Sunday, July 31, 2011

To the Wharf

Let me tell you, motherfucker, she’s no
woman for you.
Her fingers take the voodoo out of style.

He’s been going back and forth
from Adore’s to The Saloon
and back to Adore’s, beloved Adore.

She’s twenty years older than you,
Her magic floods you with dreams.

At The Saloon, working with elan,
Young Jackson learns the tourist trade;
Roberto dying slowly, where the birds are.

El–you damn near said Lelli or Lel,
or God forbid the tongue to utter
her natal name Eleni Rallis . . .

She could never sit still
except with words in her lithe hands,
and you never learned Greek.

Old friends say hello.
Rocky brings Belle, Big John’s widow, by.
Patsy Rose, sibyl reading cards next door,

pops in to tell you why the heat, the cops,
keep her awake at night
smoldering after the riot, in the still heat.

Cathleen calls after you leave a message.
San Francisco is cool, a breeze
in the park, where she walks every day.

You would like to know ahead of time
who’s dying and when
so you can read your brother’s words

to learn why Carlos walked out
of this life. His manuscript’s upstairs
in the little house in Lagunitas.

You ask Cathleen to bring it to you.
She has to fly to Paris. Business.
She says, Why not come with me?

You think about Cathleen, in bed with Adore
asleep. You go into the alley naked
to see if you can hear the night music,

say to yourself, I so love it here.
This woman is the only one lets you be
Johnny Flowers ne Juan Flores,

while brother Paolo lies with Georgia
in our late mother Nell’s St. Charles
mansion, still called Madame Doll’s.

Your sister Susanna wrote from Seattle.
Madame Peggy had the letter sent on
to Adore’s. Susanna was deep in debt;

you replied: All I got is yours when I die.
She calls the brothel, the ladies sleeping.
Peggy said she sounded frantic.

Susanna's gambling again, said she will be
first to die. Also, this man led her on,
made her think he gave a shit. You think,

That’s the way we talk now, her and I.
Is there no relief from the infamy
of words? You go back to tell Adore,

Let’s go hear some music this afternoon,
it's too hot to keep the doors shut, we can sit
on the wharf. She says, I could use a walk.

(31 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Lelli asks him to call her El, what Roberto does.
Is that what you were called in Athens?
His question amuses her, she doesn’t answer.
Adore asks him why he’s changed her name
from Adore to Adora. He can’t say
he did. It’s just the title of a chapter
in her life of poetry, el grito y baile, gris gris
a la ju-ju, he doesn’t know the difference:
ju-ju mama whose blood may run far from
gris-gris daughter she reared to be her own.

From San Francisco comes a letter forwarded
with nothing on the envelope from Cathleen.
What did he expect her to say? Cry foul?
The letter’s from New York City,
Leila Shulamit, Maria Teresa, writing to say
she’s glad she left Chicago, but why,
he wonders. She makes it short. She says
nothing more than telling him where
he can write her, one of two addresses.
She says she loves him. He likes to read it.

He begins to remember how he made a vow,
he did not decide, to write. In a city library
he found Steegmuller’s translation of Flaubert’s
Madame Bovary and Fitzgerald’s Crack-up.
He can’t recall for sure how old he was,
but old enough to know old Scott did not
last long. It was his book he read closely.
The Flaubert he did not read until Paul de Man’s
version. He was already beginning to learn
to make the language sound like his own.

He read incessantly. He woke with the words
dancing in his head and could not wait to go
where he is now, only then he wrote with pen
and paper, sometimes pencil, then typed it up,
not like now going over and over making changes
until it reads like gates opening the Garden of Eden.
El it would be then. Her eyes danced as her feet
danced when he first saw her through his window.
He assured Adore he would not call her Adora,
too near adorar, too far from ahora. They fuck.

(30 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, July 29, 2011

Adora Ahora

Adore welcomes him into her bed.
She has her rapturous magic still.
She says Questionmark is good for her,
he gives her someone to sleep beside.
She don’t get loved though, he sleeps too much:
He says he’s getting old, I say he never was.
He comes here less than ever, I don’t know
if it’s me, or him. Juan says afterward,
It’s not you.

The Saloon is full when Juan arrives.
Young Jackson is all grown up overnight.
Roberto works beside him, full partner
rather than the boss and his worker.
Jackson talks to Juan about Adore.
He never knew the mama he had,
but that’s no mind, he says, I do now.
Roberto met Adore, went to her house
with Jackson.

Voices float back and forth across Bourbon.
High-stepping, high-heeled wives from out of town
on the arms of gentlemen with money.
The street kid Jackson was and remains
somewhere under his sweat-soaked attire
finds time to look between taking orders,
mixing drinks, serving, wiping tables.
Roberto tells Juan Adore loves Jackson
like a son.

Adore says she’s been like this all her life,
finding one man who can give her good love,
holding on to get through the rapids
to calm water: the sun shines in mornings,
at night the moon through the only bedroom
window, cooling the skin that’s been meshed
like fingers clasped to keep hands together,
bodies rising and dipping in tandem,
love’s full swoon.

(29 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eleni Rallis

Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. –St. John 11:16Lelli opened the door.
Roberto was out back
sitting in the sun
where the birds were.
Juan said, Don’t get up,
I’ll sit on the grass.
It’s good to be back,
California is growing
like . . . He slid from
cancer  to silence,
Roberto ended it
with cancer, smiling
grimly. Lelli’s arms
were around him,
head resting on one
shoulder, dark hair
falling over his neck.
Juan saw she was still
the lady he first knew.
Age was as kind to her
as it was to Adore.
Roberto was training
the young man Adore
had given succor,
providing a place
to sleep, loving him
like her own, of whom
he was her only, ever.
He learned very fast,
Roberto assured Juan.
Let’s go fishing!
Juan replied. He was
eager to settle back in.
So they did. Caught
nothing. Over dinner
Lelli laughed
her old laugh: Greek
laughter as ebullient
as Greek sadness
is wrenching.

(28 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Juan hears from Lelli. Roberto is going to have to quit.
November is a good time to go, Juan decides to drive.
He doesn’t even say goodbye. He writes Cathleen a note:
I’m coming back once I have The Saloon taken care of.
You know how I loved Roberto like a brother (Robert,
my brother’s name; all who die so very young are immortal
even as their mothers still carry them wrapped in blankets
and held next to the warmest heart they will ever know . . .
you know, Cathleen, how I loved him, though gone when I was born.)
The Ford Falcon, he assures her, will at least get him there.
A sunny day with no fog or hint of rain when he leaves,
in the back of his mind he knows he is going to stay.
He loves California like an ex-wife. He wants to live
anew. Where else could that occur but in New Orleans?

He drives back the way he came. He stops only to sleep,
to eat, to fill up with gas. He speaks to no one he sees.
He does cut across the northern part of the Mojave,
stops in Albuquerque to find friends dead or elsewhere,
from Texas to Arkansas, looking for his brother’s grave
in Cross Cemetery at the end of the gravel road
his father walked on foot, when it was dirt, to woo his mother.
Cathleen was with him last time. There were still graves to fill.
Thorns bled their feet. The dark sky grew darker, hovered
over two mortals, All Hallows Eve, a good time to hunt
for a sign the immortal were once here and might be again.
Neither one believed such folly. Yet they held out vain hope
that cozens fear and leaves at best the slate blank to be filled
going south, through Louisiana, to New Orleans, home.

(27 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back for Another Day

Everyone I know fears clairvoyance.
To be immersed in the present
wears the mind to bone on bone;
why ask for more?
Christine Mary and I went to Moscow,
Idaho, to drink and dance
in the middle of the day.
She introduced me to the Rolling Stones
and showed me the strut
Jagger immortalized, if there is
immortality . . .
Later she left to have a child.

Henry Miller wrote the best Rimbaud,
and next was Wallace Fowlie’s book
Rimbaud and Morrison.
Paula and Lucy met Jim and Pam
at Whiskey Go-Go. He was high
and she was bummed. Topanga Canyon
was where they were when she aborted.
Baudelaire at least loved the street.
He had the best waking dreams.
Jeanne Duvall gave him the best head.
He wanted his mother to be free
of her imitation lovers.

In the Palouse we stopped at a bar
and got Maced, though we were the only
customers. We talked too loud,
he said, about Vietnam.
I told Lindsay he must have been there.
In those days everyone made poetry
obsolete. You did what you could see.
It was called art, with a capital A,
like war started with W and R
was for rebellion.
Camus got the Nobel but crashed
and died. Kazantzakis died of old age.

All is gone now. Good riddance.
Life may have been remarkable then,
but how did you know
where it diverged from death?
Back in the day
they say, applauding memory.
In Seattle Linda runs into this guy who’s gay,
who hung his lover on a cross
to make his Jesus film, in Pullman.
She may have lost all she let herself love,
but we both grew too old to prefer
Rimbaud to Baudelaire.

(26 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, July 25, 2011


For some, no going back, never forward,
past you. I wish you would write a poem,
Cathleen declared, All I read is this talk
of Irene and the others. There’s just me.
And she was right, there among cigarettes
and Scotch she was mine in her olive skin.

For us, no forward motion, always back
where we started. The Seattle houseboat.
A cat called Isis traveled the boardwalk.
She belonged to the woman who slept late,
who early in the afternoon emerged
to comb her blonde hair over her fine tits.

Cathleen taught me to see the world this way.
There was nothing she would not do to live.
There was no one to tell her how or why
to live one way, not another. She loved
to love. She called it sex. You’re my only
beloved, she said. I took that to town

when she was gone off on a fucking binge.
She was too gorgeous for her good or mine.
Marilyn may have slept late, but alone.
She liked to emerge half-dressed to listen
to me answer how I made up lost time
waiting for an Irish lass named Cathleen.

My name is Smith, she liked to say, not Jones.
I told her she wanted to mother me.
Her mother lived on Queen Anne Hill.
She drove her Fiat and took me along
to see the harbor down below. I dreamed
more dreams when I was this high. I could see

that far. Down here waves sloshed against the boat,
I was a sentimental, heartless wretch
refusing consolation, but stayed on,
waited, and one day, or had night arrived?
I slept to dream Cathleen and I, star-crossed
lovers, were constellations in some sky.

(25 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, July 24, 2011


There were girls then
who were pretty but wild.
Mothers feared for their sons
and said nothing, but worried.
There was Mary Ruth who kissed
with tongue, painted her nails red.
There was Patsy who fucked,
her black hair in a bun. All said
by the slow burning boys
of the hot girls, toys
of their imagination . . .
There was Mary Louise,
older than most, equestrienne
and seductress.
She could shuck her dress
and that was all, her tan body
a shiver of joy
warm under any sky.

We scaled the high fence
and shucked our clothes,
we swam in defiance
of the city law. Our woes
would never begin here. The city,
hardly a town, lacked money
to hire a night patrol.
the crickets lulled
people in houses already sleepy
from trying to make a baby,
what we'd do only when ready.
We learned to do it under water,
did it when the moon
was full. There was banter
and braggadocio.
There was Irene Castenada,
beloved of Floyce Alexander,
from whom he learned.

We knew nothing of love.
We were still coming to life.
The girls were women already
and creatures from far away
come here to make us happy
or so we thought
in our speed and brawn
shackled to the ignorant
ambience of our lonely town.
There was tawny Yvonne
whose pal was buxom Mary.
Yvonne got married,
left school, Mary
soon followed, tall girls
with stories to tell.
Wherever they are
is far from the ocean,
pearls abandoned by their shells.

(24 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Et Cetera

It doesn’t make falling down fun,
this elixir. The road takes its turn
at the bridge. Saturday night dance
inside the Circle Inn.
Who plays in a trance?
Why pitch a body against an urn
waiting to be filled?
Being dead is no excuse
for living like this.
Hawaiian guitar, cowboy tunes
up the ass, go to the city for jazz.
Can’t wait? Get down,
like she says: Here, on top of me,
or wait, I'll straddle you.
The dope works. The booze levels out
a high. The river gurgles by.
O, she pleads, Get down low:
hard cock, hot cunt,
Hank Williams never had it so good
and couldn’t stop before he did.

(23 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mabton Etc.

You go to the lower valley
and visit George Petty outside Mabton.
Your mother says he’s good to her,
maybe because his wife Rae died
in front of your mother’s eyes.
He was already seeing his girlfriend
and had what he always wanted,
a vineyard. George was retired from Hanford,
where he worked in security.
Laborers there come down with cancer
and their children follow in death;
your friend Witherup left home early,
but too late . . . radioactivity
more lethal than Los Alamos.
Someone called to learn you had no problems
from growing up not so far away.

George lives up to his name, Petty,
hating people whose language is not his,
you tell your mother you have to go home,
and on the way out
your dead father’s friend from down the road
drives you to the airport in Yakima;
your mother weeps through her Irish smile.
Rae was a big breasted German woman
who sat with you in Seattle
where she met George long before the vineyard.
Wall drove out once and you told him to go
back to Marge, who was always up to it . . .
So went three months in Seattle.
George left real estate
for his government job, security
clearances, hiding bombs in Montana . . .

All you want to remember of Mabton
was pitching against Mel Stottlemeyer
before he grew up and became a star
pitcher for the New York Yankees.
He wasn’t that good in high school.
Or you were too stupid to know a star
when you saw one.
All you knew, to see, was the morning star.

(22 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Who could say the man she married did not love her as much as the young Floyce Alexander? They brought children into the world and by the time he saw her again, years, even worlds later, they were as much gone as he. What worlds? she laughed.

He rode in the pickup with Jess and his father. They went to Wapato to fight gamecocks. It was illegal, but who cared? They were all Mexicans with more Spanish names than Maltos. The blades attached to the chicken’s feet were the most frightening thing to him. The old man smiled. The cocks’ beaks were ready once their scent was shared, forcibly. Jess’s father lost as many fights as he won. It was the birds who lost, and no bird ever won. Yet there was always next time. They put the wooden cages back in the pickup bed and drove home, where they kept the cocks in the backyard, out of sight.

Don’t think she became less desirable to him, Juan admonished. Don’t think I didn’t want her too, that time in Mexico City when he left because he had to get back to the States before Jess had returned from Acapulco where he was with his friend all the while. She simply said No and she meant it. She was not only beautiful but stubborn. I told her I wished I were named Floyce Alexander.

He met Cathleen in Seattle and the years went by when he could conjure no one else in his harem of memory. Only Irene Castenada . . . But it was her world, the one she wanted, and besides, he had his chance, it hurt her, it was a wonder she could give birth after that . . .

Juan told Wall all this, in his fashion. He left out the parts he knew firsthand and may have embroidered those he had heard from one of the two of them, but he found the words and uttered what there was to say, from that perspective. Not long after, Wall was busted and sent up. Juan never regretted not telling him what Juan would write much later, much much later . . .

When it rained in northern California Juan missed New Orleans. God knows he never thought of Sunnyside, or White Swan or Brownstown, Toppenish or Wapato, not once he was elsewhere, with the Irish lass and if not by his side, by hers, and God knows, as they say, what to do when the shit hits and other evil enters the portals, even if Dante’s sign Abandon hope . . . is hard to read after so long and no one who will volunteer their time to come down off the hill this far and repaint it.

(21 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Toppenish: II

Wall drove his Caddy convertible across Snoqualmie Pass
after a few drinks in the Viceroy in downtown Seattle.
He stayed in a motel not far from the rodeo grounds
next to the highway going north and south,
where he’d come from and where he'd never go,
the crossroads west to the Columbia River
opposite a dogleg jog into town.
Juan hung around the Fourth of July tent, some humor
thought up by Yakamas who couldn’t help but wonder
what the Founding Fathers would have done
without slaves, or Indians to steal from..
Inside the door flap the gambling ensued,
men smoking kinnikinnick,
drinking wine in a brown paper sack.
Night and day, day and night, the elders never lost track.
Next day Wall bragged about the woman he picked up
in a roadside café to bust his nut..
Filling up with gas he used the restroom
where a hungover man was washing with running water
his bloody wound behind one ear.
At the red light in front of the Pastime, Juan told Wall
about the time this guy he knew took a driver’s test,
and the patrolman said, Take a right here and go back
to the office, and Juan's friend didn’t bother
stopping before turning and had to come back in a week.
On the way north they drove through Wapato,
where Irene Castenada lived, the first love
of Floyce Alexander when they both were growing up
south of here. Irene was a mother now,
unlike the girl who once loved and was loved, nothing more.

(20 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Toppenish: I

There is a row of bars on Main Street,
dedicated to the demise
of the Yakama tribe.
You go in one of those places
and come out empty,
America dead
in its tracks.
Vivian Benz would say "one way sleep"
with her Anglo beauty
reflected in the way she spoke Indian
without irony.
I took the claims at the window,
Juan said: She adjudicated at her desk
on the back wall of Kafka’s office.
She pulled a cousin off the street
and took him home.
Her husband, who was all Anglo, left.
She loved him dearly.
What people do comes straight
from the heart
or stays where it eats you up,
admittedly slowly.
Juan went in the Pastime and started out
without a drink. The barfly
near the door asked for a favor.
The guy two stools from her
came over and nuzzled her neck,
cozying up,
a husband drunk with greed.

(20 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

White Swan

Rita with dishwater blonde hair,
one quarter Yakama,
tended bar in Brownstown
on the edge of the reservation,
White Swan.
She talked about how a dog looked
like a wolf when it slept.
She was happy being around men,
why she stayed single,
she said. She had never married
but was a lover, men attested.
Ray McDonald was a quarterback,
a tall high school boy
with one wooden leg, but kept
his feet and got off a pass
before they reached him.
Rita knew Ray was too young
though he never drank or smoked,
but just the same she let him
through the door at closing time.
He waited while she locked up
and went with her to sleep the night.
She liked to draw wolves on the wood,
and circles she filled with false faces.
Ray worked summers shocking hay,
bucking bales, milking cows,
butchering hogs. In the fall,
if she had the night off Rita went
to watch Ray fade back to pass,
as smoothly as any graceful biped.

(19 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


The Gravel Pit

Trucks went there to scoop out what they needed.
When the gravel was gone the pit was filled
with water and stocked with minnows for bait.
The young skipped flat rocks across the water.
Irene tried. I showed her how. Love was all
it took. I told her what an arm she had.
I liked to drive the highpile gravel road
to the Satus Shaker Indian Church.
Once inside we were tempted to make love
on the hardwood floor in the near bare room
with its chairs around the outer edges,
a lectern on a table. That was all,
a body needed more when there were two
involved. I took the blanket from the car
and naked, I lay her nakedly down.
We made slow love as long as the young can.
In Toppenish we went to the movies.
We very rarely saw Granger people.
They haunted the main drag in Sunnyside.
They liked to hang around its Dairy Queen.
We knew their names but they were not our friends.
A poor-white boy and a Mexican girl
preferred to stay away from the hubbub.
I so excelled in football my last year
I would have gone to California
had Ross Sohappy not preceded me.
One year in Coalinga was too much.
He was a chief's son. He died in a fire,
I learned in Seattle. I was waiting,
Irene’s bare feet tense against the stirrups.

(19 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunnyside: II

Before Juan’s mother left
following the second Manuel’s
demise, Irene Castenada
became pregnant.
Floyce Alexander wrote
in the Londres and Irene stayed
in the Ibero. She wanted his child.
He said he would give up writing
if she would abort the fetus.
She didn’t want him to stop.
He kept on writing . . . secretly?
That’s why he kept the room
apart. Manuela Roma
drove them to the aeropuerto
finally. Floyce wanted to stay.
So did Irene, but she wanted to go
back to Seattle. She found a doctor
who counted herself a benefactor
of beautiful young women like Irene.
When Floyce wanted to change his mind
Irene told the doctor to go ahead.
Love was cold when it was shaky.
How long had they loved,
two years, three . . . He left Seattle
to drive her home. Her father and mother
waited on the Rattlesnake Range
ten miles from Sunnyside, the little town
whose city limits sign announced,
Here is the hometown of Sally Ride,
America’s first female astronaut.

(18 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunnyside: I

My own father, Floyce Alexander said
to Juan, when he was still smoking
but had stopped drinking . . .
He is buried in Sunnyside
next to someone named DUNCAN,
and Juan said, The poet? And Floyce replied,
There are no poets in that town;
besides, his grave is on the edge of town.
In this town Irene and I went to mass
and we made love afterward on the hill.
Juan knew she was the same Irene he met
in Mexico City that time she came
with Jess Maltos, when Floyce Alexander
was down at Mina y Buenavista
living, he would say, if you can call it
living. His father named Manuel, like both
of Juan’s, the one buried in The Punch Bowl
and the one alive living here, and he
said living, not a bone in his body
that did not thank God, Whose flesh on his tongue
led home. Jess took her there to be with Floyce,
who was quartered in Londres then, working
in a room as large as a large closet,
the kind you walk in to find what you need,
what you want having been ruled out by love’s
caprice. Jess found him there. So did Irene,
who stayed and moved with him across the street
to Ibero, where green and orange hair’d
whores waited in an alcove by the desk.
They knew what to do to keep on living.

(18 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Out There

I would draw you a map if I could.
A drawn map endures.
Is that why there is none?
She took me out there the first time.
Her mother at the door.
Her father gone.
Her mother said her father was hunting.
All the windows were open
and the door ajar.
The wind was not blowing.
What was he hunting?
The sand had stopped: no more drifting.
He was hunting rattlesnakes.
It was a long way to walk to find rocks.
There was no water.
On the map there would appear
shaped hills at this place,
nothing else, or very little.

Her mother waits with her daughter,
the one who has lived.
She sits me at the table in his place.
She says he is too old to catch the snakes.
He will die if he persists.
It is given to a Mexican wife
to expect dying alone
until her children come home.
Why else would I fear for her daughter?
All I have is inside, waiting.
She says I can use her hands
if my fingers grow gnarled
like a rooster’s claws.
She says I can see through her eyes,
sleep inside her nest.
I tell her I can do nothing but leave
to better my lot
and hers, if she waits.

Her mother asks her to find her father.
Out there she wears huaraches.
I was born in Mexico, you know;
and I: No, I believed it was here.
That is all past, she swears.
She is not talking about the stirrups
or the bleeding
or the worry she had made a mistake.
I could not kiss her where I wanted.
She was leaving Seattle, the sad bed.
We would try again
another day, in the dry air
if I would kiss her lips only,
if I could lie still beside her,
if I would go with her
over the mountains to find her father.
Rain is not good for me, she swore
on her rosary.

I will shield her from the rain.
No need to mind a little storm,
it blows over.
We go a long way home,
to the peak of Mount Takhoma.
On roads that follow the fall of her hair,
then down. The Lazarus flowers
bloom. People say nothing new,
do not even stare.
It would be best to live by the ocean,
I offer. How would we stay alive?
The rain there intoxicates,
I start, she stops me, I want to go home
while there is time.
She knows the way the coast curves
on her map. In the Rattlesnakes
at least you can see the shadows
over the hills before light falls.

(17 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Short History in the Mirror

Vietnam was not American slang yet.
It was still Vietnam.
Not Nam. Vietnamese were not yet gooks,
they were still themselves.
The Jolly Green Giant canned peas, I worked
the graveyard shift,
pitching pea vines with a pitchfork
on a conveyor belt to separate
Green Giants from silage.
From six to two in the morning
I wrestled with such tangle.
I slept well,
those who took over always looked sleepy,
I could not see myself.
When the peas ended I returned
to the orchards. Outside Stockman’s Café
the trucks pulled up like school buses
and all day I went to school.
The migrant workers taught me Spanish words.
It was a language of laughter and love.
It was even before Cuba.
And no one who spoke ingles gave a shit,
let alone laughed if not in derision,
a malady nigh to oblivion.
Ole! the drunks cried in the morning hours
unable to sleep, staying up all night
blubbering hatred only they could hear,
there would be too great a price
otherwise. I was too young to hear them.
In the orchards I repeated the words
in espanol until I heard myself
speaking a cadence not too far from theirs.
I made less money, I listened too hard
when I worked among them. They loved the kid
who planned to go to college.
After that, the warehouse, the canneries;
weekends, between seasons, in the vineyards,
and going to mass to be with Irene
Castenada, who taught me the language
of love with kisses and her slender thighs . . .
on the hill, highest point above the church.

(16 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, July 15, 2011

You as I

If you as I worry the roots
upending sod in a scramble
to find the seed that did not take
water, the work is to add dirt,
pat it down but keep earth's soil soft,
let the stem rise, new buds appear,
for what does worry do to change
beauty’s face but deepen the lines
waiting to be filled where the years
stir clouds until dark turbulence
arrives, flowers fold their slender
shapes, air spins the warm with the cold
before you as I flee to coasts
where the missing animals are.
(15 July 2011)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Through Dark

coruscations of the numinous

come from somewhere

courting the dust of ashes

OK love, take over this wheel
keep near the earth
do right by place
without veering from the path
that way lies hoof prints,
the dark enlarging light

courtyard full of laughter
or kisses where they stray,
the unaccountable ones

with particular intensity

Let caress outweigh blow

How to be here otherwise

She said he ought to see
what he was doing
and how it opened the sky

She was from the beginning
now you understand
wit in the house of the holy
where everything is
where it claims to be
welcoming not seeking

now I have finished

long ago was I beginning

out of zero’s void

(14 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Interstices

" . . . where coincidence and nonsense merge in a lover, until the sky
would look on you . . . "  
                                                                Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

She walks with us to the bar, I and our now dead friend.
"New moon in mist 1980" she writes in her book
Random Possession. We share beer. Who knows where we go?
Tides accompany oceans, agencies of events
converge in the bookstore where the one-eyed master
reads from Memory Gardens like he was writing it
in front of us . . . and here she is, back from Alaska,
happily. I ask if she knows John Haines. O, she sighs,
he’s a great poet . . . The Dutch traders from Amsterdam
entered China and took away jade carvings of gods
said to make things happen should Westerners overstay.
All Dutchmen were not too odd to marry the women
they met where mutual fancy corroborated
the slide and weft of constellations, a weave of waves.
A splay of sky looked down with its hilarious face
to see through clouds passing over the sun, warm lover
immersed in meadow grass with the beloved, loving.
Three are dead now: Jon Gill Bentley, bullet through his brain
in Durango: who would know why? The century changed.
The great poet dies in the cabin made with his hands.
In the lower forty-eight he couldn’t stay away,
returning to Richardson, where falling on the ice,
a friend lifts him up, lets him rest, reads his poetry
aloud until death parts the poet from his filled page,
and how easily he moves from one world to the next.
The summer the master read, who would have known his eye
was lost in childhood, overcoming young a stutter,
teaching me how stuttering with poems I could make
the tic flow through silence into articulation . . .
She marries the sculptor, they make books together, then
live with their daughter in New Mexico, in New York;
love’s intensely gentle legacy . . . Creeley dies then
in Marfa, Texas, he to whom so many were friends.
I thought once you wrote Life and Death you lived forever,
I was that young, and stayed that way as long as I loved
–as now–the young Irish-Danish-Polish gypsy girl
who has stayed with me to survive our fool’s errand.
We loved, we grieved. We left behind a biography
of horizons whose aging waves spill over earth’s fire.

                              for Leigh Baker Ronco of New Orleans

(13 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What the Dead Say


I am nowhere now
remember me


already on my way back




Because I came from the earth?


Because every thing alive
except stones
must die, and only stones know
their fate,

because the bubble that begins life
surfaces and divides
how we all begin, I have heard


I go into fire
where no water pours
forth, and air
is left at the door


Now I know where
nowhere starts

(12 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, July 11, 2011

In Memory of Late Friends

Beginning with the word instauration
I can barely remember what I’ve lost
nor, remembering, does the way clear
to restore to something what nothing is.
If stones from the quarry need shaping
here are tools, though they be only words.

There were ideal words like disciple
that imposed humility’s false faces
in paint that can't touch the only face;
discipline to reveal what was confined
in oils or ink, taking the bluff off
the inexhaustible, where what seems is.

There's no lack of need to ignore what’s
coming, its tangled simplicities. Rain
for instance. Snow fences for the year’s
end. Love, weather impervious to fire
or ice. Doing what the rest of me wants:
to follow its lead. Not mind, necessarily.

A house in ruin leaves little room
where there are no eyes in its windows,
no knobs to turn to open locked doors.
You are gone: the reason is not ample,
nor does it assuage. You bury the road
both ways. Now teach me nothing's lesson.

And I learn only words, yet they stanch
the flow, although nowhere do I fail
to keep crumbling into phases of change
flesh cannot defy. Because garlands
camouflage scars, what art would anneal
its wound if waiting were all there is?

(11 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I woke and did what I do with her and she with me.
I have known so few women. They were each one my love.
She knew far more men, she never confused sex with love.
Sun shivering the lake like one body another.
We are becoming old. What was it like to be young?
Who will remember? It is enough to have survived
to remember, how could there be any greater gift?

The lake feels like a river tonight, I remember
saying, and she placed my hand between her legs, said, There’s
where it flows. In that first year together, we made love
to make a child. It did not happen. She went elsewhere,
to be with other men, any one of whom she thought
would let her forget, I do not know how to say it
otherwise. She believed my body made her fallow.

Fucking is joy and also she lets me love this life,
of all the others the one who cares for my worn soul,
who once learned all she needed to know with male strangers
and after that came back to become my odalisque.
You should be so lucky, the mirror likes to reply:
She is her own houri. We occupy a country
whose laws I refuse to learn, where I know I will die.

If she was not the first she will be my last lover.
There is no need so great as mine for her olive skin.
Her words hover in her hive like laughter and honey.
She was desire itself caught in a tangle of men.
She chose each one. A man here, a man there, and nowhere
but on my boat did she find the life to come back to
and when I cut the moorings we floated out to sea.

And here we live on dry land next to a lake of fish
in our fifty-first year to heaven, reeling them in,
cleaning out the heart’s dead parts and preparing the sand
for a feast. It could be Mexico or Hawaii,
I in one place, she in the other. If you took her,
she took you; wherever the sun was we would be there,
don’t ask me how. It’s not in the cards or in the stars.

(10 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, July 9, 2011

adios, adieu:

Let me fantasize I am my own man.
What would I say of imagination
or its Blakean enemy,

Though I cannot be Carlos walking off,
nor Paolo or Susanna at bay,
for whom none of this may matter,
I’m far from home.

What will I tell the Secret of Secrets
I left in my stead
when time comes
as close as now . . .

Adios, amigo, amiga . . .
Adieu, ami, amie . . .

(9 July 2011: Juba o-yei!)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Friday, July 8, 2011

Country of Snow and Ice

When snow falls and the cold begins
that will go from September to April
with hazardous gait, the ground shifts
with ease scrambling for traction under foot.

We do not sleep in the same bed, or love
what is not God (though I thirst and hunger
for the flesh of a sweet woman's body,
preferring hers, as always, and why not?)

The legs have gone, the knees are next,
I could be a sumo wrestler
in his youth not yet a mountain of flesh,
my heart devoted to beating its drum.

I love my wife and she loves me.
I am under the knife one summer, she
the next, my knee, her toe. We were once wild,
she the city girl, I the country boy.

She traveled west, we met. I wound up east.
She went south. I stayed. If I were to go
that was the time, or so I thought.
I could not foresee following, but did

finally. She loved temperate climates.
I could never travel south far enough
to not want her that side of the border.
One winter, her mother sat her baby

outside, naked. The neighbors called the cops.
She knows why now. Her mother’s mother was
Danish. No wonder she hates the August
heat here, in her New Scandinavia . . .

Her mother wanted her steel to the touch.
Her mother wanted her to have a man
with money, her father hoped for moxie,
a man who might make life a work of art.

I served an apprenticeship. We set out
to make this wilderness our work of art.
What form does it take? When will I see it?
I love the smell of summer in the air.

Soon the doctor’s mask will send me a sleep
to forget the pain, though I can take it
and have: how else keep two teeth in the mouth
as anchor for the thirty false to chew . . .

She's become my legs, yet her bright mind quails
to be used. Near seventy she returns
to be with children she was once one of,
adolescent with wild hair up her ass,

she likes to laugh along with saying so,
she can’t stay away long without sorrow
on her nerves. Priests came to the house: they said,
Seduce me to know God . . . She preferred boys.

I learn to sing arias on my own
sending the lode of my voice
through open windows of our only house,
and at mass she plays piano, I sing,

parishioners hush, ladies love my voice,
the young want to grow old but keep young souls.
I see them and imagine them naked,
I am a devil in disguise.

(8 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What the Head Says to the Heart and Hears in Reply

Sometimes the heart has more to say
than the head wants to hear.
In the wake of your three score and ten
the heart wants to confess your life.
What is there to say
that would not be better left to tongues
other than yours?

In Paris the Virginia gentleman
wanted to woo the English beauty
in what Virginians called "the worst way,"
meaning "fully" . . . you know, "passionately."
She was, however, married
and his head said, You are a widower,
isn’t one dead wife enough?
His heart replied, You must accept your fate.

Therefore, Eleni Rallis lived in Athens,
ex- husband by the Pacific Ocean,
and I with my most stubborn love, Cathleen,
in the snow and ice country,
for Seattle was too rainy
even if it was where we met
more than fifty years ago.
Lelli’s "ex" married an Englishwoman
and that too is over . . . but why go on?
Eleni lives in New Orleans now.
Roberto would marry her, but no,
his black-hole cancer will swallow him whole
and she will be left a widow.

. . . Juan overprepared this event:
re-read Thomas Jefferson’s dialogue,
his letters and Maria Cosway’s;
remembered Sally Hemings
to be sure
to not forget her lover-master's means
to buy and sell human beings . . .

Juan thinks of Leila Shulamite
networking for a job in New York,
served canapes from trays that come around
balanced on ten brown fingers,
and though her skin’s the same shade and hue
as the servants’, she is dressed to the nines
and on paper more educated than they.
If "irony" now squares with "agony,"
what passes through Leila's head
on the way to her heart?

(7 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Irene Castenada, with a tilde
over the "n," and Floyce Alexander.
Mexican girl and poor white Southern boy
learning to love the other to be first
in their lives, should they look back on their lives,
and Juan knew her later, he too loved her,
and she told him of the first time she loved,
long ago, with the boy who read and wrote
and with his body made enough money
to go to college in the big city.
Ten, twelve, fourteen hours of labor in fields,
orchards, canneries, warehouses, his grapes–
and when they married Cathleen watched the tape
of the woman giving fellatio
and she sighed, That’s hard work, for Cathleen knew
what Irene first did only for pleasure.
What Irene started, Cathleen completed.
It is the destiny of Seattle and other cities,
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston,
Manhattan. It is all amour fati.
Irene went to Seattle. She wanted
to marry him, but said no, I must work
in the canneries and the warehouses
for my father whose life was spent in fields
and my mother who brought me into life
before my sister died, like your brother
before you were born. I can speak English
and they can’t, and I read both languages,
the one in the house and the one from school,
and except for them I would marry you
in Seattle. I love you. I will miss
everything I know and all I don’t know
of what you are now and what you will be . . .
if only you would work with your vineyard,
our children could help us live through old age.
It was not their roots, it was the future
did them in. He was as happy to leave
as if he’d never lived there. She followed,
she stayed long enough to know this city,
she loved Seattle as long as she lived,
and she is still alive in that small town.
And Juan met her in Mexico City,
her father and mother gone. His mother
knew her. She loved Irene’s laughter, brown eyes
on fire with joy. Her long legs, lithe body,
beautiful as only the hopeful are.
She told Juan about Floyce Alexander.
The love of her life. The ruin of her.
She married, bore children, but never loved
the same way again. Juan listened and loved
her in San Angel, and in the hotels
Londres and Ibero, London and Spain
living across the street from each other
where calle Mina joins Buenavista.
Juan loved her so well he would marry her,
he told her, but for Cathleen, his first love
who would be his last, though God knew he tried
to leave her, but only she knew his heart
and what it said in the only language
time, not eternity, taught them to speak.

(6 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bright Light

Irene and I walked to the river’s edge.
It was the river you crossed on the way
out of Granger toward Toppenish. The carp
slithered through water as brown as they were.
Still, it was good to see them moving well.
She had a theory they were happier
if they could see what was looking at them.
All the same, we had to keep still to see
what they did. They came nearer to the bank
where we sat on the blanket from the car.
Irene said, Hold your breath, let them come here,
then let it all out. She liked to say how
they loved to play games, getting us quiet
by getting so close, waiting for our breath
to exhale, diving down deep as you go,
not for good but for now. She took my hand,
it was dusk, we were alone, I had lived
through the accident, Jess and I racing
from Zillah home and I was in the lead
until the right-angle curve where I lost
my 1951 Chevy hard-top,
but O so very slowly as time feels
when it’s out of your reach, comes to a stop
before you go upside down, the top crushed
against your crushed skull and once you are dead
you can pick up your check early and wait
to start your next life another season . . .
Irene loved to tell me I should take care
of myself and end the day in her arms,
she could pick me up and take me to bed
and even my Chevy’s top would stay hard.
What would it be like to be dead? She said,
Who would know? No one dead ever answers.
What about that bright light that goes straight up
when you lose your body to keep your soul?

She said, You came back, you don’t want to see
what’s up there until you see what we can make
between us; and I: My brother is there,
and she: I have a sister there. In town,
June bugs fell on their backs under bright light.

(5 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, July 4, 2011

Manufacturing a Life

I used to wonder, masturbating, why
love was so hard to come by. Then Irene
showed up on the line above where I was
keeping the one-hundred-pound sacks secure
under the mouth of the machine jigging,
the word was, filling each sack to leave space
to sew it shut, which was a high-paid job,
you could bloody your fingers, had to be
a lifer, the old ones who could avoid
getting their blood on sacks ready to ship,
while up there the women with rubber gloves
sorted the bad from the good, throwing out,
culling was the word, what went to the bin
emptied by the youngest boys twice a day,
and over the conveyor belt there came
cascading the edible ones, each sack
filling with the ‘I won’t get in your way’
potatoes ‘if you give me ample room
to sleep while awaiting with our brethren’
the night shift, when Jess Maltos and I stay
until at least midnight filling boxcars
whereupon more hours pass until daylight,
locomotive coupling with cars for lunch
–while the back room is filling up again–
and Jess goes one way and I another,
he sits with Martha and I with Irene.
People talk. (I can hear and so can Jess.)
What’s that spic doing with that white girl there?
He ought to be doing what he’s doing
with that Castenada woman instead
–who’s only a girl herself–that white boy
is wooing. I turn to her, kiss Irene
on her neck, she chuckles leading me on
and I would love to lift her dress and dive
between her legs, but no time for dessert,
and we return to that dimly lit room.
Irv Niedermeyer pushes the button
to start all the machines in his warehouse,
he has that much power and never smiles;
his partner Frank Young smiles for both of them.
Because I smile back I am made head man
of the night shift charged with filling boxcars
until the back room is empty, and Jess
helps because I was asked to choose a man
and I chose him, and the two of us fill
our time cards between eight in the morning
and midnight but only five days a week,
an hour off for lunch, an hour for dinner,
a dollar fifty an hour, twenty one
dollars a day, one hundred five per week,
in a month four hundred twenty dollars
and after a year five thousand forty . . .
but Martha and Irene are paid much less
because Irv and Frank pay their wives nothing,
why Irv is a prune and needs Frank to pick
up spirits to keep from paying down
their profit margin, what makes them happy
when each six-week potato harvest ends.
Six hundred thirty dollars in the bank?
No way. They take plenty out and blame it
on the government. It’s gone, that’s for sure..
We get our checks here, at Niedermeyer’s
Warehouse each gloomy, potato-smelling
Friday after work, when the banks are closed
and we have to pretend we have money
Saturday, when Martha and Irene pay
for hamburgers and Cokes at the drive-in
where they contemplate working as car-hops
to make more money working nights, like us.
Nobody drinks? You gotta be kidding!
Masturbate? Who needs to? I don’t know where
Jess and Martha go after mass, but I
come up here with Irene, who shows me how
much we learn from life just by living it.
Up here you can see the lights of the town
come on, you stay that long learning to love
each other, but come another season
boys go off to college and girls marry,
and in the meantime we count off the years
until life turns magically happy.

(4 July 2011: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthday)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Unfinished

He needs to finish what was started. The ancestral journey from Glasgow to Belfast, the reward a ship to the New World and indentured servitude that led to a sorghum farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The flight from Virginia to Arkansas; Ira on to New Orleans. Adore’s story, the way she told it to him. Where his heart claimed entry, other lives better left alone, perhaps fragile from his solicitude, intense and known mostly only to himself now, going nowhere, and if two were here, one in Manhattan, one whose man sacrificed his art to heal her soul, and his first love a widow in a cock-fighting town inland from the Pacific, why should he remember what he did not need to brood over–how he had been the man whose affections were paltry and swept over and under by his vain effort to do art with words, what no one in his family save one had even attempted. He thought of Carlos, then: another need, to prepare the novel his brother left behind in his van when he walked into the Chesterfield gorge. He needs to finish what he started.

Adore said, I kept that little bird until it died. I took it everywhere. I was called Bird Girl, then Lady. No one gave me grief. I was in the company of the gods who measured life not in altitude but in the way you soared high, then low, landing on both feet at once; you saw eye to eye with the fates. Mama Ju-Ju taught me. I started doing gris-gris in her back room. That’s why I always go to the back of my house with a client. Same place the bed is, but I only make love with men I love. Never women, I’m not made that way. Besides, a bed means nothing, it’s there only to enjoy, where it can keep you warm, even safe. I can count on two hands the men who were in bed with me. It took a long time, but you know that. I felt I was robbing the cradle with you, at first; believe me, you disabused me of that notion, or I you. What do you think, Juan Flores? Juan was listening hard. He still needed to know more about Madame Ju-Ju and her back room, so he asked, and Adore said, She let me live up to the name I gave myself. Adore. As in: The loas adore you so you will be unsure if it’s you they are riding or you riding them . . . Madame Ju-Ju maintained the candles and said it was the loas who did it all. All you had to do was leave the back door open and entice them through.

Adore kept going back to that house in the bayou, after she had sworn she would not return. She had to have a home of her own. The bird felt at home: She would set it free and it would fly and always come back, landing on the sill of the open window where she waited, saying the words over and over until she knew she had by heart what Madame Ju-Ju had taught her in the city. She wanted the boy to come back, but he was afraid now he would lose all he knew to make his way in New Orleans. She wanted to tell him he had nothing to fear, this was New Orleans too, just the outer edge, that was all. She saw the boy in town and he always wanted to talk, but by that time she was visiting a man in the Quarter who was willing to pay her top dollar to talk him back to health.

Cathleen came in and made love to him, not with him but to him. She always recalled for him his mother and her mother and her mother’s mother. She was far more beautiful than any of them and she may well have been a better lover. She made him think about Adore, and thinking of Adore and how she made love to, not with, him, led in a circle back to Cathleen.

(3 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bird House, Cat House, Down the Road a Piece

Even if the world is your oyster, you are probably not its pearl.

The creature who eats too fast pays out its orgasm like rope.

Always looking for something to say that never needs to be.

Spare key’s concealed in the bird house abandoned by birds.
Human house also known as cat house, its woman the keeper
against the winds, the ice, the black earth missing from seeds,
her man disobedient in the snake’s modus operandi, the apple
between his legs can’t flourish above its root in seasonal time
because, is it? there’s no help for him being a lover of women
and helpless because now his heart is ticking like any man’s,
or so his gay doctor informs him, his stethoscope amazing her.

Juan wants to fuck Judy Ewing. Cathleen wants him to herself.
If fucking is a kind of solution to love’s mysteries, its drunken
wonder, how you do it with your clothes on, then clothes off,
and no one stays the night but her, she can sleep through Hell’s
door banging shut under Abandon Hope, the drunkard’s alibi.
Judy Ewing gives what she must to Hubbard, her daddy now
Frank’s in Mexico; still in jail? Juan’s down the road a piece,
engorged with her image, all he knows the way she looked once.

Cathleen comes to the house in Lagunitas and knocks on her door.
She tries the key, dead bolt’s on, she goes around to the bathroom
window, climbs through it with alacrity, her body lashed, scarred
by her imagination: she’s blind and remembering Paradise Lost
reputed to have been dictated by Milton to whom? a secretary,
she knows, one foot bared by her sandal lost in the night’s dew.
He sleeps on the bed in the living room, where she takes a pillow
for herself; when he wakes he places it under her warm buttocks.

A spare key’s useless when the dead bolt slides into place. So:

The birds fled because the woman of the house mimicked flight.

The continuing invasion of cats also needed to be considered.

(2 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander


Friday, July 1, 2011


We will now blow our brains out 
celebrating the beginning of the end.
Everyone knows holidays kill people.

The goat path goes along the edge of the canyon where the Sphinx could see. Is it a he or a she? Legend has it one way; history is never involved, the way is too narrow, the steep air makes you dizzy, you haven’t even been reading, your habits are changed from the days when your heart rebelled, then acquiesced thirty years and now, forty years later, what does it say a drum doesn’t? The woman inside the city’s walls was waiting, she said. The news reaches her before he enters the gate. A price is on his head, though no one knows whose head. You don’t kill your father without regret, even if you don’t know it’s him when he staggers and teeters on two feet falling under him on the goat path. He has a guilty conscience not knowing who the man was, only that he was threatened without cause, much less reason. The city is made up of those who go about their own business as long as it does not implicate others. The law is the law, life is not lived until it’s over.

The Fourth of July. The Concord Bridge.
If you believe the people’s biblical priests,
it is here the dinosaurs finally vanished.

Sophocles can have his story back. I could at least have looked into his source. Promiscuous? A lady without a gent has no reason to be otherwise unless she is living in the open, and Jocasta never has exposed herself to the fellaheen (to cop a word Ishmael learned from Queequeg and Melville learned about, finally, reading Ahab’s journals–what was left of them in the coffin the kid was riding when the Rachel came back days after first meeting the Pequod and now . . . Holidays are for blowing your brains out, he said. No one suspects suicide on a holy day. Only the undoubting believers comprehend the gravity a body encounters when God says, Go ahead, get it over with, I’m open all day, all night, and if I’m not here an angel will be.

I was aghast. He said he knew the word
would mean nothing if anyone listened.
He didn’t even want to think about it.

The sun glinting off the surface of the lake. Birds know how to fly upside down to measure how far they’ve come. Those who don’t look back never seem to be able to see what’s ahead. The Greek music is as old as the amphitheater carved out of stone, filled by those who already know the story and are curious how this performance will justify its existence. The sound of cars. A cacophony of voices. Some semblance of the power of sanity to prevent the disappearance of souls from sight. Be grateful, the judges of all actions decide to say, then turn it into a threat. Don’t bother to appear before us if you can solve the riddle yourself. We have so little time.

(1 July 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander