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