Saturday, April 30, 2011

Body Language

You let the gimp get you down, gringo.
The rules say, Keep moving and soon
the oil will flow lubricating your bones.
Your hair is leaving the House of Skull.
Your lip splits when you wear the mask
that breathes for you and makes you sleep.
You can’t feel anything even when you dream.
The air comes in and the air goes out.
The days look like they come together now.
The nights don’t know, for reasons I gave.
There’s little to say that fingers don’t say.
You could go to mass and ask God’s mercy.
Ask why he lets fat men rule the poor folk.
Ask why he lets them rule over the earth.
Ask why he doesn’t tornado their fortunes
and hurricane them into the arms of the needy.
Don’t bother asking him to prove his existence.
He’s most likely not only fat and rich but white.
Was it Moses wrote Nobody Knows the Trouble
I’ve seen?

U joints. Axle grease. Lube job. Differential check.
Put up on the hoist and looking up into the dark:
There’s the hair from the body of the dead deer
struck and run over where the lights were shining.
The heart keeps pumping but it can’t keep time
with the others. The blood flows, the brain works,
the body stands, the feet move, get used to the way
you don’t walk like the young man with black hair
and swarthy hue, the worker who worked every day
and sometimes every night you could find to pay
your way through the exacting world of humanity
that must die either sooner or later, don’t worry.
The body has nobody to blame but an errant mind.
Which any mind is if it fails to put the body first.
In the noumenal world, where mind resides, who knows
what changes there before the deathly events occur?
The well-oiled, well-tuned, high-performance machine
is all we will let live, more and more, down coming days
whose nights are dreamed and mares fight stallions
for daylight.

(30 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, April 29, 2011

Flight toward the New Life

                                                           for Maria Teresa

She loses an hour so she may live and love her life
in the closest city of her dreams, where she will work
to make the impossible come true even if it’s a world
away, where the hordes of the civilized gather to fight
the earth’s desire to live and their own need to rule

She buys a cigar just having arrived at LaGuardia
and waits for day to return to strip naked and enjoy
the baths, hands working their magic on her body’s nerves
and I would be there in dreams now that I am here,
where the sibyl of my fate predicts I will never leave

Half a year the gods of death have sought to devour
and have failed. Now the world will need an unerring magic
to survive the last black hole, the one my dreams conjure
and I have no recourse, I am asleep of course, I feel
your touch where it has never been, I come back to life

as you do, only the fingers pull from memory what’s not
yet happened . . . Prophecies go wilder than ever astray,
and everywhere the ritual of death wars with life’s death
refusing to end, and it is her name entered into the book
of survival she memorizes and goes to the country to mend

what was always there, what has always been in the cleft
between life and death, and all other signs come to nothing
now that her small, full body walks the ancient furrows
of fields given to her people to sow with the mystic seed
she has always broadcast with her fingers touching breath

(29 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, April 28, 2011


This won’t take long, said he to himself, walking home,
where home was now, he knew, as long as he wanted

and rain began falling again and came down harder now.
He stood under a tree, what he was always warned about.

Mama’s cousin–was it?–was struck dead by lightning
that way, so what was he doing standing under a tree

letting it rain–he didn’t see lightning, hear thunder so
why not look at the river just past the house and listen

to the absence of peacock cries audible in good weather
and think about Judy Ewing and this old guy Hubbard

who was at least twenty, maybe thirty years older and so
was her grandfather’s age, if she had one, and what did

Hubbard have . . . Well, Juan had Cathleen, had her all
his life . . . and every time he tried to live on his own

she was there, in his head and on the phone, emailing him,
always in love with him for reasons he could never fathom.

. . . and he with her, he could not shake free of his mindset
and never wanted to, look how fine a woman she appeared

and knew she was inside out as well, no, he’s no less in love
with Cathleen now than when they met, alone on his houseboat

on Lake Union, Seattle, the year JFK was running for president
and they tried to live together a little later and JFK was shot

when she fled to Berkeley . . . he took Betty for wife, then Paula,
then Cathleen, then Manuela Roma, then Cathleen again,

only to part and return to Cathleen again and again and again,
though she insisted more than he they were "split-aparts"

never again splittable-apart now that she knew no matter what
might send them asunder over the distances and into the years

where now the rain let up and died before he was walking
away from the tree already having told himself, Basta!

(28 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rainy Afternoon at Ms. Ewing's

She said he was the first man since Frank left
for Mexico to bring back weed and was caught
and in jail down there–first man she’d seen
took her another place, even though she stayed
with the peacocks fanning out their plumage
in her dirt yard and painted with her little son
and two daughters in the back porch sunlight
next to Bonne Chance! River, which he waded
partly dressed one day to suddenly appear there
with his swarthy skin and black hair bearding,
What was he? she wondered, repeating a hello
startled out of her, he’d said he’d come by here
and here he was. She hoped he would stay . . .
How many years ago? Dios mio, too many
to remember. Now he was walking in the rain
fanning his jacket up over his head to stay dry,
even so got wet, was glad to knock on her door.
He knew she was home, her pickup in the yard.
He knocked again. Judy came to the door, eyes
lighting up with his: they were going back . . .
He caught himself, she said Come in. He did.
He sat. She talked. He answered. Her son gone,
a painter like his mother only he was painting,
living in Brooklyn. Her two daughters married
to wild men whose wild hairs kept them happy
as long as they stayed home and under the sheets,
she said. She was the real California, Judy was.
Where was Frank? She didn’t know. He wrote
when they let him out, and must be dealing dope
–damn him! too daredevil not to, shoulda learned
but no, Frank never learned, but sure could love
. . . and who was the man in her life now? You,
she teased. Hubbard’s name came up. Was he
visiting from Nebraska when his crop came in?
Like the old days . . . Juan waiting outside and
Hubbard quipping, Get in line, she takes forever.
No, she said. He’s here. Why do you think I stay?
I was going to Oregon, remember? Twenty years
are long ago and far away, I don’t do what I did
back there. I stopped smoking weed, drinking
anything but coffee and tea. Can I offer you tea?
They had camomile and he told her why he was
living here. She wanted to read what he wrote.
She always did. He even wrote in her presence
and read it aloud as he was satisfied with it . . .
She laughed about him writing on her body
as she sat on the rock dipping her toes in water
and wishing he would let her try loving him,
but he never did, nor did she say she desired
to have him open her flower and look around
slowly satisfying his curiosity which she’d feel
like a stamen with a pistil. So they were friends
only, their bodies still strange to one another.
Senor Flores, she said, kissing him, I want
what I can’t have: wanted it then, it’s too late,
I’m an old lady now and you and your beauty
are happy, why would we want to fuck, still?
Maybe it’s better with age, he quipped, with
one you missed the first time around, say . . .
He drank his tea, she offered him another
and he wanted to kiss her, caress her skin,
but no, she said, No, not now, maybe never.

(27 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Of Once Being Down and Out in Marin

The change in weather slaked his thirst, rain falling daily.
He could think of long ago here, in his late youth,
down and out in Marin, he would say and laugh
in those days, watching the band of men shoot up
in the tool shed, listening to Jim Gronzeski
tell him how to panhandle, Juan walking away
saying: Like the lady in Seattle told me,
Hold your own damn pan! Some girls in Fairfax
eating natural food thought he was a good-luck charm,
and sent one among them, beautiful as ever
even in her rimless glasses, and in the front seat
asked if he would take her to his bed . . . How could he?
a cot with bedroll wide enough for one only
beside the dry creek in back of the house . . .
No sleep inside since leaving that long ago town.
She said she wanted him in the car, and so
the love life went. Was it life? What was it now?
Cathleen let him have the house, driving the Morgan
back to the city white when the sun shone . . .
Now he was thinking of Adore again, and would have
hitched to the airport to catch a plane for New Orleans,
but he was too old now. Though not too old to see
Judy Ewing, who lived across the road and down a piece
by the river flowing out of Bonne Chance! she was naked
in the water, sitting on a boulder with him
when he asked her for something to write with
and without asking why, got him her lipstick
and with it he wrote across her breasts and around
her nipples, her chestnut-colored body lean
with children and marijuana on her breath
and his, "This is for Judy Ewing’s body"
and continued to her navel, "from Johnny Flowers
whose hunger stops here and thirst begins"
going down her thighs, writing around her vulva
and with a kiss she stopped him from going on.
And she let him carry her to the soft grass. Yes,
Juan Flores ne Johnny Flowers would go
through the rain today to call on Miss Judy Ewing.
But first was the work he had come here to do.
When his hand had emptied his mind he’d go . . .

(26 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, April 25, 2011

Some Fate

There is no end to what goes on, as this does until there’s no more left.
Writing was not what Juan was meant to do, his mother said
more than once. That was what Carlos did, he was the anointed,
so much so he walked off one day and was never seen again,
only the pages left behind in the van parked near the edge
of Chesterfield gorge. And Paolo? He was meant to do nothing
his mother said, but what he does from day to day . . . like you,
she said to Juan. And so Juan stayed in the upstairs room, writing.

(24 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In Lagunitas

Forest Knolls Lodge, up the road from Cathleen’s house
in Lagunitas, was a bar run by a husband and wife,
Tony and Laurie, with whom I had been great friends
when I lived in the Bay Area before and roamed
the countryside as well as the city, perfect environment
for one unable to choose between them. Why else
would I need to escape from New Orleans from time
to time, drive upriver or wander to the bayous . . .

Now that I was living in Marin again, and in a house now!
I swam in Bonne Chance! along with the young ones
who went naked, so I felt free to follow suit, and did.
Cathleen came out when I drove across the Golden Gate
to get her, and I can tell you there was much to be done
in too little time . . . The Lodge was fine for eating
sandwiches, but a general store with a kitchen was best,
just a mile farther down the road where we ate steaks.

Mostly though I was alone, and went back to Adore’s
story. All that you’ve read about her to this point
was what she told me, or what we lived, set where
and as it had been lived. Yet something was missing:
it didn’t matter I was part of her life . . . what counted
was how she got to be the woman my grand uncle married.
As had been my wont much of my life, I kept to the house
and wrote. And what I wrote was what I could not know.

(24 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Adore in Her Absence

I knew I was going to miss her. Her fine way of giving and taking,
her needs and mine, what did it matter once one of us was dead . . .
Nobody believed in the afterlife anymore, if they ever had.
But Adore believed in something more than this world.
Maybe that was what I would miss most, her loas.
She said, Johnny, they’re yours now, I brought them to you
and you took them on, and Mister Questionmark was there
to make sure you knew what you had asked for,
what you were saddled with now that they could ride you
for a reason. That made her laugh. Reason! Reason? What reason
could lead any man or woman to the other world to stay? . . .
That was the price, she said, you were never free to do what they,
the loas, would object to . . . and they knew, they were like God
for the Christians, only they did what only a priest verified,
was trained to do. When I dream now I know where I am:
No more surreal awakenings–what was I doing there, how did
it go, why does the plot always disappear when it never was there
at all . . . Adore said, I wear my hair short, I don’t paint my nails,
there’s no one else to please, I want what I have to be more
and it will be if I let it alone. If I give myself my self . . .

I wanted to be there, New Orleans, and here, San Francisco,
both places, now . . . She had twenty years on me, on Cathleen,
and the rest of my soul’s memory, what of all that now that life
was where you were and not where you thought you’d like to be . . .
You want to live fully, now that you’re getting closer to dying.

Cathleen was there, waiting. The flight arrived on time.
In the old days we would have rushed to have a drink, doing
what happened to strike our fancy on the way there and after . . .
She said, I want a cat, I said Sure, but where will the cat live?
She said, You can have a dog and live in Lagunitas,
I’ll stay on California Street and keep my cat happy.
Pussy or tom? I asked. She laughed. It doesn’t matter, honey,
as long as he or she sleeps with me and expects nothing else.
And what about me? said I. You can fuck me for a change,
said she–the perfect note with which to welcome me home.

(23 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Ropes

Robert knew the ropes. I called him Roberto
and the name would come in handy now.
He saw the place and loved it, small enough
for one person to do everything, and time
to carouse in the Quarter if he cared to.
We would do seventy-thirty so I could stay
financially secure enough and he would have
the bread to pay all his overhead. He got
a place in the Quarter, near Rocky’s. They
–Rocky and Belle–liked Bob instantly,
as most people do. I went to see Adore.

She was there with Mister Questionmark,
who left when I arrived. He was like a will
o’ the wisp. I wondered if he was a warlock.
Why ask? Adore welcomed me in and put
me where I had hoped I would be, between
this life and the next. When I was a kid,
we used ropes to hobble the horses as well
as fashion a bridle without a bit or reins
save the rope itself. You could hold a horse
in check or lead it gently around the corral.
Adore’s body was a rope, not only svelte
but rippling to the touch and she touched
every part of me. I told I had missed her
and would miss her now, she should have
let me be. She said she didn’t have long,
and time was to be filled with all the pleasure
she could find. With Mister Questionmark
it was more work than she liked fucking to be.

I went to Madame Peggy’s, saw Paolo
and his squeeze Georgia, assured Peggy
I would find her friend Sally Stanford’s
Valhalla and give her "your regards."
Betsy, I was informed, lived in Atlanta
now. I was happy to hear that she was
happy. After one night staying with Adore
I caught the plane back to San Francisco.
No need to tell Bob–I mean Roberto–
what to do. He knew more than I how
to run a bar. Much of the way back I slept.

(22 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, April 21, 2011


And the same shit begins again:
What to do about The Saloon . . .
He will approach it like a man,
as they say, those arbiters of manhood:
Men fight, women fuck, men make money,
          women stay home;
unlike women, men let nothing bother them.

When he picked up Cathleen, they went
to Solomon’s. Juan loved a hot pastrami
sandwich and a bowl of onion soup.
Cathleen let him order for her.
They had the same. Next time
          she would order
and he would have the same . . .

They were walking past the Geary Hotel
when it hit him: he would see Roberto:
he knew about running a business,
liked to mix drinks, was as amiable
as anyone Juan knew in Marin . . .
They drove to his two-story house
          in Mill Valley.

Roberto, an orphan, adopted by the couple
who owned Geary Street’s original hotel,
grew up around drinking, nightly poker games,
          observing closely
and learning the way of the world,
and when he reached his majority
inherited the money he lived on now.

Because he was bored, fighting with Maureen,
trying to lose himself in the etchings
he was famous locally for,
Juan’s offer not only appealed to him,
he wanted to know when he could start . . .
I could live in New Orleans as happily
          as in Athens,

Roberto declared, having loved Greece
because he loved the lovely Lelli Rallis,
who had gone home to live in her birthplace,
          the Peloponnese,
after coming to the States, married.
He went to Athens every year
and she came to the city to be with him.

Lelli Rallis was a small dark beauty,
Maureen was blonde and more Bob’s size.
Lelli loved Bob and said so, said she would
          never remarry
unless with Bob, who did not marry Maureen
because Maureen had been married once
and it was hard for her to live with him.

Juan said, Maybe Lelli would like New Orleans.
Bob said, That’s a wonderful possibility,
          I’ll ask her.
Juan said they would fly there tomorrow
and Cathleen could come along. She said
she had to stay to see a buyer from Paris
eager to see designs she had made for him.

Juan would make the reservations and call
Roberto. They drove to Lagunitas and made love,
then Juan made the reservations for two,
called Roberto, and after making love again
          slept fitfully in the bed
in the front room until Cathleen soothed him,
doing with her tongue what no words convey.

(21 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Horses in the Hills

She’s heard the story before. He told the story
before but he didn’t recall telling her.
She was in Springfield dancing nightly,
teaching with the nuns during the day.
He made it impossible for her to stay
in Amherst. She didn’t like to drive anyway
the hour south after scraping the windows
with what always seemed the first light of day,
twenty to thirty below. She rented a room,
did the town with her friend Barbara Wrega
from Holyoke, Taught Russian novel and culture
to high school kids on their way to college.
He kept on drinking and writing, the writing
kept coming out but not great, he thought it
would if he kept at it, even drinking.
Then one night he saw inside himself the flaw.
He had been looking for someone, something
when he found the church at midnight mass.
He stood between the door from outside
and the one within. The usher said, Please sit.
He said No thank you, stayed to hear words
he had wanted to avoid, but here he was.
It was the story of the man from Samaria
finding a man assaulted by thieves
and left in a ditch to die. His people
were hated by the Samaritan’s people.
But he brought the wounded man back to life,
taking him to a hospital where, Juan assumed,
the man recovered. Irish Cathleen knew the story
better than he could remember the Bible.
He wandered home, expecting to be mugged
all the way. Who would rescue him? he wondered.
In the house he was on the couch, about to sleep
when the horses broke free and ran, and ran,
and ran, he was holding tight to the mane,
he somehow kept his balance on its back,
never even trying to ride like this before
when he was a boy in Horse Heaven Hills
with Thompson , whose father, the chief, knew all
the tricks in catching the wild ones. They ran
their horses after the mustangs fleeing
to keep free. Like the ones inside him wanted
to be, and they keep going until they could go
no more. He heaved and his heart was pounding
with the hooves still there, or so it felt.
They were doing their little dance in circles
to find a place to put their hooves and stop.
Juan had never felt anything like this
and though it would take many years to know
his heart’s limits, it was only after Carlos
walked into some void inside that canyon
where he was never found . . . not until then
did Juan begin to find a way to stop drinking.
He was driving with Paolo and Tricia
down the Northampton street at closing time,
realized he was going the wrong way
to get to Amherst and did a U-turn
crashing into the car in the left lane
and spent the night sleeping in the drunk tank,
next morning in court before the judge
who let the man named Nagle take him out
and tell him if he wanted to drink
that was Juan’s business but Nagle could help
him quit, he’d have to show up at meetings
on Saturdays in the basement downstairs
but he could pay his fine and stay out of jail,
and Juan agreed, pleaded Nolo contendere,
the judge laughing, saying, Ah, the Spiro
Agnew plea! Nixon’s vice president busted
for taking bribes and Nixon himself about
to fall. The day after the bastard resigned,
Irish Cathleen had a new van and drove
Juan home, with Nagle’s okay. Did that mean
Juan was a reformed alcoholic now?
Why not? . . . until the next time. Finally,
he understood what the priest was saying
that had the horses bolting through his body
and clenching his fists as tight as he could
until it was over, and he still breathed.
She was his Samaritan there, where he lay
in the New England countryside dying.

He let her off at her boutique on Geary
and drove to California Street, called
Rocky, who said he was sorry but Belle
wanted him to quit one job or the other.
Someone else would have to run The Saloon.
Juan wanted to get angry, and he was
somewhere down deep, where the horses
were waiting: He did not want them to bolt.

(20 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dear Heart,

You pump so many times the little pill
dissolves what gathers in the well. It sends
the red river flowing around the world
circuit we each call the only body.

Dear heart, you lie beside me as I sleep,
kissing my eyelids to keep me sleeping.
Your olive skin ripples under my touch
when remarkable days end and begin.

Juan woke. Cathleen was walking in the woods.
Her two cats were pacing. She came back in
to drink a glass of water . She gave him
reason to run after her in the sun.

He lay with her on the denuded earth.
You can guess, dear reader, what happened next.
No need to bore you with the obvious.
After they finish they drive into town.

Juan happens to be reading The First Third
with its cover photo of Cassidy
and Kerouac. Guy comes over and asks,
Did you know them? Juan dresses casually

when he drives around with Cathleen, Irish
–Black, that is–aborning with the sun high
noon side and a scape of nets awaiting
cargo swarming with silvertail singing . . .

Juan says no, the guy apologizes,
Cathleen adds her own, No, how could he know
them, he’s too busy going wild at home . . .
and Juan goes on reading until they leave.

Dear heart, you go with me to the city
where your pulse races the little pills down
the bounding avenues and up the hills
we must climb, you and I, with vigilance.

You take your time to the top and chorus
with blood’s thrum setting the beat of your breath
against the blue glinting, filling both eyes
she looks inside when you gaze into hers.

Somewhere down there is the outpost of dreams.
Long before the horses ran through your veins
you found succor in these streets, no corrals,
box canyons . . . until the country back east . . .

(19 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sitting on Top of (the End of) the World

Bolinas was a town a big wave would drown
when San Andreas split everything open.
The Coast Range would fall into the sea.
The nuclear plants would take care of the rest.
Sitting on a fault line was for the living.
Fleeing somewhere else was a fear of dying.
And if that were your story you weren’t alive
anyway and might as well fall through the cracks.

The night after his childhood friend Mary Lou
found him in Vesuvio’s and fucked him good,
he left her house and walked across the Gate,
then caught a ride into Fairfax, then one
all the way here, where he got directions
to Creeley’s house. Trudging uphill he found
the poet sitting on his front step, with coffee,
and poured Juan a cup after learning he knew
the kid’s work from one of the magazines
where they both had published. It was Olson
Juan wanted to hear Creeley tell him about.
The big guy had died the year before
in Gloucester. He and Creeley were great friends.
There were multiple volumes of correspondence,
but they would be published later. For now
Creeley told him how Olson taught him prose,
where the one-eyed poet’s fiction was born.
The Island, The Gold Diggers, Juan had read
Creeley’s prose and asked to know how poetry
became sentences reading across the page.
Like anything else, you had to practice.
Like anything else, you had to concentrate.
Like anything else, you couldn’t give up,
not even when you thought you’d cracked the code.

When Bobbie and her mother arrived back home,
Bob said he had to go grocery shopping
and thanked Juan for asking him about Charles.
Juan walked down the hill and caught a ride
with a guy going all the way to where
Juan lived then, sleeping in his bedroll
on a foldout cot set up on the banks
of a dry river ditch behind the house
where the Gardners lived with their many children.
This guy was driving into town for methadone.
He needed it, like any junkie kicking.
Every Saturday he came to San Rafael.
He said he was amazed he could wait so long.
Juan said he didn’t know but had friends who did,
and made a note to ask the boys in the tool shed
across the dirt driveway from the big house
about what it was like to end a habit.
Was it like the earth moving suddenly
was still? Nobody talked about the big one–
hit or quake–they went on living, not dying.

He went back to see Mary Lou the next day.
He wanted to ask her about earthquake
country: Do you fret about the end of life?
Why should I? she laughed, if it happens,
it happens. I won’t be around much longer
to gnash my teeth. She said she’d rather fuck
herself to death, and he agreed, that was far
better. So they tried to die all afternoon.
Then they talked about her horses back home,
her brother Gordon, whom the townspeople
believed took Mary Lou’s virginity.
They didn’t talk about that. They had old times
enough to muse upon. That was years ago
when he was alone in San Francisco.

He saw people were living in the house
and drove the Morgan taking all the curves
beyond Bolinas with the same brio
he had always known and would always feel
with a good woman or a well-tuned car.
You should enjoy life and get your work done.

Norma was gone. Cathleen wanted to eat
in San Rafael and let him drive the Morgan.
She dressed in a black sheath with gold earrings
hanging to her olive shoulders. He plucked
her kiss out of the air when she turned her head
to say something she could not say until
they were inside and she was drinking champagne
and he was telling her his adventures
and when her steak arrived she marveled
how it tasted, so good she had to listen
to what Rocky said about The Saloon,
how the deer seemed fearless on Tamalpais,
where he’d found the scene changed in Bolinas,
why nobody talked about the end of the world . . .
whereupon she replied with her mouth full
she and Norma had been talking about that
just this afternoon, after he left.
He ate his well-done hamburger and listened.
Cathleen said Norma thought it was all bull.
How did it help talking? Why not love life?
They went dancing, like the old days in Seattle.
Nothing she loved more unless it was nature.
It was her nature to love men and animals.
She wanted him to take her to see the deer.
Tomorrow, he said. Let’s dance ourselves to death
tonight. They danced until closing time.
Neither one of them needed to drink.
They had it all saved up over the years
apart. In Lagunitas they stripped by the pool
of water called Bonne Chance! a pond
hippies named when only they came here
to smoke dope and swim and do whatever else
they enjoyed. Cathleen liked to take his breath away
in moonlight, but he caught her halfway across
and swam with her to the other side.

(18 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, April 17, 2011


There’s a certain way she looks at you
that embodies everything she makes beautiful
by reflection. She doesn’t see it, or does
she? I can’t tell her what I see. She becomes
more than beautiful, as though her face
contains all her body shimmering upward.

Norma, her accomplice in the boutique,
dropped in next day. The sight of her was love
in waiting. Cathleen was love eternal, you see
what I mean, reader, how sentimental I am.
Or am I a fool for love, like Guillermo said
who observed I could not let Cathleen alone.

Norma brought Cathleen up to date, accounts
receivable, accounts paid. Summertime boom
was on. Tourists up and down Geary Street,
in and out, already dressed New York nines,
loaded to buy that casual San Francisco look.
All Norma’s news is good. Cathleen shines.

She said I could drive the Morgan, keep it up
and running, park my car in the underground
garage and go anywhere you want. I drove
to California Street. As long as I was there,
I thought to call Rocky, see how The Saloon
was. Roosevelt was going back to Arkansas.

When he does, can you see your way clear
to taking over, or should I look for a buyer?
Rocky said he would have to check with Belle.
She liked his hours the way he worked now.
Would he have let me know before leaving?
Sure, Rocky said. I just put off calling . . .

I started the Morgan. It coughed and purred.
Such pleasure to drive a stick shift again!
I crossed the Gate, to the top of Tamalpais.
The deer refused to flee. Was it good omen?
I thought of Adore, young Jason, Questionmark,
loas I left there . . . or were they sleeping here?

I went for a long walk, at the top looked down
at Sausalito, Marin, the Pacific I always loved.
Those years in Massachusetts and the Atlantic
in its white slate dress never compensated for
this rippling blue following the flowing curves
of shores, a woman wanting to make love . . .

if not with you, then some man, had tried women
and no dice, she said, she needed that hard cock
inside her, flesh not rubber, a man’s hot breath
. . . Why worry about sweet man Roosevelt,
he just wants what’s good for his children . . .
Why worry Rocky? Belle will come around.

I drove back, through Lagunitas, wanting
to see Bolinas, went out to Point Reyes,
walked down to the shore’s edge, felt ocean spray
my face. In Bolinas, a new hangout:
The girls are pretty, the men boisterous.
You can’t worry when you live in California.

(17 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Her House at Lagunitas

It is small. The birds sing. A ring of trees shades the house.
There is nothing alive that will stop this from happening.
The big bed in the front room. She says a man put it there.
Upstairs, a room barely large enough to sleep and write.
When the first phase of our fucking is over, we lie still
and talk of the time we have been apart. Apart is her word.
I say split up. She likes that: Split aparts like Plato said.
My cock splits her cunt where the vagina beckons. We fuck
any chance the weather might change, rain begin to fall.
I am enormously happy. She says she is too. I ask why.
The sun stays around the house where the trees bar its way.
She says I can live in the place on California Street
when the rains come in September. The bedroom is private.
The kitchen larger. A room off to one side you can write in.
I remind her I already know, I lived there a while . . .
She has nothing to say to that. My eyes feast on her beauty.
I know, reader, you think this is abominably sentimental.
And it is. Her black hair. Her dark brown eyes. Her olive skin.
The mascara’d eyes even in summer and nowhere to go
she does not want to find on the way. The red painted nails.
She wears little here. Goes naked much of the day and all night
likes to fuck with me, and I with her, until we sleep
at the same time. I wake before her, go upstairs, write this.

(16 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, April 15, 2011


It was the year when
"The wind from off the sea says nothing new."
Juan was drinking Paisano,
having passed by the bookshop with
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
in its window, and next door buying
with the bottle The New Yorker
because his teacher, Roethke,
has a poem, "The Marrow" in its pages.
It was the first poem by him Juan allowed
himself to read. The Paisano gone,
he fell asleep on the sand.
What were you doing?
Jim Wall asked him later–
trying to die at Carmel-by-the-Sea?

In the bar the sunburn smarts.
The girl entering through the dutch doors,
letting them swing behind her,
nearly hitting her escort following,
acts a little tipsy but she’s ready
to dance without her sandals.
Juan wonders aloud if she knows
The Barefoot Contessa . . .
but Wall is missing Marge,
her rowdy fucking, moaning like a cat
in heat, screaming, he says,
like my cock was a tom’s . . .
She even does "street jobs,"
when they need money.
His trust fund is never enough.

Juan’s first book of poems,
written his first week back in Seattle,
he calls "The Gate" but it’s not gold.
So many poems, so many pages
and nothing there worth working over.
"A man in himself is a city,"
and though these are California poems
Juan loves the good doctor Williams
whose Paterson is where he finds
the quote to lift . . . San Francisco
is the crux. Wall can have Monterey.
Jim took the girl back to his room.
Next morning he went out for a pack
of smokes and a fifth of whiskey
she gave him the money to buy.

Later Juan is walking the Ave
when Marge comes up,
throws her arms around him,
kisses his lips, big city Seattle people
walking by noticing, smiling.
I took such good care of Jim
he came home early, she tells me
in the all-night Koffee Korral.
She says he missed her so much
they’ve done nothing but fuck
all day every day since.
She’s happy when they have money
and she can do it with him for free.
Even so, she looks like she knows
she wants what she can’t have.

Seattle, Jim said, is my home.
I grew up on people’s doorsteps,
they had to take me in
or have it on their conscience.
When one family got rid of him,
he went to sit on another stoop
until the door opened
and he was asked, Would you like
to come in out of the rain?
He was so young to be orphaned
he was twenty-one when he learned
he had been left a trust fund
before his parents crashed
on an icy road through the Ozarks.
He bought a blue Cadillac convertible.

In a swanky apartment they lived
next to Ravenna Park, where Jim
when younger ran with a crowd
rolling fairies there for their money.
When his trust money was almost gone,
Jim told Marge he was going to be
dealing now, she could come in
off the street. Juan never saw them again–
he left Seattle. One morning on the front page
of the Seattle P-I there was Wall
with his cronies surrounded by police,
and below that photo, Marge ablaze
with anger in the city courthouse where,
the paper said, she was losing
the daughter Juan didn’t know she had.

It was then that Jim’s childhood story
came back to Juan, how people could not
refuse him lodging to appease
their own conscience. After Monterey,
Juan had asked Jim, What of the girl,
what of your own conscience?
That girl, Jim said, had Monterey,
Carmel too . . . if she wants.
She’s got money, she doesn’t need me.
And no need for Juan to remind him
he’d taken her money and skipped town . . .
what could Jim learn by now he did
not know already? The night they met,
Jim said he would show Juan Seattle . . .
his Seattle, here on the front page.

When Juan was again in Monterey,
he was with Cathleen, who wanted to see
the Peninsula with him. He was not like
her other men, she said. They were on
the wharf looking for a place to eat.
He never bored her, she insisted.
They were in love again.
It was like the first time every time
they came together . . .
Then they fought. If it was here,
he left and she stayed. Up there
she left and he stayed.
In Monterey then, they drank champagne
in the motel room. He read "The Gate"
aloud, the bubbles of her bath fizzing.

He could see all the holes, nothing
that lay fallow so long could change now.
He had taken too little time to learn
what made a poem stay alive a while.
He had read all the poets–Wilfred Owen,
Louise Bogan–Roethke said would help.
Juan wrote another book, "Identities,"
about Seattle, but it was not much better
even if he knew more about Seattle
than San Francisco or Monterey
and Carmel. Yet he still did not know
anywhere well enough to know where
he needed to be. One afternoon,
Roethke saw him waiting, and remarked:
Sometimes you have to wait half your life . . .

More than once Roethke wondered aloud
some variation of the question,
Who’s the best living American poet,
Robert Lowell or me? One night after a party
following his reading in Seattle, Lowell
and Roethke were sitting alone
and bemoaning their loneliness.
They were both a little drunk, the story went,
the booze was gone and it was quiet.
Don’t worry, Roethke broke the silence.
I’ll always be your friend, Robert.
Roethke died not long after that.
Lowell died a quarter-century later.
Now the history makers say Roethke was
overrated and Lowell not worth reading.

Juan has a theory it doesn’t matter when
you die as long as your mind stays alive
long enough to write what’s inside.
And of course the eyes must see, the ears
hear, the fingers touch, the tongue taste,
the nose smell the difference between
what’s living and what’s dead.
If he writes poems still, it’s because,
like he says, I know nothing so well,
and even this I will never know well enough.
Here he is, then, driving north
to Half Moon Bay, then through the city,
crossing into Marin, and she’s there,
opening the door, wearing nothing under
her apron. He kneels, kissing her cunt.

(15 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Here You Are

Memory is a parasite,
and forgetting even worse.
Let others take over remembering,
it is a sure way of dying
for the days to come, all your dreams
                        I write off everything.
Still, worry funnels its lines to the skin,
under both eyes, where the tears go
refusing to flow. Frozen? Sad? Grieving?
No. Nor does weather change from hot to cold.
Too many hearts are left in mind, waiting . . .

If I could walk hot sand in my bare feet,
get wet, leave Carmel, bypass Monterey . . .
And you thought this was about death or fate.
So did I, until I arrived, happy.

(14 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I always like to tell the story of
hunting with my dad and brother-in-law
in the mountains the year we wandered up
–or was it down–to May’s working brothel.
We walked in, there she was sweeping the floor,
it was too early for her clientele,
she wore coveralls, "You guys like a trick?"
She could step out of her jump suit and fuck,
don’t take hardly no time to have some fun,
she said behind the bar pouring a round
telling us while we waited the story
of this guy she had a thing for, damn near
ran off and married, but stopped at the door
to tell him, Why should I? I like it here,
I’d just have to have a house of my own
in the middle of civilization
and I doubt I’d be appreciated
much less approved of by the townspeople . . .
She poured another round, found out my dad
was a county judge; No! You are?
I ain’t never sat in a judge’s lap . . .
came around the bar to make him happy.
May said bye and we left in time for rain
to turn into a downpour, had to stop
at a ranch, men huddled in a bunkhouse
said, Come on in, sit a spell till the rain
blows over, and we got to telling them
where we’d come from and the most talkative
ranch hand said he knew May in the old days
and asked her to marry, and she said yes
and his story was the same one she told . . .
He said he would never understand why.
Yet he still saved up his money and paid
her a call now she was there all alone:
I like to think nothing’s changed, but I know
she will never be happy anywhere
below. Me neither. You like to have fun
where nobody sits around judging you.
We passed a bottle around. The storm quit.
We left. Dad said he’d heard some sad stories,
my brother-in-law chimed in: This one’s worse
than sad. And all the way down the mountain
they talked about Mae and how happiness
never worked out the way you thought it would.

(loosely based on a reminiscence by Sam Peckinpah
in Paul Seydor, Peckinpah: The Western Films, 1980)

(13 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Holy

The reward, never clear. The love, unsure.
Let clouds move the sky along, as ever.
Stay in the sun as long as its glow stays.
These steps accelerating become a dance.
Everything alive, Blake said, is holy
and free to live or die, but die it must.

(12 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, April 11, 2011


I who once danced on these little deer feet
lay on my side and died. I was long loved.
What you are at the end is what you are
beginning the next time around the wheel.
I look through the eyes of the beloved,
I am soothed by their gaze, one at a time,
six worlds to follow: the sphere of dying
through birth I remember, the dream I live,
dawn’s lifetime, awe, fear, terror abandoned
for what the bardos have led to, rebirth,
I the bodhisattva the last to die
after cropping the first grasses of spring,
after seeing the startled birds fly up,
coming to be with those who go before

(12 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

He Pulled Over


He pulled over first chance he could.
He had in mind the following.
Jotting them down like this:

Long Beach, Compton . . . the coast road waiting

Santa Ana: Aunt Juil dying; with Cathleen in the house smothered in heat

Pasadena: Jinny Ruland’s car delivered,
she drove us downtown to catch the bus

San Diego: Lafe driving Betty and me to Tijuana
and all the way on Tres Estrellas de Oro
to Mazatlan, then Mexico City,
John Friel joining us in D.F.

At first in the ex-convent where the vice president of Ralston Purina lived
and we too once their daughter greeted Friel and his friends

Later the Cuban Embassy, Hotel Ibero;
the round trip ticket cashed in near the end of summer,
one marriage over

Wilshire: Space slicers Friel called his hard-edge canvases,
Frank Stella later making good on the cut of the canvas

Venice beach: Friel said he was all right in Brooklyn but Tokyo
no, he couldn’t forget her touch, its warmth

Macarthur Park: Juan alone, the bums cadging smokes

(When Friel suicided the Stella paintings appeared as though in homage)

Wilshire to Fairfax and back: Juan walking a night off
to buy and bring home Paz’s Labertino de la Soledad,
the last copy in LA

LAX to SF: with Betty, Juan committing to memory
"The Second Coming"


Los Angeles

They are herding our hearts down freeways.
The architects of American say
This is how it will be in another century:
We will join with armies of geese
In the cities of weeds,
Living on grass, in love with our own dung.

 An Episode on the Floor of the Sky

Driving Highway 1

I stay free,
rub rain on my wind-burned lips
riding winds
across cloud chasms
without wings:
I float out of my life


When I get to where I’m going,
said he to himself, I will flesh out
what’s here, look for the bone . . .

Then he ate what there was to eat,
a freeway McDonald’s tasteless
burger, wanting to sleep but back

on the freeway watching the exit signs,
thinking, there’s time to do
a poem in my head,
stop in Santa Barbara, write it down,

continue up the coast road,
the best way to drive north (or south) . . .
after Nepenthe, then Miller's house;
Ferlinghetti’s cabin beneath a bridge
farther on . . .

So here you are, brash soul,
wandering home the longest way
you know, to enjoy the living . . .


After the sentence Socrates lay in the dark.
When he had been there long enough to know no one
was coming, he crawled out, stood in the cell, waiting,
and fell over on one side. They moistened the lips
of the cup, stood him up to drink the hemlock.
As in his story, he remained impenitent.

(11 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Now you expect a travelogue after Los Angeles.
You have so many memories you need to give
new flesh and find again the bone that loves . . .
but driving alone is work to concentrate upon.
If something occurs to you, your free hand
reaches, there is no other hand, you must stop
to jot on paper that is not there, but no stopping
on the freeway, even if it’s easy driving compared
to the coast road waiting. Remember Long Beach,
no? What about the blonde in Compton? Sandy
was her name. She was just a dragstrip mama,
you were very young but had what she wanted,
her mother off working. Your great grandmother
next door would’ve understood, she ran a brothel
in Oklahoma, Alice did. Then Mr. Smith arrived
from Alaska, the bachelor fisherman come down
to the lower 48, and how could she resist? Alice
married and lived happily ever after, I mean it!
You need to keep your mind there, where love
works out to share endlessly, give all you need . . .

(10 April 2011)

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Carlos came to tell me what life was like.
I was living then with Cathleen
in San Francisco. How many years
edged by, her beauty never in question,
that was the problem. She knew how
to lure men by simply looking at them.
Carlos was the expert on a woman’s
thousand ways to love bringing you to live
what you may not have known was possible.
Carlos said, Stop in and see Lafe,
he has stories that are too true to bear
once he stops–though he never says much–
or when you quit listening, but you can’t.
Lafe and Bethel had two sons and a daughter.
Sarah knew more than her brothers
Jim and Bo. She sang. Jim played sax,
Bo behind them both on piano.
Jim wrote poems and went to France
to learn French, and met Don Cherry,
the great young American horn man,
who said there was an axe for him to play:
Would he do Sweet Georgia Brown some night
with him and this Frenchman on piano
nobody but Herbie Hancock
had ever heard of. Jim did and stayed
as long as Cherry stayed clean in Paris.
Stateside, Bo sold encyclopedias,
then got religion, became a preacher;
his father never understood him,
Sarah said. Lafe naturally loved her most,
Carlos said. I drove north from Mexico
to meet the family. I stayed too long.
Lafe could only talk so long, then he drank
to take away his thirst for booze.
He drank too many sodas, smoked three packs
a day. Bethel loved him too much to look
away. Lafe told me to read Rene Char,
Henri Michaux, Jean Giono. The last
was first: The Joy of Man’s Desiring,
then A Barbarian in Asia,
finally Hypnos Waking. Giono
was new to me. I went on to Blue Boy
and Lafe recommended Henry Miller’s
essay on Giono. I knew Miller,
I thought. Lafe said, It’s not all wanton sex,
the American Francois Villon in prose,
the Marquis de Sade devouring life
instead of torturing, raping women.
His own country has a poor opinion
of Henry, Lafe said. He’s the only man
I know who takes life seriously enough
to live it and ask nothing in return.
Where are the snows of yesteryear?
Villon asked. Sade said nothing was beyond
doing as long as evil was its end.
Lafe talked of his friend John Dudley.
A painter, Dudley was like the brother
Lafe never had. Dudley died. Read Miller’s
"Letter to Lafayette," Lafe suggested.
He didn’t want to rehearse John’s death,
we were driving to Big Sur. Miller lived
in a house overlooking the Pacific.
At the door he kissed Lafe on the lips.
He was overjoyed, ushered us inside.
We stayed the night, listening. Miller talked
while his wife, Yva, waited on us all.
She poured drinks, she served us dinner,
prepared horsd’oeuvres when Miller asked for them.
She was easily half his age. She was
from Budapest. She never stopped smiling
and I could not help but smile back.
We left early next day, Miller pressing
into my hands The Books in My Life
and The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.
In the first was his essay on Giono,
in the second "Letter to Lafayette."
I drove home not long after we returned.
Cathleen wanted to hear all about how
Henry Miller lived. Then Carlos came in
and told her what I couldn’t even say,
I was so entranced with Miller’s essays.
Lafe took Carlos there when Jim was in town.
Jim had never met his father’s old friend
but he had read all the novels,
beginning with Miller quoting Emerson:
These novels will give way, by and by,
to diaries or autobiographies–
captivating books, if only a man knew
how to choose among what he calls
his experiences that which
is really his experience,
and how to record truth truly.

Jim told Carlos a week’s worth of learning
that was better than Jim on sax with Bo
on piano, Sarah singing Body and Soul.
That’s why I went to live in France, Jim said.
Miller’s books sure as hell were not Flaubert,
but Mona the taxi dancer was
the wild woman Emma Bovary
wished she were, and Henry himself
a Frederic Moreau without scruples,
drinking life to its proverbial dregs.
Carlos listened to how Jim said what he did.
It was how Carlos meant to learn how to write.
He listened to the words everyone used
and how their words worked to say what they said.
That was his version of: Write like people talk.
That was his ambition. He kept listening
and wrote more and more, talking less and less.
He wrote so well after he learned to listen
that month he stayed on California Street,
Cathleen going to work downtown each day,
buying and selling to keep her boutique
bringing in the money, living the life
she had always dreamed of, she said.
I knew better. She sought a deeper life.
Carlos said we should go to Paris, France,
and launched into what Jim said he did there.
Cathleen came home and played her piano.
She wrote down all the notes she remembered.
She wanted Carlos to find the words,
I could sing them. She wanted to make music
at night. She wanted love and we made it.
The music stayed where and when we made it.
Carlos told her, Let Juan write what he wants
to sing; then left town. You know where he went.
Before he found New England oblivion,
Carlos would go where all the music breathed.
He so loved New Orleans, to leave it
again for Massachusetts was suicide.
Now I had done all I could in that city.
I was a day away from my lifelong love.
I had the keys Lafe gave me to the bungalow
long before he died. His children made sure
brother Juan understood he was welcome.
That night I dreamed of Bo on piano,
Jim on sax, Sarah doing Body and Soul.
When I woke I wrote: Sleep is only good
when you dream, and dreaming come back to life.
Each night Cathleen and I would make music.
It was like love, you understand, it was love.

(9 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, April 8, 2011


He had The Saloon to run. Roosevelt
said he would, he knew everything to do
by now. Rocky walked up and met him,
said he’d help out anytime, would walk by
to see how Roosevelt was getting along . . .
Between them, Juan knew, all would be well.
Then he went to Adore’s. Young Jason said
she was in and out with that man who looked
like what she called him, Mister Questionmark.
Juan said to tell her where he was, the hotel.
He checked his car, it started fine. He drove
to HOTEL HOTEL. The neon was fixed.
Just like it was when I came to town.
He told the desk clerk he was leaving town.
He went up to his room and called Cathleen,
whose message came on: I am in Marin . . .
He called there, she said she found this house
larger than the California Street place.
which she still owned, but lived summer now
in Lagunitas, on the road from Fairfax
to Point Reyes, then south to Bolinas . . .
She was expecting him, had plenty of room,
was happy he was coming to stay a while.
He went to Madame Peggy’s on the way.
She said Paolo was out with Georgia,
Beth had gone home to Atlanta. Her days
on St. Charles, Beth said, were over and done.
Juan said he hoped it was not about him.
Peggy grinned: You should know better . . .
He drove to Baton Rouge, and from there
to Houston, sleeping in San Antonio,
striking up a friendship with the barmaid,
who reminded him of Irene behind
the soda fountain counter when they were kids.
Carmen looked younger than Irene had been,
she had three kids but her husband was gone.
She wanted to know all about New Orleans.
He drank Cokes at the bar, ate dinner later,
rode the elevator to his room
and slept, out early driving to El Paso.
He called Chloe Waller in Las Cruces,
the Apache-French woman his uncle Jess
almost married. She still loved his uncle,
who had been dead years but she didn’t know.
She gave Juan the turquoise Navajo ring
her late husband wore. This here crack in it,
she pointed, is from a fight with a Jew . . .
He watched her expression. She was handsome
but he noticed her lower lip twitched.
He wondered what else her widowhood spawned.
Did the rancher on the border say Spics
and Niggers too? He rose before she woke
and drove off at dawn, wondering how far
today: Tucson, or with luck San Diego . . .
It was sunny all the way, as it had been
already. He stopped for coffee on the road,
his first time on Highway 10, which became
8 outside Tucson, into San Diego . . .
He would go up to La Jolla, to the house
where his old friend Lafayette Young was living.

