Sunday, November 13, 2011

From Fort Smith

Ira said, Go to Fort Smith and see if my brothers are still around.
Adore had heard none of their names until now.
I said I might take a break from work and see what I could find.

What I found was nothing I could see, except old photos;
nothing I could hear but what one of Abe’s sons said;
nothing I could smell but the water dank in its well;
nothing I could touch but what little was still there;
nothing I could taste but the peanuts in his garden.

Ira’s need was to keep learning his horn, loving Adore
without children of their own.
They were already too old.

In Fort Smith I heard of a cigar-store Indian
standing many years next to a liquor store’s door.
The man who owned it was the only son of the father
of the woman Abe married. One brother, two sisters,
all from up around Tahlequah, but not from that town.

It was all gone now. But the words in the sidewalk
would last as long as the sidewalk.

I came back and told Ira, who said he never knew
Fort Smith could be so prosperous,
and his brother’s lineage no less.
I told him about Pearl Taylor, Abe’s wife’s mother
and everything else Abe’s son told me.

The talk returned to New Orleans.
Ira was obsessed with learning to play his horn
maybe as well as that dark legend, Buddy Bolden.

Ira knew twenty years here had been everything.
I’d heard from Abe’s son that his nephew
was living in California. Called himself Juan
but was half gringo. Ira said he would be grand uncle
to this guy. How could he be found?

Adore said she had always wanted to go west.
I said I would go with her.
I knew who they meant, I could find where he lived.

I had never been to California but Betty had gone back
and she would know where he lived.
He would be with a woman named Irish Cathleen,
to whom he had been married all his life,
it seemed. And he would be seeing Betty on the side.

Adore also wanted to go along to make sure this Juan
was the same Johnny they knew from here.
Adore was not that careful, but she was skeptical.

(13 November 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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