A little rain but not much, mostly fog.
A day to work. Get on your knees and pray.
Lelli calls from New Orleans. Robert
proposed, she said no, one marriage plenty.
Eleni Rallis never forgives you,
does she? Laughter, maybe holding back tears.
What now? Can I come visit? No, not now.
Why not? O yes, Cathleen. It’s not Cathleen,
I try to work every day and I fail
to find the words that may make me happy . . .
then call Roberto to ask him what’s what.
Says, Nothing I couldn’t see already.
He’s upbeat, he doesn’t bother to mourn,
nor has he given up. Must go to work.
Tells me he’s hired a guy to split the time.
Because of Lelli? Hell no, John, it’s me,
I have cancer. If you want, I’ll write you.
Robert always preferred to write letters.
I got to New York too late. She was dead
by her own hand, her cameras’ eyes knives.
Pills were strewn like white blood cells, everywhere.
Cops entered her dark room, white coats came next.
Prints hung from clothes pins: the Untitled book
years away from view. I heard the stories
from the Village all the way to Amherst.
There would be a book soon, all her own
via dolorosa without the scars,
she was more kind to love than to herself.
I wrote The Illusion of Happiness.
It was O’Hara gave me the title.
That was a year or so after her death.
A book from MOMA was out with her name
its title. There were the overexposed
debutantes, for whom balling was dancing.
Mostly, though, there were the damned of this world.
She was always leaving herself behind.
So of course I wanted to fuck Judy
Ewing just to know we were both alive
and the better for knowing each other,
the river below noisier for now,
rain tattooing water that turns up white
and the cry of peacocks is an image
in a poem by a late insurance
executive in Hartford who got drunk
in Sloppy Joe’s in Key West and he fought
but lost, and sailed down to Tehuantepec
where the tall beauties smiled but kept walking
toward what there was to be done in a day.
Judy didn’t know what to think. Hubbard
her last chance at respectability?
Marry him, then. No, he’s too old for me.
I made reservations for New Orleans.
This time would I also be in the plane?
What would Ira McAlexander say?
The year she made her name, surprising all
who had souls to go with the crowd’s radar,
Juan Flores was in Mexico City
planning his first journey to Havana.
She had four years left. I never made it
to Cuba. These States, as Whitman called them,
liked to pinpoint your travels, which made you
choke and weep with dry throat and burning eyes.
That was the easy year, Juan, why go home?
Tet, Prague, Tlatelolco–that was why
Diane Arbus photographed silhouettes
at twilight in a line on the far hill
protesting war no one believed would end
without providing a template for one
to follow, endlessly. Wash down the pills.
Carve with razor blade: Art’s Anathema.
(14 June 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander