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:
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
Woman you walk the rocks
Across the swollen river’s
And talk to me of children
I shall never spawn now
Nor will I submit to the arts
Lechery or opium
For I have no time
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
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