled high that year, Manuela Roma’s letter was lost
wandering and falling where there was no choice but fall
and rise and look everywhere her words would never be
now that the snow was falling again in the night as you slept.
The next year, then, the journey to the top of the Sierra Oriente
and the Senora and Doctor Vallejo and the return to the city
and the letter in your pocket, traveling south on the bus,
meeting the man who escorted you across the border
telling you how the year before it was Manuela Roma
picked him up here and drove him north to D.F.,
where he found everything he needed to continue where he was
walking toward and finding for you, now that you were ready
to die. There were no women here. It was a very long time
without a woman. You were hungry for a woman’s flesh.
You would soon have enough to do and then it would be done.
You would never be the same. Across one border then
the next, and back where you were born you slept
with both eyes closed. And what of your heart, hombre,
what of the hearts of those you killed? would they sleep
with ghosts of women and care for the children of their sleep?
What had they known that you could ever know now?
The man who led you there led you back. No blindfolds
for those who knew Manuela Roma or who had risked
what you had: She picked me up in her car and we rode
all the way ready to use what we had if necessary,
the checkpoints looking us over more than once
but always letting us pass, and what I owe to her
I have given to you because she said you were too young
and needed to learn what was life and death and why
men die and so do women where tyrants sleep soundly.

And home, I wrote in ink mixed with blood never my own:


Rifle slung in the sack
of an arm,
razored steel machete sag-
ging on one hip,
he follows another, and
another follows him.
These days are like this.
The nights are no worse.
The nights full of women
dreamed, of death dreamed.

Sweat trickling the seams
in his skull,
sweat falling casually down
bridge of his nose,
sweat seeping into corners
of his eyes,
he follows another, and
another follows him.
These days are like this.
The nights are no worse.

The nights full of the slain
in this carpeted jungle:
The one he had followed and
the one who followed him.

(17 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, May 16, 2011


No second lines, no second American lives,
New Orleans, Hollywood . . .
I began to consider Big John’s funeral
in the light of Fitzgerald in The Last Tycoon
and stopped. I had led the wrong life.
So I thought, remembering two Manuels,
each father with the same name . . .
Or my mother who was both Mama
and Madame . . . or, yes, myself, Juan Flores
who again answered to Johnny Flowers.
I lay beside her, Cathleen nee Irish
Cathleen . . . I arose slowly, quietly, and left
her house, climbed in the Ford Falcon,
drove back to Lagunitas, where I slept
without thinking. I dreamt of peacocks
mating. Something I would not have known
was happening in the dream if not
for the appearance of eggs cracking open
where I usually fell from the Eiffel Tower,
invariably walking a plank. But no ships
in this dream. Nor any ancient mariner
contemplating the progress of albatross.
When I woke and drove to town, Fairfax,
I was drinking coffee at the Koffee Klatch
when he who thought I might have known
Kerouac and Cassidy wandered over
to apologize. Who knew they were queer?
he declared, rubbing my back in circles.
I paid and left. He was taken aback,
apologized again before I was out the door.
I drove to Lew and Flo’s house. Son Joe
said his folks were in San Rafael
grocery shopping. Want a joint?
I went out back where the dry creek was,
where I slept on a cot in my bedroll
that year Cathleen and I found purchase
after a dozen years of traction’s absence.
I thought of Betsy in, where was it
Madame Peggy said she was happy in . . .
Atlanta? I had never been in Atlanta
and too old now to start over anywhere.
Whereupon I was missing Maria Teresa.
Leila Shulamit, she answered to now
in other dreams regardless of where I slept.
I looked at ants busy below where I slept
sometime ago, wondering how the world
went on without continuity, sudden rifts
in the planet’s core swelling and rising
to crack the surface into shards of doom.
They always said you had imagination,
lad, apocalyptic though it was, a curse
to leave behind once you found out how.
I would call her in Chicago and say
at least that I missed her and had to say
I love you to her before I vanished,
voice and all. How are you? I would ask,
I hope you are in love again, I would say
and be sincere for the brief time it took.
What would she say? I wondered . . .
I got in the car and drove to Bolinas.
In The Last Island bar I drank Coca-
Cola. A guy came up and asked
if I knew Creeley. I said Why? Don’t
you have eyes? Can’t you see I’m not
as big as Olson, whom Creeley knew
far more than I will ever know anyone . . .
He said: I thought I saw you climb
the hill one day, long ago, and watched
you talking on his front porch step.
I hit him without thinking. He sat down
on the floor. I bought him a drink
and left. I went home . . . well, as far
as Point Reyes Station, where I dreamed,
in the sun lying on the sand, of Marsha,
Terry’s lover, and her child in the seat
between us on the round trip from and to
Fairfax before and after the doctor
said, You’ve got a case of gonorrhea,
my friend . . . and all the way back
I told her how Terry said she was
with Manson, would they ever marry?
Terry, I mean . . . and kept pulling from
the Jack Daniels that was between us now.
She dandled Terry's spawn upon her knees.
Marsha laughed and shared my whiskey.
Terry was gone from the treehouse,
I called it, on the other side of the rope
bridge. She said, You can’t come in,
I’m afraid of you. Manson was a life
I now consider death. What if I’d stayed?
I was no Squeaky Frome, no Linda
Kasabian. I called myself Marsha then
as now, I was as tall, as beautiful then
as now, and you can see by my child’s
eyes I loved to fuck more than anything
and did in the city, not in the desert,
not where Warren Spahn put them up
while they hatched a plan to end the world.
I stayed in L.A. I was turning tricks,
I loved to fuck that much, when Terry
found me in Macarthur Park shooting up
one day and, big and strong, led me off
to have a drink and take me to his bed,
make a child, and never left . . . never will.
We toasted with Jack Daniels, Good luck!
I walked the bridge and drove down
the hill and did not stop until Bonne Chance!
beckoned me to strip and dive to the bottom,
surfacing to consider myself lucky I knew
the difference between Irish and Marsha,
and now contemplated seeing Judy Ewing
broadcasting grain to feed her peacocks
when I drove up, Hubbard’s car gone.
I lay on the grass, letting the sun dry
the skin, wanting to do something
I had never done, what I would never do . . .
Hawthorne has a story called "Wakefield,"
wherein a husband leaves home to take up
residence across the street where he can see
his wife in their house living without him.
I should find the story and read all the way
to the end this time, to the denouement.

