Roberto and Lilli took me out to Antoine’s.
They were living well, Roberto confessed.
He said nothing about his cancer,
nor did I ask. Lelli talked about Greece
and how New Orleans had surprised her.
She called it the ruins of the United States.
She seemed not to have aged at all,
her dark eyes were still veiled by long lashes,
as always she pranced when she walked, her step
like dancing, preparing for a partner
to put his arms around her and hold her
as once I had been privileged to do.
Roberto was her great love. He kissed her
and caressed her openly, held her close.
Eleni Rallis–that was her real name–
always talked of poetry more than things
of this world. In Rome she walked up the steps--
the Spanish steps–his name "writ on water"
over his grave where his Cockney father
kept a stable, and she loved his poems
so much she memorized, among others,
the Odes, To Autumn, those so brief they sang
"When I have fears that I may cease to be,"
and the one to Cortez when Balboa
was he who stood on the edge of the sea
seen for the first time. I remembered her
beauty easily by looking at her,
and I thought of Adore, my ageless love.
When we left Antoine’s I bid them adieu,
I would come by the saloon tomorrow
to meet the man Roberto had chosen
to take his place once his cancer killed him.
Since I’d arrived cancer had not come up.
Lelli kissed me and Roberto gave me
un fuerte abrazo. Adore was in
and held the covers while I came to bed.
We slept late and in the morning she said,
I am going to die soon, darling Juan.
I wanted to weep but held it inside.
She said she would be well taken care of
by the loas and Mr. Questionmark.
She said, I wonder, sweet man, is this our last time?
I left without knowing how she knew she would die.
I presumed she knew as old as she was
what fortunes remained in her body’s light,
hovering blue between river and lake.
She so loved this city she would die here
with happiness and gratitude etched deep
in her soft lips, all over her body
that I never wanted to stop touching,
entering her welcoming thighs, loving
with all she would take that I could give her.
Before I flew back to California,
I came around again. She was happy
I had. She said this would be our last time.
I asked how she knew. She said, I don’t know.
(21 June 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander