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

1 comment:

  1. Floyce, I always leave this page satisfied that I have just read another remarkable poem. I really like the way you fold things into your theme and your resultant poetry always seems to make perfect sense.