(16 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Daytime Didactic

There is always a reason the dead die.
This one outlived or was left by the spouse,
that one gave up on life changing for good
tomorrow. But why go into all ways
the end goes so far from the beginning?
For the living there are also reasons.
One was born to reap the father’s riches,
another to make use of agony.

O! I forgot you. Also you, whom I will
speak of as Two. You never meant harm
to anyone, you lived by The Good Book,
you only spoke when spoken to . . .
Two said nothing and meant it to mean
what was said; got on with every body
hanging from the gallows or a meat hook
if living in Kansas or Chicago.

(15 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


I have left the room where the pencils are, with their erasers.
Here I am dependent on pens with ink you can’t wash away.
I forget to cap them and they ride in my shirt pockets for days.
The front of me, even my skin, is covered with ink. Indelible
was a word used in its adverbial form yesterday but should
have been saved until today, Sunday, when God is resting,
my best time for working. Or is it fucking I always loved
on days similar to this one because they had the same name?

Writing and fucking have never been foreign to my tastes,
I was never very good at either and so I need paper to write
and a woman to fuck, and women do not care to give me
what I want, for they must want the same as they say and mean.
Paper has no say. As I age I write far more than I fuck.
My wife, the last one, wants to walk over the Golden Gate
today. We do. I escort her to the Trident, the Valhalla
closed on the Lord’s Day, Sally Stanford’s proclamation.

We eat, she drinks, I talk. I talk what I would otherwise
write. I talk rather than keep her on California Street
where we fuck best, although Lagunitas has a bigger bed
and it is in the living room, so fucking is the way to live,
I say. But writing is a way to justify entering your house,
as Joel McCrea tells Randolph Scott, dying in Peckinpah’s
Ride the High Country. I also watch movies after sundown.

Even now, living at least part time in a city . . . Westerns
entertain me. Once in a while, educate. All the time, put me
to sleep. Horror films populate dreams. Musicals make me
lust for her, and she enters my arms with her clothes off,
she does everything she has always done and even more now
I have satisfied her every wish by moving from New Orleans
back to San Francisco. She satisfies my every loving whim.
What more can either of us ask when we have no questions?

We will walk in the park later, much later. It is a long walk
back, she loves to be a little tipsy, it gives her a polite excuse
for being silly, laughing far more than she feels like laughing
other times. I still remember her here the first time. She was
happy to see me, she wanted to walk with me and have a drink
with me at the Berkeley Square in easy chairs by the fireplace.
Her husband was working and she wanted to be home when
he returned. We were too happy, it was not the drink, it was
so long since we had sat this way and shared our lives like this.

By Juan Flores . . .

sitting next to my cane,
my knee resting a moment
before beginning to ache
when I walk on it, slide
to the side and it burns
with pain, I should use
it more, the doctor says . . .

All poems are not the same.

(15 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

To Where She Sleeps in the Bronx

Here, a good wish that her world welcome her
to its too-long-gone-from her sweet bosom
Monday, the sixteenth of May, Two Thousand
Eleven. Here, my fingers to caress,
my lips to kiss, my eyes to memorize
all your vibrant soul, Leila Shulamit.

(May 15, 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Flood


Nothing kills the spirit like water. Fire
in the soul extinguished. The soil too wet
to rekindle embers where the levees
could not contain the river and all went
with its enormous rush into the sea,
No one was spared. The epic writes itself.

Who knows the difference between dry wood
and flame when its flare had only begun?
All else is gone. It is too late. Think now
of a flood. What is there to know? Nothing.
The cataracts of spring open the gates,
the long winter thawed. You know where it ends.

America. The Italian named it
for himself after the boats at anchor
spilled its human cargo on the island
of souls who did not know what had found them.
They were fire before the watery men
ravaged their women and enslaved them all.

It was not Vespucci's doing. The rape
begun neither by Spain nor Italy,
but that is so far back you no longer know
nor care for origins; it's consequence
matters most now, the wild laws abandoned,
all innocence drowned . . . What will revenge do

once the laws of nature become the lair
where the smug scions of Columbus dwell,
nor was he alone. Cortes, too. We know,
say their progeny, what we are made of
and it is not water: it is a fire
that never dies, nor will a flood drown us.


