Saturday, December 31, 2011

After Seattle

We were sitting in a coffee house named Dylan’s
when she walked in, her body so ample
I imagined her naked. She was from Red Bank,
New Jersey. I asked if she knew Edmund Wilson
was born there. She replied, Who? Her mother came here
for a man, Jacqui tagged along to see

We slept together from the beginning. Jacqui
asked me no questions I could not answer.
She was resolutely promiscuous,
word was. One guy said he finger-fucked her
to Sketches of Spain. Because he loved all women
he never refused any woman in

Once I was hired by the university in
Pullman, across the state of Washington
and next door to Moscow, Idaho, she moved
to Portland, Oregon, following her mother
and getting hired to be a Kelly girl.
Once a month Jacqui flew north to stay the weekend.

lay behind her, in the studio apartment
above the bar where she was plied with drink
and let herself be led upstairs by the next guy.
She said she missed the place. I said I would not miss
any place I lived where I’d been that poor.
When I married the redhead, Jacqui knew

was long ago but she needed a man.
Once she had called me Scott, herself Zelda.
Jacqui was not one to ask why, but said:
She must be quite a woman for you to marry.
By then Irene was long gone. The redhead
lay with me all night awake in a hotel in

(31 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 30, 2011

After the Burial,

which meant, according to the instructions of the deceased, no funeral was permitted,
Jim’s friends high-tail’d it to his dad’s restaurant, the only one worth a damn
in that near-worthless town, and because we were men and women by now,
we drank the rest of the afternoon and as far into the night as sobriety would allow,
the boys taking the girls into the bedrooms of Elaine’s father’s house, and doing there
what boys and girls have always done in the course of a wake, namely, fucking.

In the kitchen some guys sat at the table in the middle of the floor so everyone
who entered had to go around, one way or the other, and we told stories of Jim,
never mentioning his women, only his relentless desire to excel on the gridiron.
I told the story of how I ran down the sideline barreling into the quarterback
returning our punt, he fumbled, Jim watching calmly before reentering the game
to score the decisive touchdown, an eighty-five yard run–no, more like a piledriver . . .

You don’t know about Elaine unless you heard what came before here, how she swam
in her father’s pool naked and invited the workman to shuck his duds and come in,
and he did, and now she did the same thing after all the people left, Irene went home
after asking me if she could give me a ride, I said Sure, then once I was home I drove
back and Elaine invited me into the pool, just like Jim said she’d invited him in,
and right then and there we made whoopee, just a rich girl and poor boy doing it.

After we lay by the pool drying with dawn giving way to sunrise and the summer sun
warming our bodies, Elaine told me she really had loved Jim but he didn’t love her.
She knew about Patsy and Mary Lou and I told her about Emily now, it helped her,
she said, to know Jim could love a woman both shy and proud all in the same body.
I tried to make her understand why I loved Irene, she said she thought she knew,
then I followed her to the bedroom and slept with her after we made love again .

I don’t want to go too far and tell everything at once, but my dead are everywhere
now, they are legion as the Good Book says, and it will all get told in time, wait
around if you want. Irene and I went to mass next day and you know how that was,
how we drove to the overlook and made love and then stayed there long enough
to make love again and again, and pretty soon it was night once more, the moon
looked full like a face could fit inside, the stars glittered like little coals in the fire.

Elaine and I saw each other once more, and then she went off to study painting
in Seattle, where I happened to be by then but neither one of us knew the other
was around, which was good, we would never have accomplished what we wanted.
Irene stayed in Granger. That first year she visited more than once, riding the bus,
then I never saw her again. The city took me over. I turned archaeologist, I said
to Jacqui, the girl who was faithful from then on and until I married the redhead.

(30 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 29, 2011

For Those Who Die Too Early: Call-and-Response


How late will the season of apples be?
In winter they were thinned to grow larger
all spring, summer, and through the early fall.
Love all weather that engenders true growth,
the patience that will not harvest too soon.

Pluck apples with quick fingers, but only
while their bodies are firm, their juices sweet
to the tongue lest they be sour, left fallow
among leaves. Yet do not wait too long lest they fall
to the earth and rot. Find them where they drop
before harvest ends and winter begins.

Believe, above all, in the generous orchard,
the bounty of its trees beyond measure.
Husband charity that is also love.
Cherish her flesh whose tenderness you wived.


Where, then, do we cross into harvest time?
Are there fountains that feed paradise roots?
Do their waters fall from the sky whose clouds
welcome souls and send rain? A body’s breath
echoes what we call wind. We suckle heat
so long we dread the sun’s disappearance.

(29 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Then the dinosaurs came. Papier-mache, some said.
Cast iron and steel, of course. Who knows why
such kitsch made it to that town now called a city?
We had advanced to Troy, or was it Toppenish,
its main street of taverns like Gallup’s jails
with bodies stacked high, they said, like cordwood;
or Sunnyside, founded by Walter Granger too,
with its Memorial Gardens outside city
limits. Granger had no cemetery,
it had the Spartans, young men named Troy
bedding wild girls and six months along wedding them,
a smoldering hatred of Christians for heathens
upright citizens called Mexicans, Indians.
Trojans broke, the new born fled, no longer insane.
I left after my friend, the Spartan, was buried.
I returned first to bury my father
and later to mourn my mother’s illness,
though her Irish humor sparkled like old,
I had hoped to see Irene Castenada, love’s
mental tentacles still firm in my schoolboy’s mind,
though I meant no harm, she was married, but to whom
and where? Hector and Maria Camacho knew
no more than I. They cared for my mother
widowed in her uprooted vineyards outside town.
Hector loved my father, Maria my mother–
something between poor whites and landless emigres,
what my father and mother had learned in the South,
that light and dark skins were only a shade apart,
at least in childhood. My friend Jess Maltos was home
watching over his mother, his father buried
and because he knew no English his son
taught Spanish an hour away going and coming.
Once he picked up a hitchhiker, who pulled a gun
and ordered him into the trunk, and drove
for miles before stopping and opening the trunk,
then walking into the Rattlesnake Hills,
firing his gun once to show Jess it was loaded.
Jess had not seen Irene since she married.
Many years would pass before I found her
ten miles above Toppenish, outside Wapato,
where Jess’s father fought his gamecocks Saturdays
when we were young and thrilled by love and its contests.

(28 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yo, pobre hombre!

At the grave’s four ends were Jim’s four lovers.
Patsy taught him the art of making love,
Elaine got naked in her father’s pool,
Mary Lou took him for a ride bareback,
Irene introduced him to Emily,
pure beauty whose embrace meant everything
to him. She kissed him when he tried to speak
her father’s tongue: Yo, pobre hombre!
If he told her he loved her she would tease:
Ay! el saber no ocupa lugar . . .

Dale and I were his brothers, his sisters
were his lovers. His father and mother
brought him up in that small town, their flower
and leaf trembling with music and loud cries
of drunkenness rising from down below . . .
Saturday night like a scar in his heel.
He dreamed: Go, keep going, earn a good sleep!
His body’s power bent against the wind.
He knew he could see farther in the rain,
and when the moon was full he would sleep well.

(27 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 26, 2011

History of Youth

We all three believed in women, in luck,
and what the mind told the body to do.
We listened sometimes. But only rarely,
we were still too young to follow our hearts,
even if heart was what we had most of.
I had words, Dale farm labor, Jim football.

I also had Irene, who taught me love.
Dale had more than one woman, the lover.
Jim had one woman after the other,
though there were four he never stopped loving.
He was the star, the chosen one, the brute
on the gridiron, also in bed, I heard.

I loved only one, they loved many more.
Irene sucked my cock, fucked my cock, loved me,
she said: or I would not have learned with you
the art of pleasure
mejicanas know,
even I, who was born in this country
and will follow you anywhere you go . . .

Dale cared for his father’s farm. His women
vied for a place in his arms, this handsome
shepherd of the soil. He never told us
any of this, each woman was her own
story. He was poor, more poor than we were,
though we also labored the year around.

We both played football briefly, to please Jim
who had learned from his father that a man
was idolized if he risked his body
and the boy who was father to the man
(a way of speaking I learned much later) . . .
the boy became his father’s buried dream.

When Jim drove the car off the coast road cliff
plunging into the Pacific, drowning,
we suddenly spoke of him in past tense,
Dale recalling how Jim had saved his life
and I how much his father and mother
loved their warrior son, even more than we,

and his father choked on difficult words
like death, his mother’s tears bathing her cheeks,
the women I recognized Jim loved most
looking like sentries stationed at each end
of the open grave, and it was these four
Jim loved most who guarded his memory.

Patsy, Elaine, Mary Lou, Emily . . .
the first with a reputation for sex,
the second the banker's painter-daughter,
third, the horsewoman, the last, Esquivel
like Irene Castenada, but loved the man
Parker, Leonardo, Larson loved too,

all unlike Irene feeling free to love
the first man who took her to bed, the next
made her see new colors, the third adore
the sport, the fourth . . . Irene would know, she too
spoke espanol, now it did not matter,
the gravediggers covering the coffin,

Dale and I walking away to follow
the mystery of manhood wherever
it took us. Dale inherited the farm.
I went to live in the city. Years fled
like leaves in a billowing turbulence
that left the history of youth behind.

(26 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The First Time

He ran like butter through the line
into the backfield churning this way, that . . .
So much was invested in each motion
of head tucked, arms crossed with the ball, both legs
propelling the way forward without fail,
those who watched remember him and weep
but not I, with whom he was a brother,
yet only Dale Walker, who crashed with him
and should have died, being the passenger,
was the sole witness of such will to live
Jim shouldered his friend and stumbled the mile
to a farmhouse, its yard light coming on
to be the moon that was absent that night,
the aging couple bathing the deep wounds
before the ambulance arrived. They lived.
Dale said he would have died except for Jim.
Dale was out in time to work hop harvest,
Jim in Seattle on the seventh floor
of the hospital. I saw him through glass
and his head turned as he was walking past,
the mask that was now his new face seeming
to smile, our abrazos first and final
though how could we know the grave would open,
its stone door immovable. Then I wept
days, that day and who knows how many more
on the other side of the great mountains
I saw from the air last time I was there
after bidding both our mothers goodbye.
Jim and Dale stayed on the West Coast, I left
for the East, where we hear the first star shone.

(25 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Jim and Priscilla Dills gave birth
to one child, a son
they named Jim. He was known
as Achilles

His parents ran the restaurant
Circle Inn
on the curve out of town
that crossed the bridge

This was before the dinosaur
became the town mascot
this was before thought
when we pursued girls

in the dimly lighted dark
dancing to country
played by Hawaiian guitars
in a land of no leis

That was when football
was everything
for him and one year for me
Achilles said I was strong

like Hector, say,
concubine curled at his feet,
my wife a legend more than I
in that Troy of love

Jim liked to drive
until he slept, he should have
stopped the car
but no, we met in hospital

he with scars lining his face
from plastic surgery
and I with scars in mind
and body only

His football days over
he joined the marines
and driving north on
the coast road he crashed

and died
I went on reading
the Iliad
my war football

Jim and Priscilla came to visit
and wept
Our son would not stop
to sleep

(24 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 23, 2011


after Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s 21 Grams

And what of the dead whose bodies are lighter for the fall?
Think of the lead-up, how the legs sway, the hands grope
for an edge to cling to, the body a rebuke to gravity
which wants its power back, its old apple, . . .

And snow filters the sun, ceiling fans turn warm air down.
The dead may be alive now but know they are here
only for a respite, the parks of paradise too clogged,
the Old Man walking in his own shadow of an evening.

(23 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Alma was my mother’s grandmother and a madam.
She worked in a post office later and died in Paradise,
California. Why did she ever run a brothel?
Mama didn’t know, anymore than why her grandma
felt compelled to change her name from Alice
to Alma. My father’s mother had a love affair
with a Mexican troubadour named Manuel
(she died when their child was stillborn). That came later.
When mama’s mama met a fisherman from Alaska–
Mister Smith she liked to call him though his name was Floyd–

she left her house to a woman whose actual name was Alma
but until then had gone by the name of Alice.
Alice moved with Floyd Smith to another town, my mother said.
She worked in the burg’s post office, at the window,
sorting mail, keeping citizens happy with conversation.
My mother said her mother’s mother got bored easily
and would take time off to go see Alma. The house prospered.
It was in Missouri, on the Arkansas state line,
the post office in eastern Oklahoma. Alma asked
Alice, who called herself Allie after that, why she left

wanting her own name back. “A house needs to keep one soul
at least," Allie replied. “My name may be Spanish," Alma said,
"but it doesn't always mean what it says." "Honey,"
Allie said, “you're the real thing, what every good house needs
in a madam, and the more girls with soul the better.
Not like that guy selling his soul to the devil to learn all there is to know.
Neither girls nor madam need to be that greedy,
and even if you were Lady Faust you wouldn’t want more.
Because men sell their souls doesn’t make you
Mephistopheles. Soul here keeps the devil home."

(22 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Awaiting the Orchids

I can tell you what it’s like down here, I’m not the first,
and I will tell you in time, when the orchids bloom again,
I don’t know why I must wait so long between the flowers:
When I take his little stem and let it blossom in quick time,
he purls his breath against my nakedness and it’s his own
I fold between my folding skins, I am like a long life’s love
he could never know if I had insisted on staying home
with its reassuring silences, memories, caresses
of a body with body, mine, and who knows, it can’t matter
whose the other is, I have only the climb up, the climb down
to complete and the light that went out will come on again
as I sashay from bed to city and back to bed, but no,
I’m not home, I’m in the deeps of a city with no laws,
I can tell you its streets empty when I dare to come down here.

(21 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kali's Samsara

Once you are inside, alive in a world
of tenderness, touching what no one fears,
moving through years of samsara with wind
like a scar on your skin saying Beware,
this world is not a place that loves your kind,
but the wheel keeps turning and at the core

of stars are lips that tell galaxies, Feel
the absence that was a body brought down
to ride soul’s heaven one way to the hell
where it vanishes in ashes with bones
tumbling from the fire and sounding the knell
of bells, all you remember of women

who have been purchased by Kali the whore
of taxi dancers' all night all day clubs
each dance a dime with their kisses like crumbs
disappearing through black holes, how you wear
eternity, for even Forever
smolders, coals stir in madam Kali’s womb.

(20 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 19, 2011


When half a century ago the last poem flowed like orange crayfish backward up Little Sand Creek
and that part of Idaho was isolated from others who might see you fucking the woman you loved,
I was at the rolltop desk next to her loom in the study behind the light where white bowl and pitcher
set beside the red settee in front of the window with ivy trellising the wall above the flower garden,
mostly bougainvillea and jacaranda in the jungle we knew once in mexico where we were loving
as well but not as furiously, as relentlessly, as pleased as now, emerging with my white skin brown
as the stand of late autumn trees overhanging the water, cock wet from your pussy's tangled nest,
and we were ready to go our way, once or twice meeting again when we were no longer married.

(19 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


The abandoned barn under the enormous cloud
has a field of water to cross to get to it.
The barn has a red roof, the cloud is white,
the dirt with too much water to hold more
is a muddy plot of earth–you know the color–
surrounded fore and aft by a green field
glowing under blue sky, the barn under water.
There is no body in sight, not even a bird,
and because I am so far away it takes all
morning to imagine being there in deep snow.

* * *
–for my longtime friend Dale Jacobson,
and especially for his love Therese Masters Jacobson,
whose painting, After the Rain, inspired this

(19 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Reading Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy make
Apollo freeze and Dionysus play
gets all wrong what’s true and begs the bland lie.
Apollo’s heart moves as much as music
or song, fingers or voice, Dionysus
dragging the mind down into the body
to break its heart. No wonder Homer lives
in language plucked now by poets living
to specify how warriors die. That’s why
eight, nine centuries expired when Christ died.

Rap’s cadence turns language into music.
Maenads who once followed now lead the dance,
no more mad than their brothers. Not madness
but sanity’s in peril when war cries
whip up hurricanes to sweep a nation
into deeps no ghost survives. The mass starts
with music meant to reassure the flock
it weighs the soul that must praise St. Paul’s Christ.
The slaver blinded on the road takes slaves
to build twenty centuries of churches.

Let mad Nietzsche die without his sister
changing his work to prophesy Hitler.
Turn up the music to swallow her shrill
rant. The lost traveler under the hill
once walked the peaks debating his masters
until he sat in a cabin to tell
the story he would live after he fell
on the man with a whip beating a horse.
Syphillis ravaged Nietzsche, whose remorse
suicided him who asked why we kill.

(18 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Circular Drive

When morning came we drove to Monterey.
You called your husband to check your oven,
and after I interviewed for the job
I bought champagne and you bathed for the night
to come. I sat on the side of the tub
reading aloud what you had not yet heard
because I was north pruning Concord grapes
by day and writing these poems at night.

Your husband. There was always one of those.
Or I was with wife. The moment I said
I would teach Walden to first-year students
the interview was over. I drove back
to the motel where I read you poems.
It’s all I did then, it’s all I do now.
Over dinner at the wharf I declared
I would get a job fit for a poet.

In San Rafael you opened the oven
as I was answering the phone,
man in Manhattan saying I could have
two thousand dollars scholarship a year
if I came to Columbia to write.
I had already said no to Tucson
and when Amherst called I said I would.
What did I know? We drove to Canada.

Everything we owned was stored in the back
of the International Carry-All
that broke down somewhere in Ontario
so we stayed the night in a forest inn
and next day a car passed another and
death’s fingers brushed life gripping one shoulder
with the god-forgiving air in between.
Turned south, back to the States, to Saginaw.

What was I / there then, or / who . . . or / was I?
Where was the greenhouse when the father lived,
his only son in returning defeated
by nerves, old habit of straining the mind
to breaking when only words could save him
amid doctors and glamorous nurses
who nursed wounds the doctors advised shocking
from his system and would if he’d let them.

He was no father with a bastard son.
He ascended the iron stairs, perplexed.
Growing old, how much longer could he say
he had now he was confronted once more
with the son inside his dear father dead,
but if the poems kept coming he knew
they would stop only if God asked them to . . .
At home, his own, rain. Green out the window.

And resumed our passage east, to Walden
where beer cans and contraceptives littered
the shore of the pond, and in town a shack
by railroad tracks, a facsimile, stood
that summer it was time to return west
to seek employment where I knew the ground,
and in Sleepy Hollow cemetery
Thoreau slept, yes, he slept “the one-way sleep,”

Vivian Benz told me the Nez Perce said.
Her laughter was contagion to living.
I took claims at the window. She took them
to the capitol and brought back money
for the unemployed. By then I knew what
the poor need. Emerson’s house was too tall,
the one Hawthorne rented from him too dark.
Make me anonymous, let me shed light.

(17 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 16, 2011

What Would You Do with What You Know

The mad ones shinny down ropes from the roof,
scatter through aisles waking the audience.
Sade steps on stage to introduce the cast
milling back of and before him, curtains
wrapping women’s bodies to shield men’s eyes.
These are the throwaways decked out in rags.
Sade’s mother-in-law put him here. He debauched
her daughter and lured other women here,
holding out his arms to seize whomever.
He roams his cell in Charenton and shouts
at the man with keys passing by, and talks
with himself. The asylum inmates hear
him speak to them. He insists upon vice,
the authorities say, Why give him quarter?
Their vice he calls his voice. He is a saint
commissioned by the imagination
to do the devil’s work: Only he knows
Charlotte Corday. Jean Paul Marat. Bastille,
guillotine. Let the rabble have its way.
Sever the heads, throw the baskets away,
there’s blood enough to float a ship at sea
through the arteries, out the veins, and dock
in Pandemonium. He’s making art
in the wings, goading his players to reach
the heights he assigned to them from the start.
Priests buggering nuns and their acolytes.

A century ends, another begins.
Sade stays mad. Peter Weiss writes his play
and hires Sade to direct Corday's dagger
as it penetrates Marat in his tub.
Peter Weiss leaves Prague to die in Stockholm.
But first he keeps seeing, hearing the known
couple by instinct with what’s unknown. Mad
Artaud among the Tarahumaras
moved over the mountains crossing his mind;
Brecht survived alone the studied slaughter,
teeming inferno of dying Europe.
The twentieth century was enough,
but God damns us now with the twenty-first.
Determined innocence everywhere, fools
in their dotage fawning in blue-black gowns.
What can anyone know who knew nothing.
The torture chamber lies in the basement.
How do you think such souls came to be here.
Slavering freaks of nature no one fears.
Nor is there crime enough to go around.
Disbanded armies are hired to clear streets.
The few prosper most with the rest fearful.
Hear shrieks and screams come from the other side
of towns platted and built to hold such hell.
First to protest have been drawn and quartered.
Last to flee follow footprints through the blood.

(16 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Were You Gone and If So, Where?

The war never ends, it’s in the cells.
Mind cells mixing mud to lay down the steps
back to life. O you did? and who were they,
the pleasant ones who never raise a voice
in answer, being no questions remain.

Someone read my rights not moving their lips.
What’s that scar buried inside one eyebrow?
Do you walk with all your weight on one side?
Where were you when you went missing from here?
Why’d you go to war, you didn’t wanta . . .

Left for the woods, found shelter, an old house
with mice, a slatted floor, the walls porous.
Blankets sufficed. What of silence? All sounds
were from those native to place and season.
What war did this body bring me home from?

Who needs more? I do. I want my mind back.
I squirrel away nuts but can’t crack them
open. I wash in the creek, then lie down
to die, I mean dry. If I had a gun
with bullets I’d turn the deer into prey.

In town the vets meet. How to end the war
is all they talk about and then go drink
to stir up as much laughter as venom.
This one doesn’t care if the war goes on,
that’s why he misses meetings. He went home.

Home is the word the beloved goes to
when he’s no longer here; or her, the loved
one staying on, what’s there for her to do
but follow the decline and fall of hope
which rhymes with Rome if you can catch the fire.

Chile falls. Kissinger taking orders
from Nixon.
The Constitution gutted
today. Iraq over, Afghanistan
when? . . . Obama makes war his centerpiece,
I want to fly with you between owls' wings.

(15 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Nothing to remember what came before.
Wind against the bare arm out its window.
When I was alone I drove until I slept.
Troopers made their daily quotas with me
and my kind, supine across the front seat,
awaking hungry, sourdough, salami,
a beefstake tomato, in the rich days
of my youth. We were dark and are white now.
When I drove with a woman companion
we did not always find a bed, like now.
The miles mounting under the turning wheels.

Annette walked with me in San Francisco,
on Wool Street smuggled me into her skin
the night before she left for Mexico.
“It will be said in time,” she wrote at noon
in Li Po’s over a beer and egg rolls,
and handed me the book she’d bought for me,
How to Travel the City’s Seven Hills.

Elsewhere it was red hair on her pillow.
Wilshire, where John shot himself in the head,
his paintings accumulating unsold,
unseen. Betty with me at L.A.X.,
“The Second Coming” scrawled in cursive hand
and memorized before the plane set down.
I knew why “the best lack all conviction,
while the worst are full of a passionate
intensity.” Yeats was, in a word, right.
The shadow of those dying in the war
Hiroshima’d, Nagasaki’d in shapes
we could not see, we were blind to shadows.

Crossing the border I heard the wind say,
Stay. The incorrigible was over.
It would come again. There would be no end.
Stones over graves still etched in braille. The moon
full, sun gone south, white rainbows in the north,
a tangle of nerves in houses, the wounds
of love opening to release the blood
the leech of power loosed over the earth.

(14 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I live up here out of reach
of what passes for truth
down there. I could go down
to get my bearings
before the story returns.

Where rain walks lame
ice sleeps under snow,
birds fly home to get warm.
There old men are rare
who tell wild stories.

My love says, Go, I’ll go too,
and here we are, in transit:
I can’t say yet, I don’t know
what words need, but not about.

(13 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 12, 2011

Home Cooking

Sky looks full of snow.
Here is no hoodoo:
too far north to work
its wily way with luck.
Music offers succor
to raise the temperature
where sun’s so bright
bodies shine all night
dancing, happy now,
no need for voodoo.
Rustle up some beans
and rice, let’s sit a spell
before we lie down
to make a body wail.

(12 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ship's Log

The dash and lope and zeal and warp and woof,
scrape and trawl and . . . we were out on a lake,
I returned a fish to water and followed you
to learn by watching how to use my arms
to swim to shore and there freed our wet skins
to find what was inside the other’s, warm if wet.

Poetry’s provenance seals your body with mine.
This verse I mean. Red sky at noon, a sailor’s home.
Go throw your soft arms around a father’s shoulders
that navigated many shores to find your kiss
but he does not know I mean to take you from him
and the eternal story continues: love ends.

You have given what you knew to loving me here.
The words are restless in their briny skin and shells.
Endless task you can’t approach the way you grew up
hearing your father play guitar and fiddle while
your first heart and last place more than fingers
on two-toned keys where you sang when I would not.

After you, before you, women with red hair, eyes
Osage, exotic one, each one entwined thereby
with your men, the Viking, the suave one, the elder . . .
how we endured our youth but ah! we loved it so
what we could do with our whims and passions
in a wild circle where we were more than at first.

Rise in the morning and discover what you think.
Better than shouldering shovel or hoe or scythe.
Be glad you no longer wear your mind over skin.
At the end of my graveyard shift you were sleeping.
How good to give away the toil and take the road
where the sea churns the dark into a feast of light.

(11 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The World

Let’s go see the gentle one.
Maybe she will have fresh flowers
from her earthly garden.
She says hers flourish
in winter, all you need do is look
out the upstairs window
to see pages of the world’s book
turning slowly over,
little scarabs hooded against the snow
taking the place of summer bees.
I believe her, and you will too
if you listen long enough to know
her world inside is Egypt,
the world outside Amherst.

(10 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gypsy Scarf

In the other world this one is well known.
The story goes like this (so I am told):
Clouds open to rain, rain soaks into earth,
earth is the flesh that holds bones together.

All the stories go like this. They bore me.
I enter the street to look for trouble.
Trouble finds me, for I look everywhere.
It kills me, it defeats me, it haunts me.

It unshackles my unforgiving soul,
lifting it to the world above the clouds.
Trouble filling the soul was my first look
at death. I held close to all that I loved,

the four-footed, the winged, the bodies
within their bodies beautiful women
carried, choosing to send their fetus back
to the other world. There was one I loved,

whose seed was not mine, and when it was gone
I came to love her. How good our love was
at first, she said. Then days unlived were years,
and all because I left her home alone.

As a last resort, she showed me her kit:
needle and syringe. She told me how to fix.
I saw what her words said might happen now.
She did not implore me to stay. She left.

I smoked marijuana more than you should.
Her Lockjaw Davis, Shirley Scott Cookbook
played over and over, and then Coltrane’s
Ole! before his Live in Seattle

I found in San Diego. I observed
men age getting high, the two worlds closing
with their lives between. I refused offers
endlessly: they turned into slithering

snakes speaking: Listen to this, try this too,
one little taste, the music comes inside.
My first love lives with animals, birds. Womb
gone, she can bear no children. I find her

in California, where I live, if you
can call it life. Her gypsy scarf I kept
when she traveled south on her ten red toes . . .
I return the scarf. Trouble leaves our bed.

(9 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Miles Alive

There’s a video of Miles in his brown suede jacket tonguing his muted horn as he walks every inch of the stage. It is a study in energy. You get up to do this. You don’t know how to stay down. It must have been in Florida, the sky was clear and the sun bright, the crowd alternately hushed and letting go, the band behind him waiting for their cue and when he wanted something extra he walked back and told them with one hand making a sign that spoke clearly through the silence between sounds.

Walked all over, to the edge and around, until he could say later, I was poised on the edge of each piece of that floats out one note at a time, and all of it was there, on the lip of the bottomless air. Then all he hears is honeycomb, woman, he must taste what's between her legs. Sure, he'd like a taste of the other too, but he gorged himself on enough smack to kill him one day. He sees no need to die tomorrow. He doesn't have to buy a woman. He could swear he saw a lady with cornrows wave out there.

You don’t have time
between notes to smile,
you know her already,
she’s waiting for you.
She will stay for now.
The music is too rare.

There’s no going back.
Life can’t do tricks
like that. Your body
takes a charge from
her body, your horn
electric, how she shines.

(8 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Midway through this life"

He said, I’m beginning to see the problem. We are miscast in these roles.
She replied, It was your idea, you courted me without a letup.
He said, I couldn’t help myself. You were more beautiful than any woman should be.
She replied, I have no reason to contradict you, but you have too much confidence.
He asked, In what?
She replied, In me.

I walk it off. The cold sieves through long underwear. Bad trip for a Southern boy reared in a valley between mountains. Just couldn’t get past temptations to live in Massachusetts, northern Minnesota. He sees the day exhale, what will the night be like without the sun? Some years you can see Aurora Borealis nakedly etched against the sky and what can you do but stare? She has no time for you. The moon has closed the door, he loves his taste of rainbow, it’s all he craves, he has no need for northern lights, he knows better, Aurora is a woman and by God he could love her.

I become someone else. It’s ideal evasion. Better than labor. No need to sweat, the work is even sedentary.
So what do you think, sweet? Are your questions formed? Do you want to take the time to talk?
I don’t know, I hesitate to risk so much . . .
Who am I now? A chickadee at the bird feeder? A blue jay in the tree, waiting? The woodpecker so huge it needs a name no one knows where it came from, it sounds manufactured . . . pileated.
I was someone else. I kept seeing in my mind the way I should follow the curves going up the mountain, or was it simply the treacherous way uphill from town?
There were so many words. They all needed to be said. I couldn’t speak anything but poetry
:Not in those days. She was too sweet to stay so long. I had many opportunities. She said so.

Let it all go in the winter wind. Learn to walk on ice again.
I have no need to play this out, what I feel in a shudder with you is a body of knowledge. I call it love. I won’t guess what you would say.
The world is frozen around me. Or was. The wilderness is worse. But I hate small towns.
There were the same little turns, they never changed unless the county commission called change necessary, which it never was, there were so many other things that might have been proposed.
What’s the play? Long Day’s Journey into Night? Krapp’s Last Tape? The Homecoming?
I’ll write my own, he said. And I will write mine, she replied.

(7 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Obama at Osawatomie Kansas High School
A hundred years ago Theodore Roosevelt

The television cable costs so much per month
you can’t afford what rabbit ears don’t reach

In winter you can’t fish if the weather won’t let
you drive to Ottawa to see the Braves play

basketball. Now you don’t know what to do
with your newfound leisure but you worry

Obama says tax the rich but will never say
you should have made money beget money

Now you can’t find work nor will your children
Robber Barons are back more than before

The television tells people what they must think
you could see for yourself before despair

Every time he launches his words a little fear
must dry his lips being out where Kennedy was

Not in Kansas but in another place haters
took law to become beasts and murdered him

What will it be in fifty years
What happened the last fifty

Obama’s skin is black because his father’s was
His mother’s white skin from Wichita

Imagine the love and hatred that circulate
like oil to feed the fire the desperate require

Don’t imagine but find out what is true
at the end of the line that leads where here

is. This could be home. Its endless distances
and the dreams and the nightmares between.

(6 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bear Life

Bear sleeps in his haunt as long as bear can.
If not snow it’s thunder, lightning, and rain
keeps him there, it’s the dam bear draws him out
to run the gamut.

Not another bear
wears her fur the way he does in his love fevers.
The old man fucks the old woman, he fucks
until he sleeps with his head on her haunch.

In the hollow log, the house the bear haunts,
he turns when light illuminates his hair,
and who should be waiting where the door
would be? He thinks

this forest is his
to run and roll and paw the trunks of trees
for scratching post. Here she is young again
and he is young with her out of the rain.

Envoi: Go, bear, stay free, be all you want
once winter gives way to spring and the year
takes root. Before the fall there is summer.
Roam as is your wont.

(5 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Afterworld

Splice this world with limbo to see the strong
suffer the will of those they called the weak.

This is where you turn and find Dante was
right. Half right at least. Here are demons
whose bed of ice is as far from hot springs
as you are from poverty in your dreams.

If you want to get a few things straight, ask:
Why can’t I believe only Eve was wrong?

There’s no one here who answers to that name.
There was only one Eve and one Adam,
though many facsimiles . Nothing grows
in the afterworld; of course nothing dies.

Weightless? How can you remember the earth
where the world is on the same plane with sky . . .

(4 December 2011 / II)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Begin again, dreamer, listen to life
around you and fit it to what you see.
You thought you would be bodiless, but why?
There are limits to the eternal life.

Where are the very old, the very young?
Do you know now, at last, Dante was wrong?
Here the mountains are level with the plains,
only where you climbed you now descend

but not on a road winding down and up.
There is no hell or heaven, nor a leap
of, say, faith, no, it is too late for this
tomfoolery of confessional bliss.

And what of the great ones? Do they suffer
or prosper? And why are they not great here?

(4 December 2011 / I)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Great Ones

The great ones wave goodbye but no one smiles.
And their boat labors over the rapids.
The doors that open are too far away.
They will close once the boat reaches the sea.

The afterlife is a house without walls.
The house has no windows but there are shades.
The shades rise and fall with the folding waves.
The boat nears the shore and enters the bay.

The great ones were here but they left today.
Where they are now they must be shown the way.

(3 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 2, 2011

Words Well Worn

Each of us dies a little each day
and at night in the act of love.
Such worn remarks are true,
and wind here is more than cold.
When snow becomes a blizzard
in a whiteout on the Great Plains,
find a shoulder to stop the car,
get out the emergency cache
before the trunk freezes shut.
It will take a while to wait it out,
for the full darkness to return
so you can see where you were
going, and finally you get there.
With luck your beloved is home.
Happiness is a word that’s worn.

(2 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Ship Now

To whom do I go, to whom do I owe
this new life? This woman who is my wife
has kept me aloft until I can thrive
doing what I could not do until now
without breaking this hip that holds me up
though it be the hull of my only ship,
white glow in the dark ocean of X-ray
hammered into the bone with two long screws,
I but one of two or three in a day
this surgeon opens, empties, fills, closes,
and after the foaming christening blow
that helps lift the spirit to sail the waves
stormy or calm, only the ocean knows
the bones that guide my ship with their bright glow.

(1 December 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander