They told me where she was, I went there to see her.
She had the proverbial pennies on her eyes.
I thought more than said: Mother, I thought you were gone.
Look how my skin is drenched with the brine from your skin.
I had not come for this, Lelli was here.
She once taught me to say agape "how hoppie"
Born in the Peloponnese, Athens now her home,
and here to love her old friend Roberto
but not to marry, she said, I was married once,
Eleni Rallis, years older now, had the smile
that went with her gritty voice and her creamy skin,
stripped to fuck, she would say, and how naughty I am
to be a poet’s wench when my husband’s asleep . . .
So her husband married the English girl.
They produced children, they burned the air between them,
the smoke smell would be with them from now on.
You had your chance, why didn’t you give her a child?
We were too ecclesiastical to bear fruit.
Seeing my dead mother in her coffin
wrapped in seaweed, coming apart at the edges,
between the seams and where the fish were schooled,
Lelli held my hand all through the tumescent dream
that soon enough would fall to one side, spent.
I had a drink with Roberto at The Saloon.
I met the man he had hired to help him run things.
His wife was working tables. Roberto’s cancer
had metastasized to cut his life shorter than
a walk across the street. We shared another drink
with lunch at the Absinthe House. He would die
in less than a year, the doctor said, or sooner . . .
Roberto said that wasn’t all he knew:
Eleni Rallis, with her Delphic Oracle
running in her veins and through her dark eyes,
into the feel of her skin pressed against my skin,
but that was in the dream the phone call woke me from:
Leila was calling from the Bronx, she had my voice
in her head and she was trying to forget me,
it wasn’t easy, she would have to start over,
so why not now? How did you know I was down here?
Don’t you remember my mother was Sephardi . . .
(17 June 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander