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