Monday, December 31, 2012

Poem for My Seventy-fourth Year

Since this is all I know to do to stanch time’s remorseless flow
I walk the snow on trail shoes of a morning to gather wood,
bundle and tie branches together and haul them home to burn
to begin the new year, three hours before the number thirteen
starts out like me, limping, gathering speed the closer I get
to spring’s arching bowers of sweet sap coursing up from their roots.

(31 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reading a Sky's Stars

I had the money
to have you
but refused

and sewed my lips shut
so you could
be a whore

How to love you then
was written
in the stars

Fifty years have passed
since the earth
turned over

Pedro la Ponce sold
you on his
barroom stool

“I have just the girl”
was the line
he dished out

You had a husband
who needed
to find you

in time to ask you
if you felt
married now

that you were turned out
and taught how
a whore loved

sent by him to work
on your back
with strangers

and yes I wanted
to murder
the coward

as he feared I might
and said what
you told me

I had never paid
for the love
squandered then

You opened the door
and we left

and our love survived
through a life
that delights

I remember lines
queued up by

outside the brothels
no one’s born
to live in

My mother’s mother
left her there
with Alice

grandmother madam
across the
river bridge

from Oklahoma
Her mama drove off
to Detroit

and died in L. A.
choking on
her old lies

My mama grew up
orphaned in

and married Manuel
who could read
the sky’s stars

(30 December 2012)

copyright by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Absurdity Posing as Wisdom

“The signs of the world are such that nothing triumphs
but evil, which is forever negligible, posing as nonsense
to scions of reason whose veins throb with rejection’s
anger, but must recall their mission is to nullify stupidity
which is too late now to consider, the land overgrown
with atavists. Which will it be, my love, seed or orgasm
only? A need to be completely human, the hunger of age,
of men not women, the power dissipating between them
until love is word only, you have to believe facts of death
end only in the urn or the grave, or so say life’s rules.”

Pedro la Ponce

(29 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 28, 2012


If you want to live high get high
–Nihil C.
(Gary Snyder, “Hymn to the Goddess
San Francisco in Paradise”)

He got famous for driving.
He died while walking.
Denver’s pool halls
stayed open so long
he went to see his father,
I don’t know any more
until Jack wrote his books
about him, Neal wrote one
with two friends on its cover.
Did you know those guys?
a guy in the Koffee Klatch
piped up. Not me. I returned
to reading The First Third

. . . in Mexico, the railroad
tracks, stepping between ties
little body left to live in,
blue sky around him, falling,
dying, wolves circling, fire
burning, night fallen
already, blue moon out
though covered by clouds
continually moving . . .
until closing time came,
I went back to reading Six
Sections from Mountains
and Rivers without End.

(28 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Here’s what I have to say about the past:
“The eternal silence of those infinite spaces fill me with dread.”
That’s Pascal. That’s the guy my brother Bill said
made a bet there was a God in case there was. If not,
what could you lose? Bill’s not my real brother,
understand. He goes by another name, and I have my own,
we met once and never seemed to stop the conversation
in spite of the years that fill the gulf between mothers.
But I’m not here to talk about Bill
or Pascal.

The past is a very lonely country. No one lives there
who wouldn’t rather be here.

The way you find brothers is to be alive.
You feel the vacancy of a life
that came before you. That was the first one,
the one whose death your mother mourned.

When brothers die they don’t stop being brothers.
John was the one who came after Jim.
Jim died because he didn’t sleep driving his car.
Not once, but twice. I’m not talking about him,
as I say he will always be a brother,
as will John, who shot himself in the cerebellum.
John painted in L.A. off Wilshire, in a one-room
studio. He came to see Paula and me
in the town where he was born and came of age
before he went to Brooklyn to study with Ruben Tam
and then Tokyo, Kyoto, finally home
after years of loving one woman he lost somehow,
but as long as he could paint he was okay. He could show
when he called–he had no phone–and they said the gallery
was free then, bring your–whatdyacallem?–Space Slicers?–
and set them up for the exhibit a week from Saturday,
and he may have thought maybe it was all a lure,
his paintings a lie,  his life a lie, he was no longer sure.

When Paula met him he was gaunt looking starved,
emaciated, you know.
Paula stayed home while John and I walked to town
and had a drink at Rico’s,
my watering hole. I said, Why don’t we three go to Mexico
this summer? He said, Why not Chile?
where his politics and mine converged.
Why not go where the big wound was about to be closed?

So that’s what happened. He came home,
went back to the City of Angels, and nothing came
of everything. He had thought he was onto something, art
Gene Youngerman and Ellsworth Kelly would validate.
He thought
of trying to show on the Islands, Honolulu, Tam’s home.
How in hell would he get there? Tam encouraged him
and wrote in his behalf and first thing you know
he had an offer from a gallery not far from Waikiki.
All he had to do was borrow the money to send his work.
He couldn’t find a patron. There was no end to such luck,
he must have thought. He shot himself. That’s all I know.
I drove south and then east to find out in Taos.
Howard, my elder brother, gave me the news.

I got as far as some bordertown, Tijuana maybe,
though I’d had my fill of it before.
Maybe Nogales, the one I preferred.
I never went through Brownsville, Texas was not my style,
San Antonio, Austin were okay,
but the rest of all that space I loathed.

I remember now, it was Ciudad Juarez I entered
half-drunk. They didn’t care,
I had a visa, a new car,
I got as far as Ciudad Chihuahua,
I passed the statue of Pancho Villa and looked
for a bar.
I forgot to tell you my drinking was why Paula was gone,
had been gone, would always be gone,
and so was John, but Paula was my reason
for never going as far as Santiago, Chile.

You know the rest of it if you’ve read this far.
I returned to San Francisco Bay
and Marin
where I found Cathleen waiting in the same place
she was when I left.
She goes everywhere else there is to go with me.
She is my Magdalene, I her most recent sin.
She was always with me through all that infinite space
in my dreams of dread, those I had standing on two feet,
one foot and then the other.

(27 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


If there were lights there would be sound, but the night hushed by clouds
is beached on a reef in the turn of Riverbend where the breakwater runs,
or would if there were an ocean the water could reach at the end of its flow.
There are women and men in town but boys and girls are more its style,
especially the high-breasted, narrow-waisted, long legg’d lassies with nails
painted red glowing in the white lights of the Saturday night restaurant.
And he is but a lad, this one, his eyes imagine more than could be there,
his hands want to reach his crotch under the table to masturbate his wand,
he is that young but old enough to compel the blood to gorge the passage.
This is to say he is a boy himself with the nocturnal proclivities of the men
strutting like roosters among the women who would be wives in the dream
of complexity and consternation albeit with pleasure a brief complaisance.
There is one who owns this café whose son is a growing bull and his horns
are equal to the fierce need to propel himself against the warring bodies
on a field surrounded by fanatics who wish only to see the kill and victory. 
Jim Dills fathered Jim Dills, whom no one has the audacity to call Junior,
the boy, his father calls him when he is hurdling through the opposing team
who fall like Achaeans on the hundred yard battlefield, or is it a century?
It is the river naming Riverbend refusing its Indian name for the Sparta
where children were trained, unlike here, where fathers become spectators.
Only he knew Emily Esquivel who was her lover and would die very young.
She was quiet and beautiful with her body already woman to his manhood.
He took her willingly down to the shore of the river bending into embrace.
She would do there things he imagined were done only for him and for now
and alone would know when next she brought him down to her nakedness
and encouraged his rut with her soft hands guiding his tyrannical bone
inside–her arching, the heaving, his rocking ride with the river’s slow glide
and only their bare skin afloat, only his body’s need to become Emily’s will,
the way the carp rippled brown as refuse through the water beside them.
Who would know what became of her when he died? Who could you ask? 

(26 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

No tienes verguenza / You have no shame

I should read the New Testament like a Bible or something,
but I won’t, I’m too busy judging the judges,
rolling cigars in Tampa listening to the news of electricity
in the enslaved air south of here,
if I were there I’d take out a few, ride a horse into them,
unarmed so the kids could have guns.

I see no reason to read up on injustice, poverty, and crimes
of the wealthy and their puppet tyrants.
They get things so no one can do anything for themselves.
But haven’t I written all this before?
I knew what I was talking about, closer to the action.
I’m still stuck in the Old, which has a lot of fine stories.

Most of all, I’m sitting in the dark listening to music
and when asked to stand I pull myself erect, dropping the cane
and jacket, unable to read the words
it’s too goddam dark, I’m too fucking old, Christmas’s here
and I’m somewhere else.
I should’ve gone where they were. I’d be totally here now.

They keep it dark to enhance the atmosphere of birth
in a manger for the children. They bring in Jersey calves
so it smells like what it is, the full measure of miracle
and what it’s like to be one when all around you
are the fucks who fuck you up and fuck your women too.
I tell you, there’s too much to say to find words for.

I had to say all this, it’s too exhausting to take it out
on myself, who needs to keep working until the day
or night arrives I no longer need to.
Then you’ll see me somewhere you don’t need one country,
which means nothing more than possession,
the bright lights on, legs like new, a voice like Pavorotti’s.

(25 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 24, 2012

Q. and A.

I’m remembering again, the old agony
I still own, though it’s up to you to tell
the way a storm builds and takes a city
like a lover down with few survivors.
Were you watching the death throes of a man
and tears in vain from a woman who loves,
thinking of her boldness, benevolence,
of how the saved condemn them to a hell
they say is of their own making . . .
It’s all I remember everywhere I go now
where wounds rip the skin off all riddled hearts.
That’s where heaven comes in, the fellow
with his gang naked with nonviolence,
everybody in Rome convinced one death
paves the way for its empire to survive;
the woman scourged for learning the brothel
may not be the answer but she kisses those feet
following the path to execution;
the man drinking himself into dying 
blindly sees where his own feet lead.
And the guy with the gang? the condemned man?
His Mary never kissed men on their lips,
Magdalene sold her body, not her love.
Judas drank thirty pieces of silver
in no time and she loved him too, but death
is the leveler, the bloodstains don’t wash,
not from this god taking the air out there 
alone to answer delicate questions:
What good’s a whore? Why save a drunk?
Who else is attending this Q. and A.?

(24 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 23, 2012


As hell is on earth only
so there’s no heaven
in heaven

23 December 2012

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Earth Level

noting the absence of brothers
thus does a father say his peace
over coffins of baby clothes
and give to motherhood reasons
to endure the body’s blood-filled
bone between her wish and his
having no rationale for death
to surpass the knots of aging or
living to see your one life full of
the day arriving to fill this urge
forgetting loss to prize the living
whose waking follows sleeping

(23 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Against Gunfire

Let us brave the elements of humanity,
the airy bluster, the watery resolve,
the earthen cast of hardscrabble mayhem,
the fire that threatens conflagration
when the family is home and secure,
they think, though nothing supports such
conclusion more than a spray of ammo
in the domestic face, less than death’s hush

We see what’s coming, we refuse to countenance
what we see we change into what we want
life to lift high in the gloaming era, watch
blood drip from the porous ceiling’s sieve

Could not stop could never denounce the plague
of fire, lye-laced earth, flood rush, empty breath

(22 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 21, 2012


Ah yes, brave ass, it’s thy kultura, or kulchur
as Pound spelled the things that didn’t live up
to the names they carried like a sack of wheat
to one threshing floor the strong men manned
never forgiving thy murder, father Abraham,
so sayeth my father named for the other father
on the horse singing, playing his Spanish guitar
where guns crackled in the pine, mountainclad
distance and greatgrandmother loved with him
in Huntington or Mansfield or the other town
with one hotel, one dining room, one free room
to make a child that died and killed his mother.

Manuel never returned after hearing the news.
Places in those hills anyone who kills goes free.

(21 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In Marin

After I returned, after the six weeks I terrorized
the Beach, with my tongue rampaging, blunting the shore’s edges,
the sky was as it may be now, and I was no brighter,
though my scars were all hidden in my hooded heart, buried
between the bones where the heart pools, skips its beat, syncopated.
Still I knew a happiness: no scabbed blood, no scarred, bruised skin
as I dropped to my knees in the doorway to kiss her cunt
whereupon she smiled to see us there, at the beginning

(20 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

North of Mission Beach

Took off shoes to slide into the opening, then down the bag,
park grass wet under me when I woke with a policeman’s club
prodding me to wake, so I might say, What the fuck! I’m here!
but that was not me, I was how many miles north, making love
with you, talking our way into love again, where no one goes
anymore, while later sitting on the bench in La Jolla,
writing a letter to you, I got drunk, I forgot it, lost
in the shuffle through the sand to the edge of sea-bright water,
who even knew Henrietta Murphy was in town, singing
nightly where moon sets, suns rise, cops can’t tell me to move along.

(19 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


                                                                      to Paula

In bed with the blonde girl in her trailer.    
She says, Why don’t we go to Altamont?
I don’t say I work, no time or money, 
or the fur from your cat is everywhere,
and a woman I loved more than I knew
until she left me, you’re not even close
to taking her place, you’re a one-night roll
and I’m a drunken fool, I should be gone
before I turn my ire upon myself
again. That was Pullman in the sixties,
when the six turned to a seven and I
was soon gone. When the one I loved left me
I quit working. I smoked a lid a day
in the two-story house bereft of her
beauty and its corporeal shadow.
The day she left she said she would come back.
When she did she knew I would never change.
We kissed and held each other close but no
cats were around any longer, I took
those left alive–one bloody fur in dirt
from the flywheel when I started the car,
the other flung by a German Shepherd
from the door into the alley, dead there,
neck limp, Icarus fallen to his death–
took the living to a dark trailer court
to roam and find a child who might love them.
They once purred after we made love, they knew
about love, that’s how they came to be there.
They were our Daedalus building the maze
we called a labyrinth. I knew them all,
the minotaur and he who pursued it
as the thread unraveled behind each step,
knowing my son’s wings would melt in the sun.
I was Orestes, reading Aeschylus,
with my sister Electra avenging
our mother’s murder of Agamemnon,
Clytemnestra reaping the Furies' wrath.
My wife, my lover, my reason to love,
my heart, our sudden romance turned to stone,
I fell into intellectual swoon,
writing in half light, drinking in the dark,
passing out, reading, talking through the night
with the drunken intellectuals
until the night came of the day you left.
Slivered almonds on a bed of brown rice,
orange juice, water with marijuana,
and at Jack’s house after Philosophy,
continuing to rehearse Vallejo’s
prophecy of the Thursday he would die,
back from Spain and what was there to live for?
Thinking of that morning before all this
when you woke to Betty’s name on my lips
and were sitting in front of the window
rocking and smoking, O how much you hurt . . .
I remembering dreaming love's murder;
and on Jack’s lawn, his silver-haired wife Ruth
happy to share the philosopher’s house,
telling me Portnoy was her favorite,
she reread it when she needed to laugh,
while Jack was reading metaphysicians
who permitted their lives to intertwine,
and sitting there with him in the high grass
I pulled off the ring Betty cast for me
after marriage and I threw it as far
as the Altamont Speedway I did not
visit, even though the murder that night
on the Maysles’ film looped a memory
in slow motion until that Labor Day
in the Mission Beach alley I looked him
in the eye and he must have known I was
seeing the knife rise and fall into flesh
whose freeze-frame black skin held the gun aloft;
Blanche Craig telling me how her brother sat
in the Selma jail waiting to hear dogs
begin snarling, barking, the hoses rip
whatever stood in the way of water’s
blast throwing you to the ground; and out there
that day he walked beside the white lady
from Detroit he would never see alive
after that day; and here I was in Hell
where the Angel took the plate from his mouth
saying, You want to fuck with people now,
I’m here, and behind him his fallen crew
congregated, beginning their vigil.

(18 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 17, 2012

To the Manner Born

It’s kitsch to think you’re hip. Once coal-black hair
now white. White boy could be human being.
Prove it. If you could show a scalp or two . . .
Harvest on the horizon. Load your guns,
Stoic. But for you the population
problem uncontrolled. Kill deer where mothers
feed. Kill kids where mothers send them to learn.
You like to think you gave up guns near twelve.
Puberty’s now out of style. Makes you think
of birds dying on the ground you shot out
of the dead mulberry tree, wings jerking
to breathe. You threw your Red Ryder Daisy
air rifle in the ditch full of water
flowing, gone. You grew up drawing live things,
naked faces, horses. Telling stories
of country preachers collecting dead birds.
Reading them aloud, alive, gave them air
to fly through. The fourth-grade teacher said to.
Such praise you received! No wonder you age
ungracefully. A school so small you grew.
Should the bomb drop, get down, under your desk.

(17 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 16, 2012


What Robert L. Ripley and his fellow shrinks should do,
Bobby St. Clair was thinking and had thought for months,
was appoint Donald J. Bonnington, recently widowed,
to the roundtable of white-frocked knights in seclusion
above the noisy fray of human delirium and non-frenzy
awaiting denotation. It’s the quiet ones that terrify, so
Ripley liked to quip, and Bonnington thought it silly
to single out silence as the fuse potentially dynamite.

Bobby thought Bonnington more adept at this game
than he, and though he confided his idea to the man,
Bobby went about his business. In La Iglesia de La Puta,
he wrote to his mother letters about the rain painting her
face once on the glass of the naked world of city weather,
how the cold came through the cracks of poverty’s houses
and heat hit the heart between the muscle and the outflow
and hurt when blood refused its river and became a dam.

When Melindra was home, he was home. They made love
like the only lovers in the nation. American fucking, yes,
was as fine as Goya’s majas, Flaubert’s houris, just ask him,
who’d make you happy you could speak love’s lost language
even if it was the anglais, ingles employed to cozen people
who damn well knew you were fucking them over any time
a man got hard, a woman wet, and betraying the instincts
as though the Zuyder Zee were more shallow than Freud.

She took him by his little root and planted all of him in her.
Melindra smoked a cigarette afterward while he prepared
corned beef hash and eggs and boiled coffee black and hot
as they were to grow once the food was in them and a time
arrived to do again what was never enough once it’s done.
Then, by lunch time, he told her school was not for him,
washing dishes either, he had to go south and see his mama
to hear her story, finally. That was the way the end began

all over again, a sheet of ice forming between two tongues,
though he sincerely asked, Is there a med school in La Jolla?
Maybe so, Melindra said. She knew Bobby was a randy lad,
why risk his wild proclivities and be abandoned on the border
but why not take a chance, baby, and coaxed herself to hear,
Go south and if you have to, enslave him to his mother’s tale,
give him rein but not too much slack, if he loved her she loved
him as much, yet without the reservation men so nimbly need.

(16 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The black guy across the table was Tony
who he’d last seen over Chinese in Chinatown.
It felt like many years ago but for Bobby
days crawled now where once they ran fleetfooted.

The woman’s name was Lydia Gonzales.
He asked her if she’d care to cross
la calle para café en Aggie’s.
She said, I learned English before Spanish . . .

It’s native, hermano, a mi alma.
He said, I don’t know Spanish or even English
well enough to fool any living body.
It’s all I can to write what I think I know.

Lydia said she was falling in love with Tony.
Just like that, she said it.
Bobby said, Oh, I was hoping it was me.
She smiled and reached toward his hand.

Next day he made a call to the fading number
on the fading paper torn to write it down
so long ago in the psychiatric ward.
He told Tony Lydia said nice things of him.

Next thing he knew Tony and Lydia smiled
across the table. Sitting together, black
and white–that’s what she was in the census–
was not to be their way. They chose privacy.

When Professor Dave asked if he could stay,
Bobby said he could if he had a scholarship
like the old days. Dave said Bobby had played
a bottom card. Stop coming, you flunk out,

Bobby, they’d say pay your own way now
and work your way back in, take courses,
get your gradepoint up. When and if you do,
don’t stop showing up with your homework.

Bobby chuckled. He should defy the masters
of civilized Western thought? He’d keep coming
until Dave put the cabash to him, then he’d bring
stories the higher-ups could read if they would..

Bobby actually thought that might be the ticket.
Little did he know. The boys in the upper room
were like Ripley and his white-coated conferees
above the ward. What they said was final, kaputt.

(II: 15 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


floycealexander sd, y donut we all go chute?
Make a famly ahfare, wot keeps da famly twogadder
cums frou tex-ass.
Go gat yr gunns n foller me, im a-gonna go chute.

Those sitting around the seminar table thought it
very funny and laughed and then they went silent
n da ruum seamed two m-t. 
De wer on der wa-a two da chutin ranj . . .

floycealexander fin-nish’d.
Bobby sat listening after he reading the four lines
nearly floycealexander head ritten,
and smiled, silently, listening as was his wont.

Bobby also wondered who she was,
the woman older than him since he saw a gray
streak through her hair, forgetting how fashion
springs up overnight only to fade out the next day.

She wrote about living in Mexico City
and mixed espanol with ingles in her manuscripts.
Besides, she knew (she said) a moochual akquaintenc.
What was it like

to live in Texas? Bobby asked floycealexander.
who replied, I dunno, I nevair livd in tex-ass.
Bobby thought to keep the shtick up, but didn’t.
He’d like to hear her read mixing her languages.

(15 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bad Boy

He was finished with the intellectual life.
What did it get him?
The hell he was a writer! He should stick
to playing his piece
of oiled, be-reeded timbre
divided in half to sleep in its case,
and maybe he could do the same
should conditions demand.
Or he could become a grifter, gamesman
with a dollar sign between his eyes.
Or he could keep writing, but stories only.
Poems were worthless, no money
from them because they were too hard
to read, if, that is, they were poems at all,
which he suspected his were not.
No, he would leave the grift to others.
He would go back to playing once
he had decided what he had to do.
Until then, he’d keep getting the water hot
as he could stand it 
in his skin-tight rubber gloves
turning dirty dishes into clean
like a heart blotched with sin
being washed with Christ’s blood,
or so the books said that everybody read
or said they did.
He was his own man.
Let the bevy of beasts roaming the streets
be restless and congregate,
he would walk where he wanted, 
he would unriddle what he needed
to do.  

(14 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Cathleen wrote from San Francisco.
She was going to Paris again,
did he want to come? Did she know
places there he could wash dishes?
She didn’t reply. He felt like shit.
He should never have said it.

Melindra, as always, loved early sex.
He, in turn, loved to fuck her then.
The day was beginning, a long spell
before the owls’ eyes grew bright.
She fucked him back, raising her hips
high to catch the tears he wept in her.

Paula and Tony, Clark and Sanchez
headlined the ball room, as usual.
He sometimes looked at her and loved
her all over again. The only time
he loved, he told himself, rehearsing,
wondering why he never told her.

He kept writing. He turned to songs.
He didn’t have to show them now.
The scholarship was down the drain.
Where the soap went after dishes
were done. Removing rubber gloves,
climbing the circular stairs.

Why don’t you tell the truth?
Do you have to be so mean?
Why don’t you ever come round
before the sea takes its wrath
out on me, and the moon shines
brightly and makes no sound . . .

He wadded up the paper and sailed
a ball of failure across the room.
The first couplet was like a song
getting under way. But the rest
went off-key by the fifth line,
music long gone before the end.

He missed DG. He wondered
about Rose and Dave. Desire
increased, he needed a new gig.
How do you bring back a dead
feeling? Do you look behind
the climb and risk a long fall?

To catch the way my eyes shine
brightly, keenly, an owl’s round
gaze lures me on, I need to fly.
I need to hoot and howl. Play
the owl and ruffle my feathers
in her muff, be wet with her love.

(13 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Love and Death by the Sea"

When Bobby moved in with Melindra again
she kept her job and he began to wonder
why he loved her if he couldn’t help her
pay for med school at the very least,
though she said he could make her happier
becoming famous. He liked that now no better
than then. Then he learned his original work
in poetry and prose was no compensation for
his lackluster class attendance. And he quit
and got a job washing dishes four hours a day
in the New Congress, eight hours if he wanted.
Now that  was how being famous on clarinet
and singing and writing songs was achieved.
That way he could keep paying for his room,
La Iglesia de La Puta, where he kept writing
nights or days, whenever Melindra worked.
Nights rain fell he never saw Henrietta again
now that he knew where she lived in La Jolla.
But he wrote. He had read Keats. He could not
get out of his mind that phrase “until my pen
has gleaned my teeming brain.” Or the letters
about the poet looking out a window to become
the sparrow pecking in the gravel, “camelion
Poet” home from a Christmas mummers play
realizing his reading of Shakespeare revealed
“Negative Capability,” being able to function
“without any irritable reaching after fact
& reason,” insatiable need to be right or wrong,
and what was that if not a “vale of soul making”
where the word “genial” turned into “genius,”
as Katya had once said piecing them together
quicker than the Oxford English Dictionary.
Christina wanted him to sleep with her
and he tried but he was devoted to Melindra.
She could make a baby with some other stud.
He wrote a story about a guy who murdered
his beloved without killing her. She became
a more devoted addict than he. She never
died but lived and found a man about to die,
the greatest sax man and it wasn’t his music
so much as his love of her she fell in love
and married him for, only to find her love
of yesterday roaming the streets and so far
away he didn’t even remember her name.
That was how it ended. Like that. Murder
or suicide, he couldn’t decide on either.
He called it “Love and Death by the Sea.”

(12 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

After the Lull

How do I know she means me ill?
She enters always once night falls.
Nothing is there she cannot fill
of me. I slake my lust and thrill
in the doing, empty then full
each night another banshee wails.

Bobby dropped out of school,
got a job washing dishes while
he wrote about the way men kill
short of murder, acting the fool
to talk himself through his own wiles,
taking to bed one more good girl.

floycealexander worked his tool
like magic for the good of all
ladies who thought he was a child
and needed a mama to feel
his need to be warm where he’s cold,
occupied with lovers, not scolds.

I have been lying here for hours
believing my fictions: towers
that fall and I’m always below
watching, as though nothing were real,
only a conspiracy style
of plummeting to what we know.

(11 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Future Is Embodied in the Past

At the balls the old men and women dance
in tuxedos and gowns next to the boys
and girls guiding each other off the floor,
where they will gaze at age with masks over
their eyes. This is New York, not New Orleans.
The storm’s fury is late a hundred years.

Dee Ann is a ghost, her wraith full of wrath.
She still dreams those years of Asian war,
hell her people took to the people there.
Hell’s here. She knows that then we hid the truth,
as we do now.  She takes pictures with eyes
that are still her own but have learned to fly.

One little girl stands in the cloudy dark
emulating Dee Ann’s concentration–
is this girl the future of her nation?–
and finding focus hears the shutter click.
How can she know pictures she sees have names
chiseled into their invisible frames?

(10 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 9, 2012


An apartment is not a home, no matter how huge
or expensive, how high you are above the rabble.
Nor does it become a home because it is a house.
How many women sell themselves to dally there?
Mother smokes incessantly. Father whores.
He can do what he wants, her father was in furs,
and you, my sire, worked your way to taking over.
And I, what do I or my brother, my sister do,
why would we sacrifice our youth, all that we own
our supple, resilient, demanding minds, always on
the edge of falling back, spilling into oblivion,
their empty riches. There is another world I find
whenever I go there and each time my first time.
Stay here, shadows swarm for the green honey.

(9 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 8, 2012

They Can't Afford Veils

Wandering pariah hallways
with nothing in the camera,
I see no one who does not stare,
I look back and they stare some more.
I invite myself in, they say,
Sit here. They are each courteous, 
but none desire to be quiet.
I tell them who I am and they
reciprocate. The bare bulbs blink,
no one’s paid the bill. I pay it,
they agree to sit for me when
I think to bring film. I can help
myself. I’m a brave little girl
when I want to be a grown-up.
I go where there is to be born.
They settle into their dying,
but then they like to kiss and fuck.
They urge each woman and each man,
Do what you want to all your selves.
I can record nothing. Love is
a privacy. Lust makes money.
When the hour is over, is that
how long love takes when it can’t last?
What if I need to be someone
I’m not? Someone who can’t afford
to wear a veil and needs to talk
more than listen. They hear me out.
They reply. A night can go by
before I realize I’m lost.
It’s far better than staying home
among all my well-off shadows.

(to Dee Anne’s specter)

(8 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 7, 2012

Nothing More?

He could write himself off.
That’s what kulchur is for.
Get in, get out, get a life,
as the wisdom of the day
has it, in hearts and spades.
Once you live in a machine,
you are the machine.
Call it life. There’s air
to stir, a change of weather
beats biblical prophecy.

I’d stop talking anywhere
else. The home is where
you stay so long you love
the way it feels around you.
You can shoot pheasant,
your hook can catch gills
by the fish, and there’s deer
menacing population,
treehouses and the like,
any home you climb into.

He is me. Who guessed it
gets to tell me why I was
that. I loved more women
than my wife, who loves
back, like they say,
the lepidopterists
of etymology, not the root
but the tree before falling
prey to the old disease
of age. Roots that remain.

(7 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Hell He Travels (4)


He has seen the seas enclosing three borders of the nation.
The slate gray Atlantic, the worn blue Pacific
with brown waves, and the Gulf of Mexico,
whose water is warm and without pity
for the dying. He knows death when he feels it approaching,
his only hope to make the resurrection, or so he thinks.
His ears are listening to their own tongue,
riding in a car east, through the desert;
then farther, to a country dwarfed by memory . . .
Only to return under a sky of lightning and thunder
ignited and reverbed where he expected harps, not guitars.
Back then to confront knives and brass knuckles, 
refusing a fight, walking away, cries of shame following.
And lives, returns the car, pays, retrieves his collateral,
checks in with George who proclaims him lucky to be alive.
Go home, Flowers. Read poetry to the doomed of Soledad.
Warden says his craw is full up with poets, he needs guards.
On home then. The fire at the court house smolders still, the Afro
allegedly concealing a gun unravels in the grave,
the Doors’ When the Music’s Over playing over and over.

(II: 6 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

The Hell He Travels (3)


George and Nancy had a friend named John who loved to sleep,
though he was not afflicted with narcolepsy. Drinking instead.
Our antihero drank to stay awake. Hence the hell he traveled.
Let us call him Flowers. Faux Faust sounds too literary, forced.
Once he had lived by water passing by a willow that only wept.
He worked there nights and days. He could not sleep for weeping.

John crossed the border with Flowers and they walked the town
before finding the bar where the lovely woman waited at the bar
quoting her price, making conversation while Flowers praised
her beauty offering to write her a poem if she would let him love
without paying, but No, she said, I have my children to support.
Two men came in, quickly corralled her and climbed the stairs.

The rented car crawled past the vigilant eyes of border guards.
John slept sprawled on the back seat. Flowers increased speed.
That night John would sleep on George and Nancy’s frayed couch.
Flowers went off to encounter the girl named Joy, too young to be
a woman though she had been the Old Lady of the biker Fuck Up.
Flowers shared with her his dinner in the town’s best restaurant.

Together or alone, hell is a place that need not answer to its name.
Together is better than alone, but it is invariably hell all the same.
So say the wise men where women live only to pleasure and to be
pleasured. A wild man can’t stay home. He wanders all the streets
where the wild men with their wild women all become more crazy
once closing time arrives. Here Flowers unrolls his bed and sleeps.

In the park not far from the wild zoo he dreams where dew braids
sparkling grass, the pond’s watery eyes mirroring the moon’s face.
He is full of love between his legs. He finds a woman who is willing
to lie with him without payment. He grows happy to hear chorusing
under him and see the magical change in her face, her serene eyes,
and climb to his feet and help her to hers and stroll down to the sea.

(to be resumed)

(6 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Hell He Travels (2)


Where he is takes all but a little of the western part of the map.
Where he was is at the top, and between lies where she will go.
His car is parked next to a three-story house devoted to mother,
husband, and children–first floor, second and third, respectively.
Her children she counts on all the fingers of one hand. They romp
up and down the stairs and disturb the man who's not their father,
who works all day sealed off from everything in the house but joy,
sorrow, and all the colors blurred with a brush full of water.
Faux Faust misses driving a car, rents one, drives it night and day.
There is his Mephistopheles and Nancy, his faithful wife.
She cleans his wounds. She leads him where he cannot go
without her help in the plaster cast he has worn through panic
when the motorcycle failed his balance careening off the road,
accident that has marred his courage in small but corrosive ways.

He tells George the truth, that he wants to know everything now
his dream slides between his ears, memory like salt being mined.
George says he will take the main watch, but nothing else,
it’s all a creature with one good leg can do, and he must please
the ardor of his wife, whereupon Nancy cuddles in his lap.
Why don’t you buy a bike? George asks him. I have no money
to throw away on pleasure, he replies: I have work to do,
rainbows and ashes, a chorus of groans mistaken for love,
the body’s mutiny once the ship has sailed and all go hungry,
and most of all I want to know these forbidden things . . .
the value of the Maria Theresa coin; the history of bloody walls
whitewashed in the missions; how to cheat death to go on living.
Nancy interrupts: George, come to bed. She steadies his elbow
with both hands. His eyebrows grow solid with their horny dew.

(to be resumed)

(II: 5 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

The Hell He Travels

Several ladies saw him walking by one day. They were struck and a little frightened by his appearance, his face fixed in gloom and smudged as though by soot, his beard bristling as though tinged with fire.


The hell he travels follows a map he made himself.
He shoulders his bedroll. The way is long, circuitous.
He has studied the terrain so carefully he will know
where to step and the well-trod paths to avoid.
Once he is there, Here, he will gasp, are fabulous sights
I have heard priests denounce as the glamour of evil.
The nun was there when his wife came home and found him.
He who was always gone, who wanted to be a mustang.
He was too old now, already well shod at thirty.
Nothing availed, little devils climbed into his dreams.
His wife found another country, where he went missing
as he was never where she was when she was here.
He anticipates nothing but knowledge, a farmboy Faust
who turns the future in his head until it clicks into place.

(to be resumed)

(5 December 20012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rara Avis

She smiles and laughs and thinks and talks
of what she thought. Her hair shines bright red
then black. Her blue nails chip. Her nose ring
traps silvery moonshine. At home she makes
cupcakes for her daughter who insists the cakes
be in cups. She ponders how the man stands.
She says, I like the way you make me think.

Before she moves one leg across its twin
where he lies on the mat, she says she should
remove her ring, and does, then puts it on
again. She finds a lower register 
to speak of politics. This town’s as ill
as he. Will his body escape its cage?
She says, I’m a rare bird! Peacock! he cries.

(4 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sonny Boy and Her

“Dante in exile, walking in the streets of Verona–people whispered to each other that he goes to Hell when he chooses and brings back news from there.”
                                                                                                           –Robert Bresson

I know, he said, it sounds odd. Our life together was going fine until death found our door.
The little white cat snarled at the German Shepherd and was hurled with one paw to hell.
He said, I hope he’s in his little heaven now, my favorite, I called him Sonny Boy. He was,
as he was called then, just a cat. The same door you stood with nothing but your apron on
I’m not her, I reminded him, but he kept on like he never heard me–and as I backed out
to the one-way street and shifted into low to begin the climb, she turned, bowed to the door,
and raised her apron and since we had just made love before lunch that was all she wore,
and as I paused she lifted the apron and revealed her lovely ass and wriggled it can-can
and sang out no words but her glee entered my memory forever. There: the frontal lobes
where everyone I ever loved circulates the paths that lead to and from the angelic avenues.

Did she die? I asked. He shook his head: That was where the pain entered, the same place
Sonny Boy is. He walked away, slowly but did not pause, did not turn, said nothing more.
It is much simpler to write this now. Forty years have passed. He would never come back.
In Chihuahua once he thought he saw her, but that was too far south and another Mexico:
I promised once to take her with me there and find with her my beloved, lost acacia tree.
It was not a terrain she would know. Nor had I expected Pancho Villa entering that city.
The old men dressed with rose handkerchiefs in the breast pockets of their suit coats arose
when I took the stage and read Memory of the Future, which was not addressed to her but
my first love, who sits under the lamp writing while waiting for me to complete memory’s
circle. I missed her then. I know I’m a romantic, sentimental, but I missed her like a man.

(3 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Show Me

I could go back then, like you.
There are always better beginnings that would not risk error.
I could go on from where I began,
let the beginning have its head and run away with my life.
Like you, I would live without appetites
I gleaned from the surrounding countryside.
Even the sheep would lie down with the wolves,
toothless wolves, sheep abandoned by shepherds,
though there you have the country
without the city and its open eyes
shutting when the crime occurs.
If there is an innocent beginning
whose origin is never corrupt and never turns to guilt,
show me.
The veil would be lifted.
Hands on my hands. No arrests.
Simply caution, patience.
Eyes steady, blinking only to shield sight
from too much brilliance, to humble the tongue.
Nor can the second time around not be the same as the first,
failing . . .

(2 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 1, 2012



Paper coupon, counterfeit money. One more use
for the printing press, maybe the only remaining use.
Exchange for silver? No, pass it on to the trusting poor
unwary of sleight of hand, dishonesty, corruption.

From the kid who loves to look at nudes, tumescence
growing, the coupon goes to the photography store,
where it’s passed to the worker collecting his due
driving truck to fill the building’s heating-oil supply.

He’s the one will pay: go to jail, lose any future job,
then to prison, lose his daughter to death, his wife
who chooses a new life. The future now mostly oblivion,
he kills, he lives alone. An older woman takes him in.

If she were God, she says, she would forgive everyone.
Her brother slaps her for showing compassion, enslaves her.
Her boarder wants to help her break away. She loves life
despite the death she lives. Otherwise, where would he be?

He takes an ax, murders the brother, the woman’s family.
He raises his ax to her eyes with a glint of grace that his lack.
The bloody blade thrown into the lake brings up bubbles.
Bresson, as usual, stays where he was, in the world this is.


No one confessed to passing the coupon on to others.
The others never confess. He does. There was nothing
to own up to, yet innocence is no excuse. Guilt lasts
forever once you can’t get hired after breaking the law.

He must forego every happiness to come because the past
is what we live by. After a man is bludgeoned by the state
he shrinks, or grows stronger, but stronger only with rage.
In Bresson’s film, at the end this man preempts the system.

He goes to the police where he finds them and confesses
without being charged, and the chain receives its last link.
I read Tolstoy, whose story it is. The structure is the same,
but not the denouement, which could only be Bresson’s.

Each morning now I wake with my debts in the forefront
of my brain’s lobes. I have everything other than money.
I have the gold of my longtime lover’s beauty and care.
I age with the bounty of what weds me to love’s companion.

I take Bresson’s cue: The world is swallowing all those
who do not make the money or the laws or climb the ladder
to heaven. The precipice lies in wait. The poor have no choice
but to continue as though they lived in a hell already here.

(after L’Argent, 1983, Bresson’s final film)

(1 December 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, November 30, 2012

Prologue to Our Time

I piped up to say, We need to understand Southerners.
A friend replied, I wouldn’t worry about murderers.
James had lived in Paris. In meetings after May '68,
acedia thick as pollution. Complete destruction!
Let nothing survive in this totalitarian state . . .
Then on TV oceans bleeding oil, baby seals
clubbed to death to sell what they have–market
values, with hemispheres left to be conquered . . .
L’education sentimentale was his favorite Flaubert.
The age out of step with the young demanding love,
and though Edwige loves Michel she goes to Charles
believing she can be all things to every man
who needs, deserves her love to be understood,
and (a la Proust) Alberte, who too loves Charles.
I drowsed off. Someone knocking on sleep's door,
I woke. Charles was paying to be murdered,
the gunshot interrupting him in mid-sentence
of his last words. His friend Valentin, having done
the job, empties the pockets of the dead and runs
to his dealer, presumably, for he has a dire habit.
Debbie comes from Denver to live with James,
who wins an NEA fellowship to write a novel
and loses her after more than a year and nothing
done on the book worth keeping. I know, James.
Charles is in heaven or hell but it can’t be bad,
anyway you know where you stand. Suicide is
one way to learn what goes on on the other side.
I asked Chicago's John Froines about Appalachia.
He said I should go there. If Paula would come with . . .
She went home to live out her dying father’s days.
Because I was gone my father and mother died alone.

(after Bresson’s Le Diable, probablement, 1977)

(30 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Grail

Le Graal

The heart of another is a dark forest.

Blood jets from the instantly headless neck.
Skeletons still garbed in mail hang from trees.
Visors up when riding, down when dying.
There’s no Grail brought back. Plunged into the lake
perhaps. Yet once lay within Lancelot’s reach.
He failed. They failed. The heart rots, and the mind.
Waste grasped securely. He kisses her hem,
forswears adultery, vows to abate
his lust. She wants him to want her body. 
Grail enough for any knight, even him.

The horses’ hooves. Endless clank of armor.
Shrill bird cries. Horses also know the paths,
can ignore the reins. There is a forest
in men’s hearts, too many trees to adore.
There is only one Grail, one Guenievre,
one Mordred, one Gauvain, one king, Arthus,
Camelot with its round empty table.
Skulking to the loft, he loves her body,
she receives his, they die only small deaths.
She will die with Arthus. He dies alone.

Even where minstrels play, mail clanks, off-screen
horses whinny shrilly, games played to pass
the time between battles. Now Lancelot
anonymous under his visor wins.
He defeats the lot. Treacherous Mordred
holding the cards, Guenievre puts her hand
on Lancelot’s hand returning her before
riding under the forest’s empty sky,
dark birds plunging, a horse with no rider.
He sighs her name, rolling over to die.

Nothing but death is irrevocable.

(after Bresson’s Lancelot du lac, 1974)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nights of a Dreamer


From the country to the city,

hitchhiking, cadging rides,
heels clicking along streets
looking for love,
this beauty and that, they
are too much
for him, he goes to paint
and play the tape
that records his quest,
and scribbles with his brush
On the bridge he finds her
before she leaps,


She lives with her mother

who rents to young men.
The daughter hesitates,
it is love she seeks
but goes to one who makes
her love him by loving her.
Then he must go away,
promising to return,
naming the day to expect him.
That day has come and gone.
She has despaired and still
despairs. Marthe
will continue waiting,
searching for sight of him.


The boy goes where she goes.

He tapes the music of pigeons.
He listens to her
bemoan her love
already nesting in eternity.
She talks of the absent love
until she sees herself a fool
for not loving the boy
who listens to her every word
and goes everywhere
she goes.
She knows he listens,
she must surely
love him.


All this continues.

Footfalls wane, love grows
in her. He is already
in love with her beauty.
He has his room
to himself.
The nights continue dark,
their light the city’s.
On glowing tour boats
and dark barges
the young make music.
You find yourself
looking as though
through Marthe’s eyes.


At the end of the night,

the end of the quest:
the boy’s with her,
he sees Marthe see
her love look back to say
her name and she goes
to him, then returns
to the boy, but goes back
to her love and leaves
with him, having chosen.
The boy goes to his room.
He plays the tape.
Love’s dream ends well
unless it is up to you.

(after Quatre nuits d’un reveur, 1972)

(28 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cheri's Marriage [revised]

I tell Cheri she should see Dominique Sanda at seventeen.
She checks out Une Femme Douce from the town library.
She’s six years older than the unnamed woman Sanda is.
Cheri remembers being married, how after three months
her sky broke open. She had known him three years.
Three weeks passed before he beat her the first time.
No wonder she wants to go to London, then the Philippines.
America is too toxic. The smell in the smalltown air, even.
She says to me, "I thought it was a strong film, but why
are the people so wooden? Doesn’t anybody have a soul?"
I try to tell her that Bresson thought soul was what you see
when cool takes over the bodies moving through images
until sound or silence strikes like flint flaring invisibly,
and that is soul. She said she liked best the suicide scene,
loved seeing it at the beginning and at the end. The patio
wreckage, the sound of it first, then the billowing scarf
following her down where she lies in her bright crimson.
In those images were the only grace Bresson made visible.
Her husband could not find the words to spell his feelings.
Cheri said she had wanted to love, "that’s all, I didn’t know."

(after Bresson’s Une Femme Douce)

(27 November 2012)

Cheri's Marriage

I tell Cheri she should see Dominique Sanda at seventeen.
She checks out Une Femme Douce from the town library.
She doesn’t want to tell them she doesn’t know French,
only Spanish, that’s why she needs the one with subtitles.
She’s six years older than the unnamed woman Sanda is.
She remembers being married, but that was only recently.
Her sky fell in after three months. They dated three years,
then he turned into a wife-beater and she cut him loose.
No wonder she wants to go to London, then the Philippines.
America is too toxic. The smell in the smalltown air, even.
She says to me, I thought it was a strong film, but why
are the people so wooden? Doesn’t anybody have a soul?
I try to tell her that Bresson thought soul was what you see
when cool takes over the bodies moving through images
until somehow they strike like flint slowly flaring invisibly,
and that is soul. She said she liked best the suicide scene,
loved seeing it at the beginning and at the end. The patio
wreckage, the sound of it first, then the billowing scarf
following her down where she lies in her bright crimson.

(after Bresson’s Une Femme Douce, 1969)

(27 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, November 26, 2012

Little Fly

Mouchette. She would have been sister
to any boy who treated her as human.
Daughter to any man who nurtured
her into womanhood, talking to her,
teaching her, companioning her.
Or to any mother who would live
that long. Except for the poverty
of God’s grasp she too would have lived.
He could not reach as far as she was.
He did not believe in considering hate
other than as a sin. And sin? To live
with death a roll down the long hill
wrapping yourself as you gain speed
and at the bottom filling the dank water
with all that was never lived in your life.
They did nothing but prey on your life,
those flies who called themselves human.
They did what they wanted as they did
what they knew would help to kill you.
The beatings. The rape. The hollowing

(after Bresson's Mouchette, 1967)
(26 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Parable

        Mules were worth more than men
        underground. They strained
        to pull coalcars up the tracks
        back into the slagheap light.


By chance, for example, at random
Au hasard Balthazar,
one of the three wise men
is a donkey watching men in passing
getting lost: father, seducer,
a tightwad albeit redeemed.
This selfishness, hubris, cruelty
is also human, says Bresson.

A woman’s body makes a child
fathers do not have to carry.
When a child dies
its mother dies inside.
One whose firstborn dies before her
will die twice,
her body growing a ghost.
Marie, she says, is not coming back.
Raped, Marie shuddered in the cold,
naked. Some men kill for pleasure.

Spanish light over the French Pyrenees.
Enslaved Balthazar
pays folly with his donkey’s bray,
ready to die when the rains come.
The mother by her daughter’s grave
rebukes the murderer, gruffly
declaring Balthazar a saint,
La Sainte Bible his crown of flowers.

(after Au hasard Balthazar, 1966)

(26 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bresson, Two


It is hard to see God where He is.
There are too many upright priests.
You are better off in Mozart’s prison.
You can escape if you listen closely.
As for a way to feed your fear,
only her fingers entwined with yours
will sate the emptiness of a crazed heart.
Notice how a woman’s body fills God’s.
Imagine, shackled, opening the door.
You lay on your belly watching the thrush.
The orchestra tells you it’s time to go.
Fingers so nimble they conjure love.
I’m reading subtitles on the screen
  before I see they’re in English.

(after Journal d'un cure de campagne, 1951,
Un condamne a mort s'est echappe, 1956,
and Pickpocket, 1959)


We went out among the cattails after marbles
to smoke and drink and talk about the girls
we wanted. One among us even told us how.
I never believed anything, I was too young
to be that hellbent. I went to church with Irene.
We made out during mass in the back row.
We were agile. She knew just how to stroke
my cock without looking. I slid one finger up
her skirt. The priest droned. We waited for what?
Letting her go. Giving her the freedom she’d earned,
not fire. Or letting her burn the church down
while we watched from the hill above the town.
She never knew if I wanted to go to mass.
She did know I liked the view from up here.

(after Le Proces de Jeanne d’Arc, 1962)

(24 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, November 23, 2012

Une fille ou Une Femme Douce parmi Les Dames

When Cheri peers through her Polish eyebrows
smiling, letting her long Swedish hair fall,
pushing up the bra under her sweater,
maybe using the mirror behind her,
she must know the odds she’ll not take a job
paying nothing but the wages of sin.
Yes, I’ve begun watching the Bresson films
again, this time imagining a life
as I do so. She’s a gentle daughter
too young to be more than my granddaughter.
She saves her money to go to London
where she will become a missionary
in training for the Filipino poor,
speaking Spanish among the dog-eaters.
She would learn what I can’t teach. I’m a sin
incubating male evil-incarnate
digits et penetralia, I want
to be her incorrigible glamour
hombre, diablo with no pointy ears,
still Scots-Welsh-Irish, barbed at the far end
of seventy-three for her twenty-three–
no one like the cure in the country
or the pickpocket seeking redemption,
or a schoolgirl throwing stones at others,
or novitiate of Paris ladies.

--after Mouchette (1967), Un Femme Douce (1969), Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945)

(23 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Devil's Asshole

All the generous hellos
match the unspoken,
the goodbyes.
Take yourself off by bus
but don’t promise
to come back.
I’m going. Get your stuff.
I’ll be far from here and there.

And she never heard
much more from him.
He kept busy
proving he was alive.
Something he’d left
for the last minute.
When the time comes
you don’t dare breathe.

He kept going
until he was farther south
than the penguins.
Here they said was
The Devil’s Asshole.
That’s how they saw it,
the holy ones
with toothless mouths.

You can have your stuff,
none of it was ever mine.
Even I was all yours,
though never conscious long.
And then all I did
was sleep and plan
what would come next.
Wouldn’t the world end?

There were the drawings,
the photographs,
the poems, parts of stories,
all about you and me
and how the cats lived
after you’d gone for good.
Or bad. The lonely cats
listening, switching their tails.

So I look around on days
I wake. I don’t know
what I ever saw like this.
The sky’s a dead weight,
the cars off the street
long enough to start to think.
I knew what words were for.
They were for you to marry.

(22 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wild Turkey Priest

  for Gus Blaisdell’s South Carolina cairn and for Judy Pence

You’d come down from the capital
to burnish your nails and rest up
from the trade. We were in the yard
raking rocks, the pliable stones,
around the roots of dead flowers
where seeds were to be broadcast.

We were very happy, if I may say
at this late date, so long after
the rocks in the yard would blossom
with yucca. The flowers consoled
our aches and pains and cicadas
all night abandoning their shells.

There we were, working in the yard
devoid of verde, no guitar
to go with the doomed poet’s song.
I liked to make love in my mind.
You waited until you knew my mind
was engorged and yours a rio.

We walked inside the screen door,
into the dark under its high ceiling.
The porch was empty, shadowy
with birds along the balustrade.
There emerged from your bedroom
someone whose name was not Jose.

He asked for the proverbial Gus.
When the well-dressed thieves
tinkered with the padlock
on the sliding-glass back doors
I watched inside, and then appeared.
"Why ask," I said, "'Is Gus here?'"

And here was No-Jose and drunk.
He turned the corner and I rose
on my toes, flaring ten fingers,
casting the willies through my lips.
"Just a minute!" he quailed, face red.
You told him to leave while I stood

flaring and flapping fingers and toes,
gobbling. After he’d gone, we left
for Taos. Next day the progeny
of Ambrose Bierce visited our cabin
to say the Salvation Army called,
they had your wallet full of dinero.

Across the field from the cabin
built to honor D. H. Lawrence,
wild turkeys flew like aspen flutter
over the horse pasture. Yet they flew
off Lobo, la montana, where wolves
warm the cold ashes of the phoenix.

You said, "I made a sockful of green bills
in the Inn. All I had to do was sit
at the bar until a john hit on me."
You had already shown me the layout.
Up the street was St. Francis Cathedral.
In its shadow Willa Cather slept.

When the wild turkeys migrated north
and were sighted along the road
to Alexandria, Cavafy’s northern
American city, "no queers, please"
posted, I asked, "Are you happy now
we no longer need to stay in Egypt?"

You said you missed the old one’s growl.
he who had invited you to come back,
"to see me." And you said, "Sure I will."
But did you? No. I took you with me.
I went with you. Complicated?
Fuck, I can fly. Words give me wings.

(21 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In the City

When he returned his heart was more at rest.
He was either weary of, or had outgrown,
his past. None of it was worth what it cost.
He had taught himself to write about sports.
Then he played one year of football, baseball.
He pitched a no-hitter for seven innings
and hit a home run he waited too long to start
running out, watching the ball sail through the air
and over the heads of the outfielders, and then
he pitched at Mabton against Mel Stottlemeyer,
later the ace of the New York Yankees’ staff,
more than once a twenty-game winner, but not
then what he would be anymore than this one
inside would become him, or so he believed, once.

During his childhood labor and sports, the twin
poles of his growth, he read novels and wrote
what he saw on the gridiron and diamond,
comparing it to the strength a workday required.
He and two close friends played pickup baseball
with makeshift rules of their own, but nothing
compared to what he observed and remembered
when time came, suited up, entering the game.
He had learned to play by watching others
and writing of what he learned. It was words,
not prowess on the fields, he valued more
and more, as he began to live in his own skin.
That was what the city was for. A fit subject
for poetry and story. Where women dazzled.

He knew he must stay in the city longer now.
He knew the country and was a part of it.
Maybe he would come back but not now, no.
His shoulders had lifted enough heavy loads.
He could see what was coming, what arrived.
The rush of events was slow but deadly.
Here brutality came from all corners at once
and so he learned quickly to keep his distance.
After football and baseball were dredged out
through nerve endings and other ganglia,
the city became his study, its women too.
Here they were never so kind as Irene.
They were tougher than her, but not stronger.
She was more woman than any other might be
in the way she loved, never regretting.

(20 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, November 19, 2012

Inside the Currents of the Waterfall

“A dog looks like a wolf when he’s asleep.”

–Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night
(the 1934 John H. P. Marks translation)

Rita would say, I hear some dogs look like wolves when they sleep.

Rita called Bill Ray and said to his face, You’re a miracle.
I stuck with Bill. He didn’t mind. We were hot shits, I thought.
The less you did of something the better you think you were.
Winter lapsed into warm air. A current of fluttering leaves
where I walked with the sun open like a beacon with one eye.
This was after my friends came to where Irene worked
waiting tables Saturday nights. Here they were happy dancing
on three feet and his other one. The Good Old Boys, yes Good,
minded their manners and the Riverbend yahoos complied.
Bill and Rita found a place of their own on that dance floor.

Irene said she once found a waterfall in the Horse Heavens.
She stripped and swam. She could feel the currents from the river
falling over and around her. Irene would never leave,
not while I was coming here, to this wide place in the river.
I would come as long as Manuel and Lorene lived in their home
and Irene with Ignacio and Gloria in theirs.

Rita had a friend with dogs, Mary Louise, who lived nearby
and rode her father and mother’s horses bareback everywhere
on Cherry Hill, through her father’s orchards, above Riverbend.
Mary Lou, Rita called her, and they were wild together
though they lived fifty miles apart and there was no Indian
under Mary Lou’s year-round chestnut-brown surfaces of skin.

Rita loved dogs. Mary Lou gave her one, a white sheepdog
from the yards outside town, not far from the brick kiln,
where the local men worked. Rita knew the old story well,
how some dogs growled in their sleep and were said to run
in packs through their dreams. That’s why, Rita said, a dog
looks like a wolf when asleep. She had heard the story once
from one old man who danced inside the throw-together tents
on the Fourth of July. Older than the other old men,
he wore his long hair in braids plaited with fresh leaves
because the year of falling leaves was near half gone by now.

She never told the story because she said she did not remember
how the story began or ended, though she said the old man
turned his wrists until his palms came up and his long black hair
shimmered under the bare light bulb high above the dirt floor.

That had happened. After Rita recalled the old man talking
about dogs becoming wolves in their sleep, Irene
said she had heard a story of a gypsy from Mexico
who turned into thin air. She chuckled, saying, I’m nothing
but a Mexican, and your histories are told through stories
no one truly knows either the beginnings or ends of . . .
Not even you, she smiled, reaching to hold Rita’s clasped hands.
Rita said, I’m only a breed. Irene, you’re the real one.

So that was how spring began. Come summer Irene and I
slept in the desert by her house, on my portable back seat
we made love upon when one of us brought along a condom.
Our love was ending again. No love survives the winter
when the world is always more like spring on one side
of the mountains, where the river is, days warm and nights cool,
and on the other side, next to the ocean, summer brings rain.
The Pacific flows around islands to reach Seattle.

That was how a year was in a city where there are no wolves.

(19 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, November 18, 2012

White Swan, Brownstown

Bill McDonald and I were friends because of football.
We were enemies once on the long field
beyond the White Swan high school in autumn.
Few of his teammates wore brown skins.
The Spartans of Riverbend had Ross Sohappy
the year before I was talked into turning out.
I was on the brink of going where Ross had gone.
Ross preferred to drink alone, so no one
would ever know what he went through,
the greatest end ever to play for Riverbend.
And White Swan would not see another McDonald.

The Warriors were known for Bill’s prosthetic
pass option he always ran when defense faded
to cover for the bullet he would throw
should the linebackers, myself included,
storm the line. That year he was Herald-Republic
first-team quarterback, but never went to college.
The Yakima paper deigned to give me
a second-team berth, one year never enough time
to thrill the valley press. Bill and I struck
a chord the day I barreled into him
taking too long to throw and deciding to run
and I was lucky to be where he was.

We met again one night in Yakima,
in the Chieftain Hotel bar. He was with Rita,
who stuck close to him so he wouldn’t fall
once he had one too many, saying, I’m shitfaced.
That night I said so he heard, You are a phenom,
McDonald, and Rita offered, Two legs
from now on will be the norm, McDonald.
No one he liked called him Bill, it was Ray,
his middle name, he preferred and stories
carried twenty miles to the reservation’s edge
and the neon BROWNSTOWN without the BAR
where the men with brown skin loved to hear him
praise them for their courage, their endurance.

Rita eased up working the bar when he appeared.
When she took a break she chain-smoked with beer.
She knew everybody’s name, not just Ray’s.
They called her Rita, and only Rita.
Some nights you parked under a dull gold moon,
nine letters punctuating the nightscape.
I don’t like to think there were reasons it was there
like a place without a hitching post, no Dutch doors
swinging to bang the butt of stumbling drunks,
horses wild in the hills or fenced in or God knows
processed in cans never accurately labeled.
The reservation was for dying not drinking,
hating not loving. It was wilderness
combed over and left as though laced with lye.

(18 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rita's Night Shift

When I got around to drinking
I learned how in Brownstown.
Bill McDonald had a wooden leg
but was the best quarterback
the White Swan Warriors
ever had. He got old enough to be
a habitue like me.
He was sweet on Rita, whose name
was as white as her hair
was dyed dishwater blonde.
She was a breed, her brothers
folded by the juke box
and slept until closing time,
sleeping one shift, then another
from nodding head to head,
and Bill and I were bad
bets to emulate their deaths.
Rita cut us off after hours.
She bought us good whiskey.
Don’t drink this beer piss,
it’ll kill you, honey. And Bill
melted visibly. How pretty
she could be. Always working
the same shift, till closing time.
The enormous stains her fingers
revealed, smoking Pall Malls.
She poured us Canadian Club
over ice. Bill said, Fill my leg!
Rita said, Fill mine, white boy!
and I don’t mean my leg.
It went like that Saturday nights
when I drove across the pass
and was old enough to drink
like a death-march survivor.
Relentlessly. How many miles
from Brownstown to Irene
waiting for a ride home
in the Circle Inn, cleaning up.
She said, You’ve been drinking,
why don’t you have coffee
while you’re waiting. I launched
into stories of the forbidden night.
I said I was learning to write
about drunkenness. She stopped me
dead in my tracks, pale white and desolate.
She said I should observe more
and experience less.
When Bill took Rita home, she had
him in. She taught him to make love
and clean up after himself.
Irene begged off, too tired to kiss
. . . a drunk, I added, confessing
nothing, making life a big joke
without a punch line.
I’d like to say she left me
but I’d be lying, she let me go on
living. I was dying to live with her.

(17 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander