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