Juan hears from Lelli. Roberto is going to have to quit.
November is a good time to go, Juan decides to drive.
He doesn’t even say goodbye. He writes Cathleen a note:
I’m coming back once I have The Saloon taken care of.
You know how I loved Roberto like a brother (Robert,
my brother’s name; all who die so very young are immortal
even as their mothers still carry them wrapped in blankets
and held next to the warmest heart they will ever know . . .
you know, Cathleen, how I loved him, though gone when I was born.)
The Ford Falcon, he assures her, will at least get him there.
A sunny day with no fog or hint of rain when he leaves,
in the back of his mind he knows he is going to stay.
He loves California like an ex-wife. He wants to live
anew. Where else could that occur but in New Orleans?
He drives back the way he came. He stops only to sleep,
to eat, to fill up with gas. He speaks to no one he sees.
He does cut across the northern part of the Mojave,
stops in Albuquerque to find friends dead or elsewhere,
from Texas to Arkansas, looking for his brother’s grave
in Cross Cemetery at the end of the gravel road
his father walked on foot, when it was dirt, to woo his mother.
Cathleen was with him last time. There were still graves to fill.
Thorns bled their feet. The dark sky grew darker, hovered
over two mortals, All Hallows Eve, a good time to hunt
for a sign the immortal were once here and might be again.
Neither one believed such folly. Yet they held out vain hope
that cozens fear and leaves at best the slate blank to be filled
going south, through Louisiana, to New Orleans, home.
(27 July 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander