Drear fog. Edgar Poe holiday, Americans vote.
Driving to Sausalito: drop in on Betty
or Elizabeth, as she wants to be known
this many years after marriage to him.
His little Ford Falcon put puts along.
If only he could crawl inside combustion chambers
and dry out there. He may have quit drinking
but he loves his marijuana. Betty
–I mean Elizabeth–will surely have some.
In the bar, having lemon-squeezed water,
he cops a phone book from the outside booth
and brings it inside to hunt for her name.
Here she is . . .
Under the slowly revolving fan
Her lips and hovered
Until the thunder gave way
To the fiercest rain we have
Had since arriving in Mazatlan.
When at last she saw me coming
Along the wharf,
I saw her turn and follow
Her tracks back.
Comes out. He is like lightning.
I loved your slim toes and the way
The polish cracked.
You would sneer at the women
And say they had ‘too much tit
With hardly any ass at all.’
I loved your vermilion hair,
Your Cleopatra smile.
When you write letters home
Am I never mentioned?
Betty answered, said in her British/Polish way,
a brogue never heard before or again
till now: Flowers, you’re here! O come see me!
. . . Not if I have to meet your husband . . .
And climbed the hill on foot, finding the place
pronto. Her red hair shoulder length, freckles
lightly sprinkling her fleshly firmament,
O she had the power still. He would chill.
He chilled. She kissed him a very long kiss
first, and held him close to her familiar body.
. . . Where’d you say your husband is . . .
She told him again he was in the City
working the cradled up against the chin
telephone twenty stories high in the building
named for the Bank of America . . .
They remembered after Mexico the fight
on Wool Street, her brandishing the long knife
in Barker’s kitchen, his flight down the hill
to sit in the bar and try to forget.
Forget what? After Mazatlan, in Mexico City,
there were others they sought to lose themselves
in the company of. It did not work.
Their friend took Tres Estrellas de Oro
back to Los Angeles. They followed suit
after another stay in Hotel Ibero,
where they’d been living, or was it dying?
The orange- and purple-haired prostitutes
waited in an alcove off the main floor
not far from the desk where the clerk took keys
and gave them out to those who were paid up.
She loved using the bidet after love
making was made, the sheets cradling semen
she washed from her thighs first, before sitting.
They talked about none of that. He listened.
Everything she said had once commanded
his attention: sculpture, painting, photography,
travel: It was her insistence they go live in Mexico.
There the people pointed at the black beard,
red hair: ‘Maximilian! Carlota!
That was the year they met Reynolds,
Isabel because they met Manuela Roma
He wanted her to take off her clothes.
So he could see the body he once loved.
Listen to her lively foreign voice telling him
she missed him in bed. But he was afraid.
He had to go, he told her. He had things
he must do in the City, so Goodbye,
Betty–Elizabeth–and yes, I will come by
but give you more notice in advance . . .
The fog was still rolling in from Alcatraz
shut down to stay years ago. Indians
wanted their island back now that the whites
had abandoned the dark iron cages
but no, the cops broke in, pulled people out
as though punishment now meant being free . . .
He drove downtown and found a place to park.
He took Cathleen to lunch at Solomon’s.
She was happy that the guy from Paris
loved her designs and wanted to sell them
in Paris if she could have them ready
by the next season’s start. She said she would.
Norma was doing all the legwork now.
He said, I never noticed Norma’s legs . . .
Would they turn me on? Why not try them out?
Cathleen chuckled back. They kept making out
at the table, yet no one objected.
In N’Orleans, he quipped, people die
for a kiss on the lips, tongue between the teeth
plunging like an oil rig looking for gold,
people there had to have their French kisses
in public as well as private, laughter
and merriment all around any room . . .
Cathleen said, I know. Remember we loved
where we were because we were together . . .
He walked her back. She bid him adieu. Love
sparkled in the depths of her Gypsy eyes.
(6 May 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander