Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Bourbon Before "Back Home"

I had too much, too many to care for
to let time slip by like an eel.
Without the past, there’s no present,
much less future. The eel is under glass,
in water, same that pours over the dam.
I parked where I could. The day was soon gone.
At least I arrived early, before rain
clattered on the tin roof where the eel swam.
It was said to be electric, science
says so. Once I had my drawing down pat
I left, the paper clutched to my belly
and dry when I drove away. I drove home,
wherever that was, then. I remember
only the eel transfigured on paper.
There was no water. The eel haunted air
alone. I wanted to touch it and see
if I lived. Did I draw it to find out?
How much do you think your art can demand
of creatures you will never understand?

Sitting here, on Bourbon, six years before
I saw her last, I already recall
another fleeing on her naked foot
from me to Berkeley, to make a life there
fit for her ardor, small towns all too small,
only men’s bodies, bitter as moonshine,
she tires of drinking. They all want the same,
she sneered. I would go to California
someday, there she said the sun and blue sky
over the Pacific would grow as large
as what love promises that it’s not love’s
to give. It’s here I will discover her
closer than I knew an ocean could reach.

The young guy is talking to the older one
whose red hair shimmers as he tells the young
fellow behind the bar whom he’s hunting,
and begins to leave until I stop him
and ask, This Mexican . . . his name Gomez?
He calls out, Ray! Bring us another drink!
He holds out his hand: I’m John Biggs the Third.
Just call me J. C. I work on the wharf
with this Gomez. Is he the one you want?

(1 November 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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