You were remembering what your life was,
what it is, wondering what it would be . . .
Why are we here, what where we meant to do,
how would we know if no luck were involved?
Casinos at the end of the river
fill with what the mountains send them for luck.

You no longer believe in luck. Nor fate.
What humans were is not what they will be.
The will has nothing to do with the soul,
nor is the ocean full of wildflowers.
Seeds root, the eyes flare, you love only what
loves you. It is the sun melts the mountains,

sends water to nourish the climbing vines
that find thunder and lightning in heaven,
as in noisy hell. First though, shrieks and groans.
You do not want your people to die now,
they have so many stories you must share . . .
A wild weed is what the flower becomes

when we cannot know where we are going.
. . . I was thinking all this while on the phone
wiht Roberto. Eleni Rallis lives
with him now. I cannot begin to tell
of his happiness, not now, when the flood
is all their future, until it has passed . . .

Eleni Rallis with her umbrella
in hand should the weather grow inclement.
Dancing, not walking, dressed for a wedding
in Athens, and was divorced there naked . . .
I conjure her. I send all our shared love
to Roberto, to give to her, to keep.

(11 May 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Signature, Tattoo You, the billowy
bluster that’s a sign centaurs’ years pass too,
indelibly. Listening to the Stones,
recalling her Waikiki surfer’s glide,
the only woman asked you for children
and, sperm dry, you left her with your Bible,
as she also requested. You pranced home
and were hobbled until Honolulu
arrived in the body of an old flame
whose seed sowed her with child. She disappeared
taking her prize, that book of yours, for keeps.
Last thing she said: He’s coming to see me.
Seeing her years later in the small town
near the vineyard, now gone, where you were reared,
she led a small child, a son, by the hand
halfway through the crosswalk, looked up and stopped
to stare at you, unsmiling, feeling . . . what?
With Cathleen riding beside you, why say
hello or goodbye? The light changed. She loped
to the other side, showing her son legs
to follow. And where was her son’s father?
You didn’t need to know: He might be gone.
You used to think of her as Emily
Dickinson with attitude, fiery hair
that would never turn gray or white, or fall
to a floor so shiny you saw centaurs
when it was you staring. Gallop off, man:
Studs were born to run faster than the mares.
Crossing cities, centaur, age thirty-three,
grazing along the coast highway, unshod,
your human half riding, The End so loud
Morrison had the top down, salt from off
the sea misting your gaze . . . the beast who killed
its sire on the bridal path to the gate
the monster will not open until you
whinny in answer to its riddle: Man,
and enter the city walking like one
whose brittle being lies dashed on the rocks
below. Here you are animal enough.
Inside the palace your mother takes you
to her bed. Without issue, legend blinds.
At the northern end of the coast highway,
Half Moon Bay, step inside and there she is,
pouring coffee, serving breakfast, her pout
turned to smile, her beauty mark become scar,
and no longer recognizes who you
might have been with her, neither Jocasta
nor Emily, not widow or spinster,
but mother to a colt you never made
obediently pursuing her tracks.
You pay, she rings it up, her eyes hold yours
as though asking, Do I know you? Yours say,
It's too late now to know me as a man.
You shake your mane free of shoulders whose bones
grow aslant returning the horse-half home.
Utter nothing until she says something
you may nod yes to after years of no.
Loud silence ends. Songs end. Will the next dance
be slower, befitting aging centaurs
who sleep tonight among manzanita . . .

(14 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, May 13, 2011

Some Blues

There is an order to be followed
to reach the core . . .
Seeing what is there,
hearing who it is,
smelling her (or him),
touching then
tasting lips,
fucking: bodies entwined
in sensual dance with overlay
of love’s flow until it moves
into the alluring coming together
of yours, hers (his) . . . palpable
rhetoric gone the way
of arousal, penetration
by penis or tongue . . . what use
to distinguish the figures of sad
endings within the pain
of waiting.

She is singing with all her body,
. . . is this where we go
to be blue, triste, "mis joyas" . . .
In the round night
the flat day
fills out the house, its walls,
its skull, wandering fingers
rubbing as deeply into the lines
of her skin where the floor rises
to meet the light
when windows open, as do doors.

She wears on her ears
what she hears jangling moving
as though she were dancing
and the soft, round, beloved light
glints reflecting the wear of her skin
and how she lets all of her live . . .
There are some places
in this world you never leave.
Go away as far as here
unable to lose her memory:
let her live in you

(13 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Adonai's Abstract

The gates are open to the sea.
The river flooding the farmland,
houses filling up to second stories:
this is their first. Not a story that speaks
or writes or shows itself, only a tale
of zero and one. Digital bipeds
living upstream, and all are gone by now,
soaked in blistering heat, homeless, alone
with their own. It is as though God looked twice
and seeing no one there, sent the rain down
to help fill rivers like this one, lawless
at first and now fugitive in their run
to the Gulf.
                    This goes nowhere. But don’t stop
now that the music offers the dancers
a dance of death. Open your umbrella
or open your dress, show me all of you
with the wet sky glistening on your skin.
Fuck with me before we flee. So many
will drown here. May we be chosen to go
on, in the scent of love’s furious claim . .
I put down the pen, I crumple paper
over the scribbled code and cast it out
a window, into the rancid water
that floats this house. There: may it sink tonight
and be free.
                     Then there are the animals
learning to swim. They will run out of breath,
it will feel like their legs are collapsing
under the weight of the endless delta.
The horses, the cows, the sheep, all of them . . .
There is no inventory like the dead’s
histories nailed to the dark clouds that burst
open and empty another cart load
where the horizon will be lost in fog.
I have said enough. I have said nothing.
Nothing is enough. When will it be said
that the city must be spared, the country
murdered in its sleep by the archangels
of rain’s accounting. And why speak at all?

(12 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Their Western City

And a good thing too . . . Like Tate said, he would
have died in that city. He needed love
the way his original love, Cathleen,
weighed nothing with scales but with her body
gave him her love freely. Cathleen brought back
what they were in the Seattle houseboat
O so many years and years before then
that to remember was to build an ark
and to await the rains such a long time
you forgot that why you were there is here . . .
She is as breaktakingly beautiful
as then, as she was in Amherst with him,
caressing his skin with fingers of soul
making, like Keats said, but in that valley,
the Connecticut, where she came back to
a life of her own she had forgotten,
to do all she could to save him, letting
her gift go so near the steaming manholes
she stepped around in time to save her flesh
and his. Now, she said, if we had been sane
we would have bypassed Manhattan, gone straight
to the country . . . Why did you continue
                    For he did. He did not know how
to stop. He had left another small town
with a hole in his heart and the woman’s
sweetness soured in the process of his throw
away time, a kind of casting the line
not even knowing why you were fishing
from the bank instead of in the river
hip high. That woman was much younger than
Cathleen, twenty-one when he was thirty.
She left him, came back once to say goodbye,
returned to oblivion’s addiction.
When he found her again the years had gone
when she looked in the Yakima phone books
and could not find his name, and kept going
until she heard a sweet music that saved
her life because the man who played the horn
saved her so they were no longer lonely.
In Amherst, then, Cathleen talked him away
from the blackouts walking along the banks,
dancing to approach as near the water
as his feet could come without the flooding
that would occur if he were not nimble
in the legs that seemed to protect his life
only when his mind was busy sleeping
before the body reached home and lay down
and all of him slept. Cathleen talked him out
of the bars. She would no longer go there
with him, her days of drinking were ending
before begun, her father died that way . . .
When O’Hara visited they all went
to drink. Mary was the caretaker then.
Always the women, Cathleen would tell her:
Always we are the ones who save our men
because the future for us looks so bleak
we believe we have no other calling,
knowing now we will never bear children.
Mary said she would have a child someday.
Cathleen’s promise of life was cut from her
and she lived. Johnny Flowers was her child.
How strange, he thought later, Betty had gone
under the knife for another man’s child,
Paula fled in time to escape his curse
and in California was his Cathleen.
The afternoon he kneeled to kiss her cunt
he had missed being between her soft thighs
and was home, back in their western city.

(10 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, May 9, 2011

After Eden

The air is cool. The sun is shadowing,
and heat congeals, the tall, straight-up buildings.
On days that are hot or at least not cool
the city is like Eden after God
sent the sinners packing through the exit
gate, angels with their wide wings folded up
like accordions that were really harps.
Even in late winter, music comes out
the doors of Nod City, New York, heaven
after hell, the steps you step into now
leather shod and proud of your redemption.
The meadows of Eden were not fertile.
There are so many corpses left to rot
to sow the naked earth. In Nod City,
at least in one borough, there are paupers
filling a graveyard that is all their own.
Potter’s Field. I thought I was dying then,
and when we reached New York I knew I was.
I was reading the man who worked the line
until he could flee and find poetry . . .
Manhattan, though, was nothing like Detroit.
My deadly rhythms continued. I drank.
I did not whore now. I could fuck with she
whose love was always, her heart holding mine . . .
I gloried in the imagination,
immortal as long as I lived in there,
where the boy from nowhere became the man
from here. But not for long to hold such ground . . .
That day was cold. Cathleen remained happy.
She loved the kids who had nothing but school
to keep them alive. She said, Please don’t drink
today. I want to see the leaves turning,
memorize those I see for the first time . . .
Up through Connecticut into the New
England scape, Massachustts where we stayed.
And what of the cold-water walk-up flat
on Amsterdam? O’Hara drove down from
Amherst, where we stayed in his apartment.
He could see more with one eye in New York
than I with two. Cathleen said we could stay
in this small town and maybe I could live
longer and that way postpone the onset
of her widowhood. Both could live that way.
O’Hara stayed on Amsterdam. He loved
many women there, but no one so much
as Mary, African American
short-haired darling, he called her. He loved her
because she loved him and meant to show him
what life after Vietnam could be like
with her. We thought they might even marry.
We stayed as long in Amherst as we could
She loved the Irish cops on the corners.
They reminded Cathleen of her father.
O I wish he could see me now! He would
be so proud of you and me, that we came
this far . . . We decided to stay. Amherst
was a good town to dry out completely
this brute concealed under my skin to drink
the dregs of gutters in the great city.
I would miss Morningside Heights. She would miss
her little dark angels. I had to stop,
she declared, or I would most likely die
while she was teaching or making her way
to wait up there for my pitiful cry
of laughter mixed with sorrow and come down
to help me, guide me up the climbing stairs.
I dreaded telling the man twice the age
of my teacher, who believed poetry
kept him alive as did his loving wife
who painted, and worked with him their garden
until dark. He was a teacher, Cathleen
was a teacher, I a drunken poet . . .

(9 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Sunday, May 8, 2011


First of all he doesn’t know Spanish.
He could never learn French.
He has no flair for words
in any other language but that of the street,
and now, so long in the country,
so far from the city,
he would never be conversant
Most men would die for what he has,
and have.
Yesterday was the only anniversary
he observes.
May 7, 1969.

Dear reader, I have told you enough,
the coals are beginning to die out,
the fire has shriveled to embers,
the intoxicating life left long ago,
and now drying out is the order of the day,
this one and so many gone before.
What would men die for? you ask . . .
Why did you even want to learn Spanish?
Irene. Castenada.
And what about French?
No need to pursue that. Was never there.
What made you believe you could speak
like they do on the street?
The consequence of being there . . .
Why May 7, 1969?
Don’t worry, that’s for me to know only.
How much longer can you keep this up?
The rest of the month.
Are you sure?
I’m never sure until it happens, and then
there is room for doubt,
it is the biggest room of all in this house
I call myself.
Yet I have not always lived in a house.
I have also lived on streets.

(8 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, May 7, 2011

O Yes

Driving north over the Golden Gate
Juan remembered feeling the hollow
opening somewhere inside him
that summer he first felt the taste
of what was coming with Betty.
Barker was driving, he was in back,
Lew was in the passenger seat,
they were talking about photography
and children, their specialties,
and he was mourning long before
the fact. And when he was here
in winter, the girl with her little body
insisting he take her the night before
Betty arrived, and so he did, or she
did, they did the beast with two backs,
old-timers called it, and next evening
the girl was gone for the duration
of Betty’s visit, her return to see how
he was with her and she with him,
and in bed she said, I don’t know why
but I don’t want to fuck with you.
He knew why but said nothing.
You know the rest, dear reader,
the call about the hysterectomy,
later her saying she had a child
in her womb by another man,
then went to the Virgin Islands
to teach, then she was in Sausalito

and now he drove straight to see
Judy Ewing, who welcomed him
and kissed him and let him feel her
body against his, his cock stirring
in its little nest, beginning to thrum
the blood rising hardening the skin
between his legs, like the old days
of warmer climates, where the rain
did not fall so much as hover overhead.
She led him to the dinner table
and there is no point in going on
with this until she had her Chardonnay,
he sipped his ice water with lemon,
and she told him she was Hubbard’s
now. He’s my old man, she put it,
dating herself as a relic of the sixties.
He’s your husband? Might as well be,
she replied. He keeps me to himself.
Remember I was moving to Oregon?
Hubbard happened by and changed
my plans. I figured if a man like him
wanted a woman like me, what could
we lose? I’ve never been married–
three bastard children by an outcast
mother. But you know that already . . .
Dear reader, what on earth can I say
without the axis tipping off point
a hair and changing the seasons so . . .

I could have gone back to my old ways.
But why devour the rest of my life
with the cannibal feasting inside . . .
Why die? Drove home, Cathleen’s.
Called her. Wanted to talk to love’s
echo. Told her so. I hear what you say
in your sleep, I said. She was silent,
but spoke with a smile in her voice
then: Don’t you ever say you don’t love
me, now that we are together again
and in California, where I blossomed
and want you to bloom, your little cock
like a wedge in my cunt, I love you, you
menace to my sanity, I didn’t want to
love you, you frighten me still, but why
I cannot decide, you have it all, Johnny
Flowers, all I want in a man, that’s why.
When they ended the call, he stayed
on the big bed filling the living room.
He was happy. He had the Irish woman
forever, she said. Someday she would
stop painting her nails, cut her hair short,
her breasts would sag but seem to grow
and excite his cock until it strained to be
beyond its skin, full of blood, tumescent
as the reader knows, seeking detumescence
and entering her olive skin with his tree
flowering and hers rooting it in her soil.

(7 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, May 6, 2011


Drear fog. Edgar Poe holiday, Americans vote.
Driving to Sausalito: drop in on Betty
or Elizabeth, as she wants to be known
this many years after marriage to him.
His little Ford Falcon put puts along.
If only he could crawl inside combustion chambers
and dry out there. He may have quit drinking
but he loves his marijuana. Betty
–I mean Elizabeth–will surely have some.
In the bar, having lemon-squeezed water,
he cops a phone book from the outside booth
and brings it inside to hunt for her name.
Here she is . . .


Under the slowly revolving fan
She puckered
Her lips and hovered
Over me
Until the thunder gave way

To the fiercest rain we have
Had since arriving in Mazatlan.

When at last she saw me coming
Along the wharf,
I saw her turn and follow
Her tracks back.
After dark
A mouse

Comes out. He is like lightning.

I loved your slim toes and the way
The polish cracked.
You would sneer at the women
And say they had ‘too much tit
With hardly any ass at all.’
I loved your vermilion hair,
Your Cleopatra smile.

When you write letters home
Am I never mentioned?

Betty answered, said in her British/Polish way,
a brogue never heard before or again
till now: Flowers, you’re here! O come see me!
. . . Not if I have to meet your husband . . .
And climbed the hill on foot, finding the place
pronto. Her red hair shoulder length, freckles
lightly sprinkling her fleshly firmament,
O she had the power still. He would chill.
He chilled. She kissed him a very long kiss
first, and held him close to her familiar body.
. . . Where’d you say your husband is . . .
She told him again he was in the City
working the cradled up against the chin
telephone twenty stories high in the building
named for the Bank of America . . .
They remembered after Mexico the fight
on Wool Street, her brandishing the long knife
in Barker’s kitchen, his flight down the hill
to sit in the bar and try to forget.
Forget what? After Mazatlan, in Mexico City,
there were others they sought to lose themselves
in the company of. It did not work.
Their friend took Tres Estrellas de Oro
back to Los Angeles. They followed suit
after another stay in Hotel Ibero,
where they’d been living, or was it dying?
The orange- and purple-haired prostitutes
waited in an alcove off the main floor
not far from the desk where the clerk took keys
and gave them out to those who were paid up.
She loved using the bidet after love
making was made, the sheets cradling semen
she washed from her thighs first, before sitting.
They talked about none of that. He listened.
Everything she said had once commanded
his attention: sculpture, painting, photography,
travel: It was her insistence they go live in Mexico.
There the people pointed at the black beard,
red hair: ‘Maximilian! Carlota!
That was the year they met Reynolds,
Isabel because they met Manuela Roma

          He wanted her to take off her clothes.
So he could see the body he once loved.
Listen to her lively foreign voice telling him
she missed him in bed. But he was afraid.
He had to go, he told her. He had things
he must do in the City, so Goodbye,
Betty–Elizabeth–and yes, I will come by
but give you more notice in advance . . .

The fog was still rolling in from Alcatraz
shut down to stay years ago. Indians
wanted their island back now that the whites
had abandoned the dark iron cages
but no, the cops broke in, pulled people out
as though punishment now meant being free . . .

He drove downtown and found a place to park.
He took Cathleen to lunch at Solomon’s.
She was happy that the guy from Paris
loved her designs and wanted to sell them
in Paris if she could have them ready
by the next season’s start. She said she would.
Norma was doing all the legwork now.
He said, I never noticed Norma’s legs . . .
Would they turn me on? Why not try them out?
Cathleen chuckled back. They kept making out
at the table, yet no one objected.
In N’Orleans, he quipped, people die
for a kiss on the lips, tongue between the teeth
plunging like an oil rig looking for gold,
people there had to have their French kisses
in public as well as private, laughter
and merriment all around any room . . .
Cathleen said, I know. Remember we loved
where we were because we were together . . .
He walked her back. She bid him adieu. Love
sparkled in the depths of her Gypsy eyes.

(6 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Roberto calls from The Saloon to tell me all is well
and Lelli is coming to New Orleans from Athens
to see how she likes a city she’s never seen
but has heard so much about, and Bob is so happy
he can barely contain his happiness . . .
Otherwise, The Saloon is prospering, he reports.
He’s met Paolo and they have a nightcap usually,
he has the lovely Georgia with him everywhere,
it seems. I ask him if he thinks a wedding is
in the offing and he has a smile in his voice
saying, I wouldn’t be surprised, it would be nice
for her to love without making money doing it . . .
I tell him to please say hello for me to Lelli,
whom he knows was once my neighbor across
the street when she was married, unhappily,
to a good friend of mine, struck up a friendship
when Betty and I split and we tried to love
each other until her broken-hearted husband
sent her back to Greece, and though she returned
we barely spoke afterward, to my dismay, I fear,
I told Roberto more than once . . .

Lelli and I tried to make love and could not.
Now I am hoping to make love with Judy Ewing.
I wonder why. I know why. I am a savage beast,
a milquetoast at heart, torn in two by what I want
and what I am . . . It is Monday now. I look up
what I wrote years ago, when I first knew her:

Lagunitas Poems

By the Bridge

Now I live in California and
The days are not long
But nights are
And a peacock cries
When I utter my words
Of metal

Woman you walk the rocks
With me
Across the swollen river’s
And talk to me of children

I shall never spawn now

Nor will I submit to the arts
Of drunkenness
Lechery or opium
For I have no time
It seems
Nor enough life left to waste

I have told you this at least
I am on my road
Either all the way
Or nowhere           I will see
You sometimes
Perhaps coming the other way

The other way
Abundant with your eyes
Your hands your lips your hair
Your full breasts your nipples
I hunger again to hold in my mouth
Your belly I write this down on
Your spine I write this across

From Sky Mountain River Road

Up here it hardly ever rains,
Only when you arrive to sleep
In the wicker chair, dripping dust
From your eyes.
                              Then nights turn gravel
And days become patterns of sand
Sewn upon the moon’s bright belly.
It’s then I find you in your house,
And stay. When I leave, you begin
To sleep. It hardly ever rains.
Up here I have learned how to live
Only to begin to die
Without your musk in my mouth,
Without your lips on my flesh.

. . . Tomorrow, Tuesday, I will wonder again
why I no longer can write so well, and I will
try again. I will write early in the day instead
of as late as I am accustomed to do, riddled
with doubt and giving way, finally, to a need
to write what I can and hope it is as good
as it can be . . . Then Wednesday, and Judy’s
dinner, it will be the first time she has had
me in her house for dinner, the second time
there for now. Before, she told me she believed
I would be her lover, but I dawdled, I wandered,
I loved everything and tried to see it all, tirelessly
but of no value to a woman who would love
and whom I wanted to love but how do what
I did not know how to do . . . perhaps ever,
though there were women who believed I was
worth their time and joy and anguish . . .
I no longer know why, nor do I believe my past.
I do try to bring back that year I met Judy Ewing
and this time I keep it inside, I refuse knowing
or trying to know more than I do . . . It is only
right to close these portals of anticipation
and live in the moment as it gives way to another
moment, and another, until it is time to knock
on her door once more. Will it be raining?

(Cinco de mayo 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

At the Factory

I punched in, my time card full, a smile lit
the wall, Jorgenson said, punching out.
I remembered he said I was happy
to be working. I asked him, Who isn’t?
I remembered this, walking the highway back
to Cathleen’s house. Judy Ewing was there
waiting. I invited her in, We embraced.
(I can already see what you could be thinking,
my dear reader . . . Here comes another love
affair! We will see, I hope you are right:
Judy Ewing is, indeed, an old flame!)
She went outside, it was dry, while I called
Cathleen. There was no answer. The message
machine took my request. She would call back,
I told Judy, who said Hubbard was gone
back to Nebraska. I thought he moved here,
I said. His product is still there, she said.
How ’bout Monday or Tuesday? She said, No
(I don’t remember why, I didn’t add
anything, I remember that.) Wednesday,
then. I’ll make dinner, she proposed. Bring me
a bottle of Chardonnay. She left then.
I went upstairs. Dusk. The birds were singing . . .
I remembered the factory, the goddam
boredom. Once you learn the job, you go on
auto pilot, a robot: what’s coming
down the line . . . I changed the subject inside
my head. I wrote something called Down the Road.
I showed it to Cathleen next day. She had
my car in tow: I hate automatic
shift, she said. She said she hated the piece
of writing, she loathed Lapsinky. I said
you had to know the guy. She said, No thanks,
I hate commies who say they have no choice . . .
We went to dinner, thick juicy sirloin
done to perfection, she marveled, gleaming,
and I already dreaming of fucking.
We went home, her house, and drank and smoked dope.
I remember only her body’s touch . . .
Sunday I drove her back. That afternoon
we made love on California Street, time
after time as in the old days, married . . .
I couldn’t get the guy out of my mind
who took her from me, why she divorced me
to marry him and he wouldn’t, said she
oughta let him pimp her . . . That’s like marriage,
he insisted. She never spoke of it
again. We made love as though he had not
existed, but I knew he was somewhere
here. I didn’t like to think about that.
She cooked, we had hash and eggs. What a cook
you are! and I always say what I mean . . .
She had to get up early tomorrow.
Sunday night in the City, I went to see
El Topo at a revival house packed
with aging hippies. The castration scene
still got to me, I forced myself to watch
knowing what was coming was no more tame
in its way, why I loved Jodorowsky,
though I still had not been able to watch
his film whose hero is without arms, the real thing
or so it seemed to have convinced others.
I always wanted to know why a mole
was this guy’s choice of sobriquet. He saw
everything from the bottom up, I thought
must be the reason. I would ask Tony,
he never missed a revival screening.
Before I slept tonight, I wrote a piece
I eventually called Tres Marias . . .


Say your son
Left his mother’s cameo
Under five fingers of wet sand
In the Sierras.
You would kneel by his side
Like an acolyte, some John
of the Desert,
Tempted but impervious to taunts,
Flesh that once thrust
Silken beneath your loins,

And say Tres Marias
Slowly as dry sand
Drifting over the Desert
Thronging the Sierras
Where bodies slant through
The wind, where women cry
Out of the red night
Suffering thrust upon thrust
From their savage husbands,
Weeping for their pale stillborn.


Of course my son will be sent away.
I will send him away. Everything
Is style. My son will wear rags
And I black leather down to poncho
And holster. Crossing the Desert,
Bandit country filled with soldiers,
Horse nods under sun, a steady gait.
Where are we going, my son asks.
We are heading home, son. Yours,
Not mine.
                  You never gasp at blood
Mixing with mud in the watering place.
Horse nickers, neighs. No one has
Enough style. All try for more:
The General, for example, fucking his
Franciscan novitiate, sending her dazed
From the hut, smiling as his soldiers
Abuse her, slowly.
                                 Once he was down,
My hand slid without thought to the blade.
The blood between his legs sprayed,
Spattering my face. As my son sat
The still horse.


Too proud to stay
Alive, sand spilling all ways,
Filling the hooves of the horses,
We come to a place
There’s no going back from,
No going beyond,
Where a woman, like you
Succulent as oasis,
Girds your loins as I
Ride on, sick of heart, sick of sun.

Soon we will reach the bridge
Of rope I walk, while
You try to push my body
Through frail strands, your lover
Waiting with a knife
On the other side.
I cross. Hand poises
Blade’s scarf. Throat tingles
With air. Body doesn’t fall
Until sun shivers my eyes.

. . . There. . . . I got it right by dawn, many
hours gone by. It came from my first viewing,
1982: Cathleen was ready
to move out to a place of her own,
where she took calls inside her apartment,
guys Willie checked out at the Radisson
Hotel bar, calling her then to tell her,
Be ready. (Reader, you know the story:
she did it a month, called off the marriage . . .
O yes, did I tell you we were divorced?)

(4 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Down the Road

I walked to the Forest Knolls Inn.
Laurie was working the bar,
Tony was in the back.
I told him about my dilemma. He said,
Why not let it take care of itself?
I can’t, I said. I’m living in Cathleen’s
Lagunitas house. I know, he said,
I heard. He talked about business,
how it was falling off with so many
losing their jobs and unable to find
another. Bush, I said. Obama, he said.
We didn’t bother to pursue politics.
He did a lot of reading, loved movies.
Said he’d been reading Odysseus
Elytis, "The Mad Pomegranate Tree,"
which he swore was a great poem,
and watching Kon Ichikawa’s film
The Makioka Sisters on DVD . . .
I’ve watched it every night this week,
Laurie doesn’t know what to do,
she goes into the city and sees people,
comes home, tells me they think I’m
starving for culture, I tell her, Why not?
Johnny, Tony continued, why did you
come back? Cathleen hasn’t changed,
not that I’ve been able to see, though
granted she doesn’t come in here much.
She came out this summer and now
you’re here she stays home in the city,
right? Right, I assured him: She’s
coming out tomorrow.
Driving her Morgan . . .
I better go back and call her,
tell her to bring me my car
and I’ll take her back . . .
Tony said, You still driving?
Still, I answered. Something
I gave up almost entirely down South.
You miss N’Orleans?
You say it like a native, I laughed.
I got around, remember?
I remembered walking back:
It was summer 1965, the three of us
driving into Los Angeles mid-afternoon,
the freeway empty, almost literally–
Watts was burning. My mother’s half-
cousin put us up for the night. Tony
and I drove through Watts. Got gas
coming out, black guy at the pump
said, I keep checking the palm trees
for snipers . . . They get drunk, shoot
anyone, you don’t have to be white.
One night was too long. Mama's cousin
was married to a Cherokee from back
home, Tahlequah, aping my father’s
father who married a breed Cherokee.
Tony had enough and took the bus
back to the City. Betty and I stayed on
long enough to hear again Ruby
telling Owen to get down to the bus
station, drink beer, play the machines,
do what he wanted. Leave me alone!
Betty and I drove to Albuquerque,
pueblo woman behind the motel desk
said Martin Luther King got people
riled up and that was what started Watts,
I just know, she said. I wanted to ask
what she thought of reservation life.
She might say, Long as you behaved
yourself you got what was due you.
She said, Have a party in New Orleans!
Next day on the border, with dark
clouds coming our way, rain starting
to speck the dirty windshield, stopped
at a diner in Farwell, Texas, walked
through the door and heard Oh, oh!
As Tony said later, It was your beard,
thought you were like Lapsinsky . . .
Phil Lapsinsky, professional communist
agitator, came by Tony’s in Seattle
earlier that year, before they moved
south to the City where Laurie was from.
Lapsinsky was full of fire, a slow blaze.
Wanted to hear Lenny Bruce on an LP,
playing it over and over. We had beer,
smoked marijuana, but Laurie didn’t.
Lapsinsky told us his story of hitching
through the South, getting a ride
after a day and a night waiting it out,
and the guy wants him to let him
take Phil then and there or he’d stop
the car and put him out. Phil said,
That’s when I knew I was in the shit
for real, something I hadn’t figured on,
taking down your pants and letting
the bastard blow you, either that
or abandon this work I needed to do . . .
At least he didn’t do you in the ass,
I said. Yeah, Phil replied, I got off
easy. He played Lenny Bruce again.
In a week I go back to Mississippi,
I’ve been doing this half my life
and I can’t get enough of people
in need, anything’s too good for fat
bastards chewing on their stogies,
both thumbs pulling suspenders
out tight and letting them snap back
so their toothless buddies can holler
with glee. This country will change
by God, one way or another . . .
I asked him if he’d met King. Sure,
he doesn’t stand on formalities,
I may be a commie but he loves
every goddam body and wants you
to try to do the same . . . if I can.

(4 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Going Back

That would be your chickenshit way, wouldn’t it, gringo?
Never happy with your good luck,
slide back to where you were
before this began . . .

Johnny Flowers was at home when Irish Cathleen called.
He didn’t say a word about Judy.
She was his business,
he told himself . . .

That’s the outer life for you. You can’t believe your luck,
you let it go and away you wander
to your busy mirror,

Now there’s a backboned remark for you, fuck up! Take
care you don’t believe what you say
or your age will tell you
to give up and go

where you know you should not be and there’s trouble . . .
Hubbard would come along, fuck up
your head like always and
the loathing is mutual

:Poor bastard, got his dope farm in Nebraska, or did have
and taking care of this woman
with peacocks in her yard
and her own life . . .

She says she paints on the back porch, you know the place,
she said, where you waded
the river to see me
taking the sun . . .

Cathleen says she will bring his car out to him if he wants
and they can have fun
the way lovers do:
in love with life

(3 May 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander