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