(8 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Seattle Dream

Finally he got tired of saying no to himself.
He found her not far up the road from where they lived
as children, though they were late teenagers when they met.
The same dusty streets with tumbleweeds when the wind blew.
She lived in a small house on the edge of town. Her children played,
in the streets, she said. Nothing ever happened then. Now she locked
her doors. Where’s your husband? He died. You’re a widow then? Twice,
she said. My children’s father was killed in Vietnam, I always wondered why
we didn’t marry. Was he good to you? No, Juan, I mean you. After all the years
of missing you, I told her, I began to ask myself why this white boy went to the city
and loved it so well he lost his beloved. She said she went there alone now. I love to be
lost there. I said, Would you go with me? When? Now! Yes, let me pack a bag, then off
we will go, two lovers, she laughed. This would be our first time together happy in Seattle.

My first city had changed, I knew only the lakes and the Sound, some of the downtown.
I needed no map, I had Irene, as beautiful as ever, now a grown woman, souvenirs
of her children in the stretch marks of the belly I licked to smell her love musk
I missed too long. We let ourselves go, in no time were back to being young.
Her taste I savored with a tongue that bore her body’s tattoo. How loved
we were, each one our first touch of the forbidden, black hair gray now,
our thighs awash with the years we had given away, but filled now
with that ocean of sky we lay under in the Olympic Hotel.
We went to Alki. On the sand I read to her our passages
from Shakespeare, an old ritual still without a stage.
Our bodies would be stained from our lovemaking
the way we wished, small keepsake for a lifetime
until the big wave, to share the one-way sleep.

(7 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Of the Poor

The poor keep dying. After all, they are
human, and the rich do not sleep well.
The enormous weight never eases
for the poor. This woman we love
enumerates loss, those she has lost
and those she is about to lose. Her heart
attacked her in the bright working day.
I called it the horses galloping once
through my body. She has no metaphors
fancy enough to appear on this page.
She’s related to my father, my mother:
the proof they share is their callused hands.
Social Security tells her she makes
too much money to qualify
for disability. What can I do?
she says, I have to work all these houses
to pay my mortgage, buy gas for the car,
put food on the table, pay all the bills
while my grandchildren and daughters’
husbands die from brain cancer, like my sons.
What would they do if I fell and never got up?
Rise at dawn, clean this house, clean that one,
clean another before going home,
feeding my family and myself and love
my man long after my beloved died . . .
My man has disability, and knows
how to make me feel better at night
before I sleep. I do what the poor do,
I try to live while I can. I was born
to work for the rich, to give birth, to die.
The father of my children went crazy.
He was a wild Irishman but not sane
anymore. You might say I was to blame.
I was too this or that or not enough
for a man who was a logger all his life.
Think how cold and damp the woods get
in winter, which is half the year here.
How a tree falls unless the crosscut fails
or when it slices through and you can breathe
easy. But the next one is never like the last . . .
My head feels uneasy, he frowned, I need
to see what's wrong . . . That’s how she started
with the first house, then the next, a twelve-hour day
every day. Her heart could take her any time.
She will marry again and we will stand
beside her and her groom and wish them luck,
kiss and hug, take them to dinner, love them
as we have loved her. She will be happy,
her work still impossible, her life hard
in all her hours save when she loves to love
and be loved and her body comes back to life.

I listen. I do not say that I knew
what labor was before I found my work.
My father put me to work for others,
my mother told me to do what I loved.
I worked for others for years. I loved.
Like this. Of all who loved me, I loved one
who will not let me go, who says, Sit down
and let yourself work hard on what you love
impossibly, like me, I know enough
to go out into the Irish day and work,
I teach like my mother did but what I teach
I learned at home, in my adolescence
that stayed with me until I was fifty,
afraid if I went on doing what I did
all my life, one man and then another,
I would die and so would you and where
we are is full of birds and fish and deer . . .
We must be happy, we are not so poor.
We love each other more than before.
You don’t drink, I no longer whore,
what more can we ask of life?. . . I don’t know
what to say when the topic is always love.
This goes on too long. Even a day moves
until night takes over and the sun sleeps.
I put away my good luck to have long life.
I sleep. In my dreams I am always in cities,
I am happy to be alive there. The new
is everywhere I have never lived
and most likely will never see, but I’m there
in dreams, then rise each morning to do this
in a place where the luck of the poor is death.
If there are others who say such words as these,
let them flood the world with their words of the poor.

(6 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One Life Before Another

When I was young I ate my heart like the sky
eats its clouds. Now it is my love’s heart I devour.

Ice pearls the windows, the sun melts my heart.
I give it away so easily. Why am I always waiting?

If you worry, I tell myself, keep it to yourself.
Your love worries for both of you, such is the life

you share. A half century changes nothing, only
whom we die with; pity the poor who interceded . . .

When I was young I devoured Dostoyevsky. Now,
pushing beyond my four score and ten, Tolstoy.

From the gambler to the gamboler . . . well,
God always devours the life you lead before dying.

I dream of imagos set before the door that opens.
Krishna, say, or the Woman Looking Up at Sky.

It’s Buddha and Dionysus, Crime and Punishment,
War and Peace, city and country, Dmitri, Levin . . .

You are and always were such a bookish boy
who enjoyed one woman at a time, now all at once.

If dreams were digital and flooded all cyberspace
life would lurk around the corner, ready to be seen.

As it is, I sleep in the dark, wake in the daylight.
I never seem to outgrow my addiction to the human.

Others enjoy brothels in their youth as a respite
to the florescent lights illuminating nothing but wall.

Ah, says the conscience, now you’re recalling Kafka,
what a gentle soul to prophesy a century’s horror . . .

He found in a whore’s company the love that passes
understanding, and at his desk the true apocalypse.

Who is that woman looking up at the sky? Distance
from death is in her eyes. She tells the truth or nothing.

The country waddles off to church. All have such faith.
The one-legged priest who learned in the African bush

what books never knew now knows he can no longer lie,
so lean he slips between eternities . . . old Giacometti

lying in bed with his chosen one. He has worked the stone
until it starts to disappear. She does the same to his body.

I am no sculptor, poet, painter, no Pollock or Picasso,
and no lover. I live only at my desk? What will I do now

that the door is locked, the curtain burning, my life
packed in the bed of a pickup truck bound for south

of here, a creature with no sentient life, the woman’s
betrayer, he for whom she scans the sky, found too late.

She has gone back to the original materials. She has
no sky now, no beautiful face upturned, nowhere to rest.

I reach Paris as easily as I put one word after another.
I love to sit in the cafes and dream I live now in Paradise.

I have no money, I have no materiel. I have no beloved.
I need no mirror to know I busily live, but this is no life

for a boy who worked in the fields, the stifling buildings
where what was bought was prepared, ready to be sold.

My skin betrays the color brown. White hair, dark eyes.
The sun was a wheel I rode from one life into this other.

(5 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Nice Poem

It is very nice to be so nice, and others then
will be nice back to you. The day will be nicer.
The night will come nicely along after the nice
moon looms once the clouds go nicely by . . .
I am having a nice time. I am being nice.
To be nice you listen nicely to the nice people
and just as nicely never say things not nice.
It’s very nice of you to be so nice as to tell me
nice things and give me nice advice and nicely
thaw the nice people living in this nice house
to a nice level where nice talk is nicely traded
for no money, which is very nice in such a nice
nation. We have not always been nice. Before
we nicely began to get along we nicely bitched
and screamed, which is not nice but necessary.
How nice. I wish I could be so nice. Are you
already nice? If so, it is nice I have such nice
mirrors. I look and nice looks look nicely back.

(4 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Young Man from the Provinces

In one day he’s told he’s presumptuous about Adore;
and he’s a fucking provincial. Of the first, most crucial,
Maria Teresa says since he’s white he really can’t take
Adore for granted like he does; yet into this rare scene
strides a full-bodied daughter of colonial south Africa
with sixguns strapped low upon her hips, waist finely
proportioned, outspoken like some of the denizens

in Pere Goriot or Lost Illusions, devastating critiques
of nineteenth-century provincials such as Julien Sorel
in Stendhal. First, read Balzac’s masterwork about
the pucuniary mystique of money in capitalist flux,
a boarding house's provincial climber, young Rastignac.
Next, the poet Lucien Chardon up from the provinces
to the city discovers his climb is brief, failure is his lot,
his fall inevitable, whereupon he plummets abysmally .

The lady colonist bought her firearms and learned to shoot
on some desert in the outback. I do not know why she felt
compelled to emulate provincial Yanks of whom I’m one.
But she materialized with sombrero shading a soft body
luring the outlaws into town to witness her peregrinations
around Tombstone. Since I wasn’t there I had to be told.
I had the luck to meet her. She called me fucking provincial.
I realized I had stepped between her and whatever it was
she considered the equivalent of a black bear and her cub.

At that point I withdrew from the breach: I was whipsawed.
That’s the word, she said, I hear everywhere in the outback.
Go down to Cape Town and write, tell me what it’s like now.
I read Gordimer, Coetzee, and Breytenbach and the black
genius whose name never registers on Western Richter scales.
Especially for gringos whose goy heritage beggars enunciation.
Or emancipation. I am immediately knocked off my wild horse
by this lady with her six-shooters holstered and hair-triggered
for action, her sombrero keeping el sol out of her eyes, and Dios
mio! the sheer beauty of her, though she say otherwise: Pshaw . . .

There’s no point explicating the inexplicable. Let her see herself
in the huge mirror on the wall back of the bar. Watch her step.
Her spurless boots, horseless carriage, remorseless intelligence
. . . I go home. I walk. It is a ways. I’m saving money this way.
I will work the fields, orchards, and canneries, warehouses,
and I will go back to the farm-labor camps where the mejicanos
stayed when I was growing up in my own provincial birthplace.
They lived two families to one room with a blanket between.
The wives stayed home with the children until the children
were old enough to work in the fields with the men and women
and the teenagers and young marrieds . . . my God, it was hell

for them, I know. Irene Castenada told me she felt very lucky
to have been born where she lived the year round in her home
speaking Spanish to her mother and father who had no English.
She made love in both languages. I learned to love with her . . .
She was very slender yet she loved as though she had always
loved men, saying, I tell you truly, you are the first and only.
I write of her everywhere, though then I refused to speak of her.
She was happy I honored our love, and we wanted to marry . . .
Maria Teresa loves to hear my story about the matchless Irene
whom I claim for myself. After some time came Paula, my wild
lover. At long last, Maria Teresa, whose love I dare not speak.
Nor will I mention the others, for I cannot say how women love.

At least not the women from the provinces. I married one twice.
I found her in the city on the coast. Everyone knows that story.
It was the history of a labyrinth with mirrors, not minotaurs.
Not mirrors like those in Cocteau’s Orphee but with doors,
Dutch doors, the kind that swing open and shut and shudder
behind you, as though the Maenads were hot on your trail,
frail poet enamored of your prowess unaware you soon lose
your head, floating bodiless from the source of the stream,
mythically downward. In a tough-minded century we shore
up walls, construct bunkers, and war’s rebellious illiterates
nail together lathe slats to serve as barricades in the street.
Bullets know more than poets . . . no mistaking flight path
or caliber, wham! sent burrowing through our naked skin.

Irene asked me to marry her. I wanted her to come to Seattle.
She married another. Maria and Hector Camacho shared news
of her, what had happened, translating for her stunned parents.
I wish I had been older then. I could have prevented the flaws
in my heart, the empty spaces, the way my heart beats now
two for one, or four for one, enough to fill the chamber and flow
on through the body until it hangs up again in that anteroom.
Now all I know are these wenches with their spoiled dispositions
making accusations that impinge upon the sanctity of character
I have mistakenly assumed might well describe my own in lieu
of dowry. Give me back my chicana sephardi and spare us this!
Maria Teresa said she will come out to the road to meet me here.
Wood ducks sit in the trees. Whooping cranes nest on the fields.
At night I go to her bed and we spoon and sip the love we share.

(4 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Teaching School

As Cathleen knows, Irish is no boon. It just is,
she says, and I could not be prouder, honey.
She is painting her toes, her fingernails drying.
I say, You got a date tonight, already . . . ?
That’s a line from the old days. She called
and said No, I can go to the movies with you.
So I took her to see Tale of the Late Chrysanthemums,
which at least she stayed awake through, unlike
The Lady Eve,  She recognized the Kabuki star
the maid urged on when he was nobody,
like me, and Maria Theresa, who will I don’t know
get upset hearing me talk about her like this . . .
Questionmark. Irish Cathleen wanted to sleep,
please know, she couldn’t get it out of her mind,
she says later, how much you resemble the guy
riding the boat down the river where it ends
with his true love dying next to him . . . Mizoguchi
loved whores, I say. This is one lady who was
anything but . . . So Irish Cathleen goes home
and takes a call, mind you, and it isn’t even me.
The only boat I’m going to ride is . . . well, who
could know? Even I blank out when I reach
for answers. And she folds me into her, you know,
like this . . . So, friends, she’s teaching school
and the kid keeps asking for a hall pass, and
I don’t know if the twerp gets one or not, I’m
not even there, I’m going entirely on what
the lady says. She doesn’t tell me any business
she’s had or has or will have . . . she’s Irish,
after all, and a quarter Polish and as much
Danish, which is where she gets the beautiful
olive skin. Not that Danes bequeath olive skin.
I’m just guessing. She calls the Polish Prussian;
if I remind her of Germany’s history she quails
as only she can, offering me a very taut nipple.
I can’t expect anything more, it’s been so long
and I’m so spoiled by her, I could get out of town
if I had a hall pass, and who knows? maybe she
is waiting for a reason to lop me off her love list.
Still, I want one . . . a hall pass . . . and she says
to use it wisely, she’s already sacrificed nothing.

I go back to the movies. I’m watching Ugetsu,
the potter’s late wife returns at the end, a ghost.
The actual ghost, where is she? She already was
a ghost and she lived in a very lovely little castle
haunting every man with her beauty and wisdom.
He’s enthralled, captivated, lost in her miasmic
charisma. That’s Irish’s two-word phrase for it.
She says, He was just a dumb potter, his wife
was left for the soldiers to find when said potter
went off to love his ghost woman. Who is Ugetsu?
From there it’s back to more Mizoguchi Kenji,
as the Japanese say and americanos wonder why.
Or Oshima Nagisa. Imamurat Shohei. Kurosawa,
Ozu, no need for any other name if you have film
history on your side, marching off to aesthetic war
. . . That’s enough. Go home for potatoes and soup
if you don’t have enough for tonight and tomorrow.
You have work to do here. Don’t go off to Ulster
without saying goodbye. Or Dublin. Molly Bloom
will become your alter ego, and not like before . . .
Let’s go see The French Lieutenant’s Woman again.
Or Ryan’s Daughter, we’ll go to the revival house
and sit through the sermon so we can get in line.
Better yet, said I to her, let’s go to bed and fuck
ourselves into oblivion, if that’s okay with you,
honey wonder. The Japanese do it anytime . . .
They have more style than we do, they endure
the lag in time, but once begun it may never end.
Maria Theresa says, You’re wasting your cojones,
gringo, come over here and let me see your pass,
I’ll stamp it so when you go back to the country
you will have a place to sleep. Or stay here . . .
I think I will, I reply. She says, Suit yourself . . .
I think I will, I’ve missed Manhattan so long
I feel in exile. So does Irish Cathleen, Maria says.
How do you know? I ask. She shuts me up. She
knows how. She went to the baths today already.
If I have to live here, I like to smile, it’s with you
I’m glad. She says, "I’m glad to be with you" and I
agree. There. You vindicated my existence and you
are the only teacher I have ever wanted for myself
only. She corrects me, habitually: Maria Teresa . . .

Maria Teresa, I say . . . Let’s go begin all over again.
This time, she says, You can watch the logorrhea.

(3 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Book of Sudden Life

There is everywhere to go when you stay
in one place. I enter the door you open.
I stand where you are when you stand with me.
There is always the sound of the seabirds
at noon. If I were there what would we make
if it’s not too late, and if it is we may
still try. I bring my own weather to you,
which is no better than here, my ice
on your tongue, your heat filling me
because I fill you, one balancing the other.
If I could stay, sun would glow all night,
even the moon would warm our sleep.
I cannot tell you how I came to this
but there are the books where I gathered you,
and you me, closed between covers what no one
may read, its name The Book of Sudden Life.

No one knows where this book waits to be found.
Only you. Look in your heart’s rooms,
where all that love cushions is close
to your body when you let it go free
to breathe with me through the netting you brought
from your other country. What we bring stays
until one of us or the other is filled
and if both are, it’s called, finally, love.
Or until we have drunk the elixir
of all the love, the life we are given.
The end does not mean beginnings
never return, if this book is the only one
to arrive after all the others have been read.
I stay here half the night, you the other.

If I’m the soul in my skin, here it is.
Take it. Give it back to me when you want
or once you have tracked this voice to its source.
No matter, love. I wanted you that much.
If I knew how to keep you, the creature
I am, the fire would fly through my fingers
like any blaze whose sparks leap from your eyes.
Tell me of the land where we are. Do you
toss gulls scraps of bread they can pluck from air?
Do the fish leap here? How do men love you?

(31 March; revised 2 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Ray died; Juan lived on, nostalgic.
The night they met, Ray said to him,
You’re a liberal, aren’t you?
Betty talked as much as Juan listened
to Ray telling how he got started
on his mother’s loan if he would stay
in New Orleans and take care of her.
Betty remarked that sounded so much
like Juan’s uncle in Arkansas,
not even free after his mother died,
when his sister and her husband moved in.
You build her a house, take care of her
all her life, and family wants
all there is left. There was no money.
Eunice’s husband breathes through a mask.
Their daughter’s married, lives on a pig farm
in Maine. Clyde walks Juan out to his garden,
asks if Juan knows he’s breaking the Mann Act,
laughs roundly, Juan too . . . Clyde breaks down
near tears: He has a son in Van Buren
by Ruby Campbell, a cousin Juan
never knew existed until now.
Teaching journalism at Yeshiva
University in New York City.
Clyde said, Mama wanted to run my life,
widowed forty years when she died
unaware she was una abuela otra vez . . .
His son took the name Campbell . . .
I’ll look him up when I get there,
Juan tells Clyde, I’m starting Columbia
in the fall, then you’ll know dos hombres alla . . .
Clyde smiles, they walk up the highway
to the Esso station. There’s Bud
Williamson, his only arm’s hand
plucking out a bottle of Grapette
for old times, when Juan–Johnny–
tipped up the bottle and drained it . . .
Bud used his own coins to buy the pop
from the machine they stood around.
Juan took Betty back to Fort Smith.
They swam in a pool and made love
until they slept. Next day they asked a man
with two teeth and red rings around both eyes,
Is this the road to Wilburton?
and the guy kept grinning, moonshine oozing
from his breath, leaning in to point the way,
one finger making a map in the dust
on the inside of the windshield.
Juan listened to Betty saying again
how they would live in Manhattan
writing, painting, drinking, fucking,
combing out the tangles in her red hair,
twisting it in a knot on her head,
wearing it that way the rest of the way
through Oklahoma. He’d come here to see
his uncles and the oldest one’s widow
in Tulsa. In Wilburton Uncle Bus
offered him the Mason jar and he took
one swallow, handed it back, knew
his aunt Carmen would be widowed soon,
and next he heard she was, less than a year
gone by. All that was before New Orleans,
Betty and Juan strolling into The Saloon
and ending the night in a plush place
breakfasting before hiring a cab
to send Ray home, riding along
to see the dawn, and the story
of Betty in New Orleans Ray knew
at least as well as the now equally
deceased John Biggs. Juan could not stop
writing that mystery tale
with the plot too strange for a denouement.

That was enough for one day. Juan walked out
of HO HOTEL, the desk clerk spoke to him
like the paid-up tenant he was by now.
Down by Pontchartrain tourists were waiting
in line to ride the ferry to Algiers.
Juan smoked a cigarette, his first in years,
and thought again about that safety pin
she used to keep her bra strap from showing.
He had to do it up every evening
in the St. Charles before leaving
the hotel for yet another walk through
what one day was all the flood did not take
from the New Orleans he first knew . . .
and now she lived in Sausalito,
across the Golden Gate from Cathleen.

(2 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

This Woman Whom Age Will Never Wither

Exits would be easier if the curtains were left unclosed.
A swale of land on the other side, rain falling in the wind.
I am the man running to catch a train leaving the station.
Knowing I bear a gift, she wants me to put it in her hands.
My brothers say only a fool keeps hoping she will love you.
Her sisters have taught her well: Be careful, he is too sincere.

He carries his hat in his hands, his lips would likely bruise yours.
He watches your eyes, he says he loves you, and that’s all he says.
He talks when you trigger his tongue, but would rather love you.
He knows he has no place, he wants to find love between your thighs.
There’s this story you tell, how he won’t easily forget you.
He may never see Egypt, eyes full of all of your woman.

You went down to the river with her, where she could dance with you.
She raises one arm, she glows; no need to wait to see her smile.

(2 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, April 1, 2011


The Saloon was now mostly Roosevelt’s,
Juan deposited the take and paid bills
and kept track of young Jason at Adore’s.
Adore took Juan in and hauled his ashes:
he let her, and gave as good as he got.
And Adore was as randy at eighty
as she was at forty, telling Juan all
about it: I took on any damned man
who looked good to me, but only one time
if he didn’t try hard to please me right . . .
I was a beauty . . . didn’t need no man
hanging around who couldn’t keep it up . . .
There were not that many who could put me
to sleep for the rest of the night. In bed,
honey, I was a wildcat, pussy wild . . .
Juan loved to hear her stories: She was still
a handful forty years later. Adore,
as he never tired of hearing her say,
loved her body: I kept it looking good,
sleek as a panther, wild mama lion
I liked to say . . . lioness with pussy
out of control, O no, honey, I kept
it safe for what I wanted . . . So Adore
wanted Juan at dawn, noon, dusk, day or night . . .
Young Jason slept on the day bed out front
and left the house early so he could find
a corner to cadge his daily tribute.
Juan dropped in on Ray at the hospital,
no longer raving but far too quiet.
Juan talked to him and he seemed to listen.
Doctors said he might not live long, which spurred
Juan to feel like going off, getting drunk,
but if he did he might die before Ray.
He had the fear from the old days out west.
And not only in California
but Mexico, Sea of Cortez, inland . . .
Each time he went to Mexico City,
while mama Nell was married to Manuel,
Juan stayed in Mazatlan, dined on smoked marlin
at Mama Muchis uphill from the beach,
always at sundown, and after drinking
going to Matilda’s to spend the night,
she who always recommended the girl . . .
After a week or two he had no need
to stop in Guadalajara, Morelia,
or Toluca, he drove relentlessly, all
the way, without stopping to sleep, a long
trip to D.F., but he had cojones . . .
He left the hospital and went to work
mixing drinks, uncapping bottles of beer,
whatever Roosevelt took for orders
from the paying gentry, the loud tourists
and the quiet ones, few and far between . . .
But The Saloon kept going, Roosevelt
took over when Juan needed to go off
to think about what to do when Ray died,
which happened a few days later. Juan came
to his room and found him flat on his back,
rang for a nurse and Ray was pronounced dead.
Juan delivered the news to his widow
by Western Union. She came to see him
buried, no funeral march, second line,
or death notice in the Times Picayune.
She was there to hear the will and angry
when she heard The Saloon bequeathed to Juan.
Yet she said nothing, pursed lips holding firm.
She had the house, which was what she wanted
most of all. Juan moved his car to Adore’s,
parking in the weather, taking a chance
until he could find a garage for it . . .
At Madam Peggy’s he told Paolo
he might leave town soon. Would Paolo want
to share the driving . . . Only if Georgia
can go, his brother replied, if she wants . . .
She’s still getting paid for it, isn’t she?
Juan asked. Paolo answered: Only if
I say she can. Well, Juan barked, you’re her pimp
then, you can’t afford to leave New Orleans . . .
Don’t get testy, said Paolo . . . Madam
Peggy stopped Juan on his way out. I heard,
she said, If you go to San Francisco,
say hello to my dear old friend Sally
Stanford, who retired from the trade, was mayor
of Sausalito, then retired for good
but she never slows up, goes stronger now,
she says, than when she was her own madam,
but no one knows how much longer she has . . .
She owns a restaurant called Valhalla
a short way up shore from Sausalito,
great place to eat and drink, Juan, and what else
only God knows . . . She likes to talk to men,
holding court nightly until closing time . . .
You must stop in and see her when you’re there.
I will, Juan assured her . . . Adore was here
in New Orleans, where Mama’s coffin
must be gone for good, somewhere out at sea . . .
Yes, Adore was here to stay, she declared . . .
that would be the rough part, leaving Adore,
even for a while . . .Paolo could have Betsy,
maybe Georgia already had him trained
to do cunnilingus while they performed
fellatio on him, one at a time . . .
He went off to work, told Roosevelt
what happened, asked him if he would take care
of The Saloon . . . If, that is, I leave town . . .
You can depend on me, Roosevelt said.
I do depend on you, my friend, Juan said.
Roosevelt declared, You can count on me.
At HO HOTEL he called Irish Cathleen.
She sounded happy he was coming home,
and home was what she called San Francisco . . .

(1 April 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

So much of our history means nothing,
which is to say it means no more than yours.
I will find a sunny place in shadows
to smell the end of winter. When the spring
vaults the sky and lands on both frozen feet
and begins thawing, you may think I see
what is not there and never will be here,
but that is a raw dish of death life holds
tightly with fingers arthritic to touch,
that cannot grasp or be grasped without pain.
There is nothing certain to come of this.
The birds have forsaken the missing tree.
The sky fills blue chests, the ships fill with sail.
I would hope something awaits to learn from.

Chicana sephardi, listen to songs
as though you could hear with your mother’s ears.
They are all old songs. You listen and love
the dip of a knee, head held high, the old
sounds running water heralding the warmth
of her eyes, her lips, all of her is yours,
you want to follow the beat of your pulse,
you remember while waiting in her womb,
already seeing the shape of your life,
Leila Shulamit, how the shadows fall,
your fingers drumming down their splintered length,
the work of days and nights come to bless you,
sleep delivering you from all that’s gone,
waking to breathe the tattoo of morning.

(25 March 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander