Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Hard-Knocks School Hour

They came during visiting hours,
the two women who still loved him,
Cathleen and Elizabeth, friends,
would-be sisters, Cathleen his love,
Elizabeth his confidante,
together where he was caged
for his own good, as some put it,
and why nobody had to tell
him now, he had known from the first
a human body must have sleep
and its mind make peace with itself;
Cathleen looking out the window,
through the wire mesh, the sparkling lake
named Washington, Elizabeth
talking of Lord Byron swimming
the Hellespont. What of John Donne?
he did not ask. He did not speak.
He might have confessed, but why say
the obvious? At twenty one
he could learn from such ill fortune.
A gallant would become holy,
his craft turn into religion,
the words his own, no god involved.
He said them clearly in his mind.
When they left he wrote on paper
Labor until I in labor
, and tore it up to prove it.
He read The Sound and the Fury,
but his own words arrived in time,
as they always had, but now meant
as a vow to stay out of here
once they let him go. Twenty two
by then, he would finally start
over, serve an apprenticeship
anew: he had something to say.
It would be brief like a poem
and continue like a novel,
but that was all aspiration,
and nothing counted but action.
He was here to stay three months long.
On the street he would walk again.
What it was like to walk it off,
sleep, love, everything that mattered
but breath. Therefore a newfound land
in the body of the mistress
sharing his bed, the South come north
to the Cambridge that’s in Boston,
this woman drawing him to her,
the watch falling without breaking;
beginning with Donne and Faulkner,
but as always in the service
of becoming Bobby St. Clair.

(31 January 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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