How many times have you lifted me from
my own hell? The backwater contagions
I played so earnestly in theaters
off-stage. Maladies of cities, women
seduced by my life’s impossible tale.
You found me in time to spare me from death
in alleys throwing bones I didn’t wait
to add, your gypsy feet ready to leave,
my little thick love stick throbbing to be
in your furry wet wagon with horses
for legs. Now when I say my life should go
live in another town, some Gomorrah
ruled by Sodom’s sons wielding loaded guns,
you step between me and self-destruction.
How many times? You give me back the life
a half century held out to be lived.
The ducks lining the plank from shore to boat
moved deftly away. You said, Don’t scare them,
they have as much right to be here as we,
and once inside, we went with the high waves
spilling over the boardwalk of your thighs,
but no, we did not last then or the next
time, too many men, too many women
entering this house on a lake before
you paid for what I sold you, the money
you thought you could turn into love and be
happy, you had the wagon, the horses
were everywhere, I was never alone.
Say this life has too many turns to count,
you can grow dizzy following each one
to completion. There’s only one you find
worth the sally into oblivion.
You like my looks and think I’m funny.
I love your beauty, your mellifluous lips
that always bring me back from death’s back door,
your olive skin with its barklike texture,
your bright smile, body were always mine
no matter how many temporary
lovers auditioned for your next movie.
I never wanted to act, no talent,
no desire to do anything but this
ancient form that can say more than it means.
Why not spell it out? The sea-level lives
were never anything but work for he
who was raped by a nun with a jones for
brothers, wound up down here on the first street
he walked upon that would not lead him off
the path where midnight could turn into gold-
backed coins ample to pay the rent and eat,
all for loving men after the bars closed.
The orphan who raised himself on these streets,
sitting in front of the doors that opened
and took him in until he stole too much
and found a girl who had always wondered
if turning a lover into a pimp
would earn for her prince a blue Cadillac.
The orphan believed I should meet Shakespeare.
He was writing a Hamlet for black men.
His Othello was a white boy jealous
of wife Ophelia who, word was, roamed
nights with Iago, who said he pimped her . . .
I was a boy in Minneapolis,
the bard of bottomless America
began telling me. That was his story,
I went where he led and the orphan too,
below the street where after hours they danced,
the Globe stage too far off, too late to see.
The orphan said to me, Now you know what
the city prefers to bury. No need
to dig where you will strike only water.
(15 January 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander