Friday, August 19, 2011

Who Knows?

Stories that are true never have details
you can verify. I can’t even say for sure
if I tell what happened or if I make it up.
What am I going to do when the pages yellow
and I am bony dust in the atmosphere . . .
Who will read me knowing what I know?
Who will spurn my words for the sake of truth?
En otras palabras, who gives a damn
as long as the story coheres somehow
with its antecedents, its . . . I don’t know
what to call what comes later . . . progeny?

Cathleen called the house. Paolo answered.
He told her where I was, naturally. Paolo
knows how to say nothing but the fact itself.
So she called Adore. So this is Cathleen,
Adore remarked. What did you tell her?
Adore told me she said as little as she could.
I told Adore she would love Cathleen.
Adore said something under her breath
and we finished talking with brief praises
that are nobody’s business but our own.
See how easy it is to convince you it’s true
when it’s not?

Cathleen knew houses were not homes,
though apartments could be. She had one.
She called it The Citadel. On moonless nights
the lights of the hotel at the bottom of the hill
were beacons for her boys, her young men,
her high-rollers, her quickly aging clients.
She never wanted to talk about it anymore.
She loved San Francisco, she loved Paris.
She haunted the Louvre. Leonardo, Manet.
She talked of them as I had not known her
to talk since Santa Fe. She had a lover
in Paris,

she did not say and I did not ask. Why else
was I here rather than so near the Pacific
I felt a spray against my skin even where
only memory sufficed . . . I adore Adore,
I had already told her. You had one mother,
she said once. I chided her, Yeah, she’s dead,
coffin washed out to the Gulf and God knows
she was the best mother she could ever be
considering the hell the war put her through,
. . . We fought when we lived apart, we loved
when we shared a bed. Cathleen, I mean . . .
my wife.

I’m as far south as I ever go now. Mexico
is out. I live on what I earn off The Saloon.
Many times I wish Ray Fox were still alive,
maybe even happy for a change. His mother
left him like prey served up for whores alone.
I’ll bet you didn’t know this. You thought Ray
was a sad fact and that was all, you didn’t know
how he brought women home to meet his mother
and she prayed he would not marry. You think
Ray’s sorrow ate him alive, and you’re right.
He left me The Saloon. What did I do to have
such luck?

Pero basta! The day overflows with sun. The lake
sparkles, the river runs, so many people happy.
Who am I to doubt my own existence? I return
her call. She tells me San Francisco is like home
after Paris, though the Seine, Notre Dame–it all
beckons. She wants to take me there, why don’t
I come? No need to invite her to New Orleans,
what would she do here? Her designs went over
well, she will make the money to live there
if she can keep pace with their desire for more.
You will, I say. But now, I add, I need my satchel
full of words.

She knows why. She knew Carlos. She’s known
me all her life, more than fifty years. Some lovers
never live so long, she likes to say. She keeps me
loving her by loving herself, not like the old days
when only money did the trick. I’ll bet you think
I’m telling a story now, what others would call lies.
Do I lie? Do you? Why would I tell the gods’ truth
about the woman I love more than myself? Maybe
I should love myself more? Maybe the stars align
so we can only guess what happens when we die.
We may have souls that go straight up, but where?
Who knows?

19 August 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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