be the mask and live:
wage war, fowl on fowl.
* * *
I am still of the opinion that only two topics can be of the least interest to a serious and studious mind–sex and the dead.
Yeats, to Olivia Shakespear, 1927
Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.
Yeats, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion,” 1938
9/14–first writing since Mon., 9/5, before 9/6 surgery & out three hours on the table, Dr. Jason Carron installing a total hip arthroplasty;
2d floor, 9/6-9/12: a near-chaotic environment, groans and screams occasionally but never an answer from nurses when I inquire;
3d floor, 9/13-9/23: a hospital in itself, fourteen patients maximum, intense physical therapy daily (except Sunday), as well as “occupational” therapy, which I rename “on the job training”--taking showers, dressing and undressing, sitting on the bathroom throne . . .
There is a whale beached in his old age,
his prime: Don’t whales live longer?
If you were whale instead of looking like one
how could you agree? The diamonds in the sand
are as bright as moon rays. You’d love
gathering each one before clouds pass over.
poetry as fictional memoir
prose poetry & memory’s fiction
NOLA–"Adore: A Fiction"
SW Va.–"The Emery Wheel"
"Chameleon: The First Thirty-Three Years":
Fort Smith, 1938–1st 4 yrs.–to 12/7/41
Wichita, 1941–Boeing, war’s end, ’45
Washington state, (lower) Yakima Valley–1945-56; 1956-58
January 1960–first meet with her, one weekday night, Lake Union houseboat
1971–southern and northern California
1972, 1973–New York City
1972-1974–western Massachusetts and Boston
Thursday, Sept. 15:
Finished reading Franz Wright’s "Kindertotenwald."
(Arrived by mail 9/6 and begun 9/7.)
Back to Garcia Marquez’s "Of Love and Other Demons" (Spain, 1994; translation by Edith Grossman, 1995).
Afterward, Anne Carson’s "Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse" (1998)
& Dana Spiotta’s "Stone Arabia" (2011)–both begun, the first one a second time . . .
Karenlee brings Kate Braverman’s "Palm Latitudes" . . .
I mull over passages involving La Puta de la Luna.
Sunday, Sept. 18–
Father Craig, new to St. Philip’s parish after five years in Rome, takes my confession, anoints me with the oils of healing, and gives me communion, then tells me how a soldier–St. Ignatius Loyola–initiated the Jesuit Order after giving his soul to God . . . all this between his two masses. Father Craig going out the door asks my wife’s name and when I tell him he breaks into a glow of admiration recognizing her artistry on the church’s grand piano.
–hospital “social worker”
& Carl, “my man”
Denise says she told him the sun doesn’t set or rise with him,
and Carl replies, Your moon can’t part the clouds.
We have this:
we are here, have come this far
to lock love with our single flesh
in the door leading up to the tower;
we like to descend its rickety stairs
Time burns its fuse
until rain falls on the hemp
that snuffs time, spins it into space.
Be cautious in withholding
what you find in such space.
This night more calm than the several weeks
drowned by rain’s worry, the kind thunder
never sates, nor lightning obliterates,
for the cross-hatched brow divides itself
between line and skin and where they meet is here.
The librarian asked me home with her.
I trudged hard all the way, I was happy
to make her so. Young and curves aplenty,
she said, I’ve heard of you and read your books.
Teach me to live in a poem’s landscape.
1. "The Emery Wheel"
Scots’ indentured servitude in Northern Ireland, then passage to America
the Blue Ridge Mountains
murder of the black man in Woolwine, Va.
then west to Fort Smith: Abe, Rich, Dave / Ira south to New Orleans
2. Story bifurcates here?
Tuesday, Sept. 20, ’11
division divides more than was
already here. Apart, they thrive.
Insistence, repetitious insistence.
Love quails before the savage words
the divided let slip and split apart.
anticipating next life already,
blood flowing through the bony passages.
A souffle for me, Danish for you,
the store’s closed, why houses are homes for keeps.
If I could only learn to keep time cold . . .
Peering in Shakespeare’s brain , the tragedies
are valleys, comedies mountains, poems
the weather. Christen a ship in the sea
with your shattering words falling around
the sex of the beloved, by the loved.
They stop the heavy equipment as dark
settles its moonstruck rust over wide trails
the earth movers travel, so men get home
in time to coddle their wives, be coddled,
then strip night’s black off another morning.
The dark saints take time to find empty rooms
they inhabit with curiosity,
with the shiny gleam of three miracles,
the underground torture room full of fools
refusing to say yes, mumbling their no’s.
Of course, the signs:
Stop, Go, Wait, and on.
Now pictures, not words.
As easily one day turns dark
a body learns to read what it sees.
Do you hear the mockingbird trill
in the tall oak shading the road?
How could monsters live here,
those in white hoods and dusters?
“Someone’s not taking care of his family,”
Pap said to her, my mother so young
she put words to the mockingbird’s song,
and never missed a note, never
knew why the men wore white garb.
She found one man to call my father.
Jimmy met Nora’s adopted daughter
Joyce in the middle of the Atlantic.
She wore a toe ring and rings in each ear
jangling when she walked the ship in bare feet,
her high breasts un-bra’d, her nipples showing,
and was Jimmy hot? He told Nora all
and she led him to the bunk and shagged him
(as is said now, nearly a century later).
Joyce fucked with him when Nora was sleeping.
Joyce sure knew how to keep him up until he slept,
for Nora must have taught Joyce how to fuck
until Dublin’s clergy looked at them both
as though to say, Whores! Out of Ireland!
Jimmy was as happy as his ladies.
"THE PROMISE OF SIGHT," "THE PRISONER OF SEX"
"The Promise of Sight" by Allen Drury
I thought, looking across the dining room
without distance glasses, was, I could swear,
Norman Mailer’s "The Prisoner of Sex".
A week, then two, went by. I remembered
Mailer’s encounter with Germaine Greer
and Kate Millett, whose diatribe against
Henry Miller, D. H. Lawrence, Mailer,
Jean Genet, in "Sexual Politics"
set me back in my office chair under
florescence next to the Royal upright,
at a desk littered with work left undone,
O how many years I have concealed books
under the covers reading by flashlight
of Paris whores, female and male, and love;
the coal miner’s son become a poet,
his mother protecting him from first love,
and brave Mailer whose work set me on track.
Am I old enough at last to indulge
in the fulfillment of my own promise . . . ?
been gone so long
can’t recall the name,
. . . it’s La Bajada,
no relation to the one
along the Sea of Cortez
I’m never wrong
when I’m lame,
it’s the going up
that bring me down
across from Mazatlan
pick up your cane,
all your wives suffered
at least once,
your legs like his eyes
throw out the myth,
this world’s black & white,
the color of lies
you never have doubts
why they are composed
on her back Jocasta lay
anticipating Rousseau’s Mamma
pumped his prick until
it creamed her pussy’s walls
the way plague enters
“CAN’T FIND MY WAY HOME”
Dreaming the words from a song’s lyric
is incomparable to writing
in your sleep.
I know I woke her, naked
where she dropped off, waiting for me in bed;
but this morning talking in my sleep
I called her Betty. She put her frock on,
was sitting in the Kennedy rocker
gazing out the picture window
at the grain elevators by the road
into town, smoking, not even rocking . . .
Why did you marry me, your heart is still
full of her, asking for Betty, not me . . .
I love only you, I said, believe me.
She tried. Her migraine headaches set her back,
a week in the infirmary, wheeled out
to the car, driven home, taken to bed
to sleep beside me, naked too, my cock
hungry for her cunt, but it’s not just lust,
I loved her more than any woman
save Irish Cathleen, who one day returns
once Paula’s gone; California,
Cathleen said, is good for learning love is
the wild soul’s home, and I don’t mean with God
either, come to bed, let me suck your cock
as you tongue my clitoris. Stay. We lost
Paula sleeps hard. I rise, put on
Eric Clapton singing Steve Winwood’s song,
guitar, keyboards, voices out of the air
above the needle tracking the grooves,
“Come down off your throne
and leave your body alone,
Somebody must change . . .
I'm wasted and I can’t find my way home . . .”
More than forty years ago. I will love Paula
until I die in the arms of Irish Cathleen
in the same red seat of that rocking chair
she doesn’t know I’ve kept to trace love’s way,
though once I’m gone she will read this someday.
HOSPITAL OF THE POOR
Chihuahua City, Mexico, Thanksgiving 1983
Walls no one can see through though the wind can
enter, Maria says. She has her clothes
washing. She wants to tell me what I know
I need. Her red hair glows yellow in sun
swallowing her balcony, skin aging
like my own. I am here to read ingles
after Enrique reads the espanol
he’s made of my Nicaragua poems
I can’t help but see in dreams that waste days.
Maria he would marry but he is
already, to one who does not know why
he leaves her with the kids when they come home.
Even when he tells her he loves her not,
he takes her to our week’s worth of readings
but leaves her home nights he goes out dancing,
he can’t help it, it’s like his poetry . . .
Maria on the balcony. Her friend
was burnt so badly she would have been dead
if not for her poverty, doctor saints,
the time the poor know is never wasted
inside walls you are happy surround you
save for the pain whose language is silence
after a mind somehow meets a body
going the other way, insists it stay . . .
Maria goes inside to dress to dance,
Out here I watch el viejo wrestle
his wheelbarrow with its gas canister
to the top of the hill, never stopping.
I look until I locate the far roof
of the Hospital of the Poor. They live
if they’re lucky, do not die in the street
or among flames hungry for human skin.
Enrique picks up Maria, they go
where they danced when they were still young lovers.
I let myself imagine Managua,
she who keeps her gun under a pillow,
the counterrevolution under way
where the hospitals belong to the poor.
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander