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