Irene Castenada, with a tilde
over the "n," and Floyce Alexander.
Mexican girl and poor white Southern boy
learning to love the other to be first
in their lives, should they look back on their lives,
and Juan knew her later, he too loved her,
and she told him of the first time she loved,
long ago, with the boy who read and wrote
and with his body made enough money
to go to college in the big city.
Ten, twelve, fourteen hours of labor in fields,
orchards, canneries, warehouses, his grapes–
and when they married Cathleen watched the tape
of the woman giving fellatio
and she sighed, That’s hard work, for Cathleen knew
what Irene first did only for pleasure.
What Irene started, Cathleen completed.
It is the destiny of Seattle and other cities,
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston,
Manhattan. It is all amour fati.
Irene went to Seattle. She wanted
to marry him, but said no, I must work
in the canneries and the warehouses
for my father whose life was spent in fields
and my mother who brought me into life
before my sister died, like your brother
before you were born. I can speak English
and they can’t, and I read both languages,
the one in the house and the one from school,
and except for them I would marry you
in Seattle. I love you. I will miss
everything I know and all I don’t know
of what you are now and what you will be . . .
if only you would work with your vineyard,
our children could help us live through old age.
It was not their roots, it was the future
did them in. He was as happy to leave
as if he’d never lived there. She followed,
she stayed long enough to know this city,
she loved Seattle as long as she lived,
and she is still alive in that small town.
And Juan met her in Mexico City,
her father and mother gone. His mother
knew her. She loved Irene’s laughter, brown eyes
on fire with joy. Her long legs, lithe body,
beautiful as only the hopeful are.
She told Juan about Floyce Alexander.
The love of her life. The ruin of her.
She married, bore children, but never loved
the same way again. Juan listened and loved
her in San Angel, and in the hotels
Londres and Ibero, London and Spain
living across the street from each other
where calle Mina joins Buenavista.
Juan loved her so well he would marry her,
he told her, but for Cathleen, his first love
who would be his last, though God knew he tried
to leave her, but only she knew his heart
and what it said in the only language
time, not eternity, taught them to speak.
(6 July 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander