Monday, January 16, 2012

Queen Anne Hill

Cathleen’s mother liked to watch ships below
from the window, alone, the house high up.
They lived on Alki, level with the water,
then they moved to the top of Queen Anne Hill.

So much rain falls on these poems
they sag with the weight of water.
She asked what I was doing. I said, This.
She said, It doesn’t sound very finished.

Cathleen’s mother, then Cathleen. Love’s skein wound
too tight, I would not go, the ne’er do well.
Cathleen’s father asked me, How do you plan
to make a living, writing poetry?

Cathleen told me she must go, and was gone
many years. One year, then two, count to three.
There’s no point in keeping time in poems
I won’t sell or destroy. I give them space.

Marilyn Jones worked with me the night shift.
She lived with her mother on Queen Anne Hill.
Her mother was ill when they were in Spain.
Marilyn sent me a book of Lorca.

She wrote, Mother is feeling no better.
I want to turn over in bed and dream
my body wakes in Andalucia.
I settle for flamenco in the street.

Once she was home she moved to Lake Union
with her cat, Isis. Marilyn woke late.
She was in bed with Isis when I came
on Sunday. Isis left. I hunkered in.

It wasn’t a bad life. I had my tools
with me wherever I went and used them
to bring up what had been buried too long
somewhere. She was voluptuous, her sense

of humor melting the ice around us
when I grew too fast in her company
–or so I thought, and she concurred: Go on,
drive my car, have a ball up on Queen Anne.

Wrecking ball. Jackhammer. Her mother died,
she buried her below. I had the run
of the house I knew was not yet empty.
I found flowers rooted in Spain, Egypt,

roots I knew nothing of and let them be.
She liked to set flowers out to catch rain.
She said, The old joke, dig deep and you reach
China, was no joke. I was eleven,

big for my age. My father and mother
were missionaries in Shanghai.
It was when the revolution was on.
One side kidnaped me. I was gone for days.

They made me open my eyes, climbed on me
until I passed out. I was awakened
to watch them cut off heads. I screamed. They laughed.
One day the door opened. I loved to feel

the sun, Marilyn said. Come live with me
on the lake, you’ve been up there long enough.
So much rain falls on these poems
they sag with the weight of water.

That was all I wrote. I left town to work.
There were no jobs for me in Seattle.
No one wanted me digging up their past.
Even Queen Anne was too near the water.

(16 January 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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