Wednesday, February 29, 2012

End of the Weekend

So much did he dread returning tonight
he started a fight before she drove him
back to the ward. He resurrected the word fame.
For him the hole cards might never turn up.
Even the deck could be gutted:
jacks and queens but kings and aces nowhere,
and one too many jokers to foul any hand:
those standing pat, those going for broke.
I love you believing in me, he said,
please don’t put the curse of failure on me.

She didn’t get it and said so.
He snapped, You know how far I have to go
to learn to read "Graves at Mukilteo,"
their headstones. I work my ass off, Lovely,
and all I have to show is a rag hand
of clubs, hearts, diamonds, and spades,
completely worthless, but who in this place
at the table knows when or what to bid . . .
Not Danny St. Clair,
who died holding a losing hand.

In "A Guide to Dungeness Spit" my first teacher
celebrates this singular place
with ships, lovers, and mountains. No, Lovely,
I can’t recite it.
I may never comprehend the beauty
you seek in peaks and rivers.
Teach me, take me there, show me all you love.
I know nothing but this city,
and then only streets where no flowers grow
that are not condemned.

(26 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


she drove east
into the mountains

she wanted to fish
he wanted to read

they would share
something new

she never read

he never had

she listened,
he watched

wind foam
the currents

(25 February 2012: II)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


Truth was
she cared
he be happy,
that's the fame she meant.

the attack on three airfields
near Havana,
by Monday
becomes known
as the Bay of Pigs.

We know so little
Time will fix that.
Gusanos living stateside
recall JFK embarrassed,
weeping privately,
steeling his nerves
for the onslaught,
having honored Ike's misbegotten CIA
plan passed to him, standard American

Lovely Melindra takes Bobby to town
and gets him drunk
on Jackson Street, then Pike,
Bobby buttonholing various drunks:
I'm an archaeologist digging up Seattle!
Some guy butts in:
How far down do you have to go?

He saw
her eyes
were turquoise,
sky blue mixed with green;
her blonde hair dyed,
earth brown at the root.

Home, she kept him awake
long enough to please her
and gave him a dream
to sleep off
into tomorrow.

(25 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dream Swallowing Dream


is the word occurs to him.
No point writing this one
if he only dreams
he gave Bonnington
to give Ripley
his collected works
so far. While he waits
he writes the second dream,
which he will keep from the doctors.

Anna and Paul pick him up
and from their house he calls Melindra,
addressing her as Lovely.
He could be back in his first dream.
She calls him Honey, a smile in her voice,
adds she may come early if that's okay.
It is. While he waits, he reads over what
he was playing in his first dream.
He asks Paul if he has a spare clarinet.
Paul says: Yes, yours.

He wets the reed.
His lips feel like rubber.
Once he begins remembering,
he's disappointed,
riffing on a score he had to write down
to believe.
He remembers what he cannot play now.
You will, Paul says, take it with you.
Lovely arrives and puts it in her car
without asking, and he feels no need to explain.


Over dinner Anna asks Melindra
why she wants to go to med school,
learns of the abortion, the brush with death,
the womb removed so she can live
to become a doctor to help women like her.

Anna says she wanted a child. No way you can,
the doctor said, you can always adopt.
Paul shifts the subject. What will Bobby do?
Lovely says he needs to become famous.
She's so serious, her eyes like razors,

Bobby says, If I were Richard Hugo,
I'd work at Boeing writing to order
so someday soon I'd have a book in hand,
the poker-table version of A Run of Jacks,
"Adventures Between Danny and Henrietta."


That should give the two human being in this world
who love him and therefore love her
grist for the mill of marriage and kindness
they would winnow from the wheel of their grief.
So Bobby tells Melindra once they arrive home.

Her home. The second story of her house.
Tomorrow they will live downstairs. For now
she does to him exactly what she did
in one of his two dreams, did what he did not do.
They sleep inside the curve of their bodies.

In the morning he shares with her his dreams,
unfolding the first dream that he wrote down,
then follows it with the other two,
first what it was like to wake, then the second dream.
Will she say he's into wish-fulfillment?

(24 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, February 23, 2012


He's asking Bonnington for a moment
to show him the dream
so far
but no farther, how could he? Wait a bit,
mouth of a horse, drill a hole in the floor,
ride out.

Bonnington's wanting Bobby to give him one
he'll show Ripley:
upstairs you'll find your readers.
Bobby's gathering dark flowers,
politely requesting something empty
from who's behind the plexiglass.

Looks like Lovely Melindra's car:
He's sleeping in her bed?
She's doing with him what he loves,
does she? now blue eyes
reflect her blue dress,
driving, head in her lap, loving her there.

At the door Anna's saying,
You're my guinea pigs tonight
for a dish I want to call Beef Griot,
the flesh of the mind grinding out stories
Paul's reading aloud. Could that be Mozart?
Bobby's going to tell him, I'm dreaming.

If this's Friday he has till Monday,
when he's going upstairs to meet Ripley
and his mucky mucks.
Bonnington says no one works here like him.
Bobby says, I didn't know, I don't care,
I do only what I need to do
to stay sane despite the madness
my words may conceivably convey.

Melindra lets him suck her lovely tits
like some pony fresh from the womb.
She turns him upside down and has him do
what they both love.
They orgasm, his and hers oozing out
to roam the pastures of their flesh.
She asks why he's silent. My writer's bloc,
you know how I like to beg off.

(23 February 2012: II)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


He woke and wrote what he could remember.
He never dreamed when he slept here.
Now he wanted to dream more.
He felt aggrieved somehow and tore
the paper from the typewriter
without looking at the black marks.
Her eyes were sky blue. He kissed her ears
everywhere, one then the other.
There were words for sounds he never
heard himself play before.
It was some time since he played clarinet.
How could he pick it up and play like that
now composing on the pulse of an hour?
Much simpler to keep dreaming.

(23 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Friday Night at Paul & Anna's

She wore a light blue dress she said she saved
for special occasions:
This was one.
He nuzzled her behind one ear as she drove;
Lovely said nothing,
he kept on.
Your clarinet’s been oiled, Paul volunteered.
They had beef griot,
Anna called it.
After dinner they drank brandy from a snifter,
sharing his with Lovely.
He took up the clarinet, moistening the reed,
then blowing off-key and running the scale,
relaxing into a slow tongue
making the reed squall
before trilling to run the scale again,
the fast climb from the lower register,
and from high the fall, full-throated descent.
He made what he played become a refrain.
Such was the melody he searched for
that when an hour was gone he found the song
and felt a quiver, her blue eyes aglow.
Left alone, Lovely kissed him a long while.
He said Now, now,
meaning, More . . .

(22 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Impossible

You wake knowing nothing is impossible
but finding the easy way to say what he wants
and knowing there’s no way, what you want
is the impossible.

The ward comes alive and he goes to sleep.
Lovely comes in and stays until she leaves.
He sleeps again and wakes for lunch.
Bonnington comes in.

There is nothing he can do more valuable
than leave here and if need be, go to prison
to get the story Danny’s killer has to share
before he dies.

That’s enough of this for today, he mutters
under his breath. He is ready for dinner.
The Chinese lady sits across from him

He learns her name after promising to keep
quiet about her. She says, I want to be friends.
You were here when I came through the door.
I’m still here,

she replies. I may be getting out soon, he says.
I am happy for you. When will you leave?
I have been here so long I weep in my sleep.
All night long,

it seems. He tries to cheer her. She smiles
through his impossible effort. She smiles
leaving the table, grasping the hand he holds
out to her.

Bonnington says he has a meeting scheduled
upstairs with Dr. Ripley and his associates.
Robert L. Ripley runs the place, they help
him decide.

He recalls as a child reading "Believe It or Not"
by Robert Ripley in the Sunday papers.
He read it while waiting for his father
to get done

talking and before they went to the place
where he lived, where his father slept.
He laughs inside to remark such curious

Back in the room he starts inventing again.
Not that the few facts are not true. No,
it’s what they mean he must discover in

If only the wild city were still alive. A child
can love what he can’t understand. A child
must love the world he is given to inhabit
until now,

when, if his luck is good, he has learned
to live in rhythm with the song of day
and night, follow the beat and variations
to find

melody. She’s coming to Paul and Anna’s
tonight. Melindra will be delighted to hear
his news. He may even play his clarinet
for her.

(21 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, February 20, 2012

Danny St. Clair & Henrietta Murphy

How they met and why they loved–that was the story
Bobby needed to know. No one knew now.
Maybe Danny’s friend, who revenged his death
and caged in Walla Walla doing life,
he knows but how do you get to him there.
You go on what you know, namely nothing.
Make it up, Bobby chooses. Better that
than what’s worse, silence that has no meaning,
for he does have here what’s called solitude.

At lunch he meets a woman with red hair,
smaller than Henrietta, who was five foot ten,
or so Bobby was told by those who knew
his mother. This woman who calls herself
a name he’s never heard before asks if
he will let her draw him. They talk music,
women singers--Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald–
after she starts with Maria Callas.
I grew up listening to Billie Holiday,
he doesn’t know the divas, she calls them,
though Marian Anderson, Is she one?
The woman tells him he knows more
than he thinks he does. She says, Let me bring
a tape to play while I’m drawing your face.
Bobby is quickly amazed: Who is that?
In answer he learns there are three levels
this voice travels, a road that none has gone
before or since. Yma Sumac. He won’t
forget that name. And he likes the drawing.

It’s the same as before: It’s Henrietta
he needs to know, for when Christina comes
to see him she says his mother was a singer.
His father loved her voice. When they loved
they listened to a tape of Anita O’Day
all night long, at least when they were awake
doing what a man does with a woman
and she lets him do it when she trusts him
so much there is nothing she won’t do to please him.

(20 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Future

Soon, Melindra said, I’ll sell my house but keep my job and go to med school.
Bobby was surprised. Where will you live? With you, she said, if you want me.

He told Bonnington to keep this under his skull. He needed to get a job. He had
to leave. What will you do? Employment agency downtown. They know me,

I was a male secretary for a firm in the Smith Building until they fired my ass.
I told them I could take dictation. Could you? No, I could write fast. I was

asked to show my notes one day. You can’t fake what you don’t know how
to do. Bonnington said he might write for a newspaper. Seattle P-I or Times.

Bobby would stay in school. Bonnington approved. Bobby needed his approval
to get out of here. The night Bobby turned twenty-two he started to feel old.

Three weeks later he sat in the Day Room and watched Kennedy inaugurated.
The young, handsome president and his young, gorgeous wife. In a snowstorm.

Robert Frost stood up when asked and his Scots brows curled around his eyes,
the paper was wet, he gave up on it, recited by memory "The Gift Outright."

Bobby voted for the first time. He sat up all night in Manning’s downtown,
drinking coffee, listening to the radio behind the counter, trying to re-read

Norman Mailer’s essay "The White Negro." Who knew how many times
Bobby had read it; so many times, in fact, there were parts he could recite.

The opening paragraph was one: He murmured, waiting for the final result,
sipping coffee, beginning to get a little groggy but knowing he could not sleep:

Probably, we will never be able to determine the psychic havoc of concentration
camps and the atom bomb upon the unconscious mind of almost everyone alive
in these years. For the first time we have been forced to live with the suppressed
knowledge that the smallest facets of our personality or the most minor projection
of our ideas, or indeed the absence of ideas and the absence of personality could
mean equally well that we might still be doomed to die as a cipher in some vast
statistical operation in which our teeth would be counted, and our hair would
be saved, but our death itself would be unknown, unhonored, and unremarked,
a death which could not follow with dignity as a possible consequence to serious
actions we had chosen, but rather a death by deus ex machina in a gas chamber
or a radioactive city; and so if in the midst of civilization–that civilization founded
upon the Faustian urge to dominate nature by mastering time, mastering the links
of social cause and effect–in the middle of an economic civilization founded upon
the confidence that time could indeed be subjected to our will, our psyche was
subjected itself to the intolerable anxiety that death being causeless, life was
causeless as well, and time deprived of cause and effect had come to a stop.

He liked to test memory that way. Maybe his writing might benefit thereby.
Tonight he read Advertisements for Myself as a way of forgetting himself.

When he left Manning’s at seven o’clock and took the bus back to sleep,
he turned on the radio in his apartment and heard how close the vote was.

He did not sleep, neither that night nor many of the nights that followed.
He slept in daylight, when he slept. No wonder he had wound up in here.

Now he slept after breakfast instead of going to Occupational Therapy.
He made himself a sign for his door and only Melindra would come in.

It was on one such day she announced to him what she wanted to do
with the rest of her life. He didn’t know how, but he wanted to live

with her, and said all this and more. She stayed her usual brief time,
then he fell asleep. She had to keep her job. Seniority was not enough.

He had another furlough this coming weekend and Anna and Paul
invited Melindra to stay for dinner before smuggling Bobby home.

(19 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, February 18, 2012

–Hypocrite reader,–

–Hypocrite lecteur,

Bobby ponders what dawn has to do with
people he knows who are falling asleep.

Sanchez is deft in hustling marks before they walk,
you gotta be careful not to blow it.

Jim has his rounds and Marge her corner
but you can’t call him pimp or her his whore.

Dupree knows no matter what the weather,
he has his clientele always waiting.

Clark likes to move from haunt to haunt and make
like Baudelaire. No need to read, just stroll.

Pool, street jobs, numbers–all for dinero.
God bless the child that’s got its own, she sings,

Billie Holiday on tape, the TV
too loud, Clark waiting for the song to end,

then out the door, breath already stale with beer,
Seattle’s own flaneur back in the crowd.

(And there he found me, –mon semblable,
–mon frere!–and brought me here to stay alive.)

Call me Mel, she said, medication in hand.
From that moment Bobby called her Lovely.

He ponders the words of Baudelaire.
Melindra says. Find words for what you feel

my double,my brother!

(18 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ex Post Facto

Words reached so far back we were not yet born.

I don’t know what there was to talk about.
The hot dish always served is cruelty.

Men who kick shit out of women
are ball less, so they continue writhing.

How do you think they got here? The bully,
quintessential American coward.
Vietnam was his before there was war.
He shipped the young men there to be slaughtered.

I’m not your goddam glamour boy.
I can play the Chuck Berry repertoire,
and do. You can have your Elvis.
It’s women I love to hear: You know who.

If you need to know, go ask his drawn shade.
His last known address was Something Hades.

One bullet ends his future, the second
his life. Down here he can play air guitar.

Who finds time, back in the world, to listen?

(17 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Look at It This Way

All he knew about Mexico was what he heard from his friend Rebecca.
She married this guy because he made her pregnant and wanted her
and the child to live with him on the army base in Fort Riley, Kansas.
Rebecca told Bobby about Tijuana and the donkey-fucking whores.
That’s where they went on the way to Kansas, a round-about way there.
Some people never know how to go straight. Ah yes, the philosopher
on the ward is in. Bobby knew nobody could know what Mexico was
if they didn’t get south of Tijuana. Rebecca said they were on their way
to Mazatlan. Bobby told Rebecca she should have finished high school.
She told him to clam up, she knew what she wanted out of this life.
As it turned out, she left the guy after she had the baby and in Seattle
raised her daughter on a waitress’s salary. He knew more than one

Now he knew a nurse, Melindra Collins, knew her more than most.
Bobby had loved how many times? Earlene, Cathleen. At twenty-one,
his heart was just getting off the ground to soar twice and turn once
more, a third time, with this woman, Lovely, maybe like an older sister
but a wonder in the arts of bliss, the care and nurturing of another soul.
They were both growing too close to a borderline they’d never crossed.
At thirty she kept telling him she’d never known a man who never
bored her. She was afraid, though, and openly said so. She wanted him,
she knew he wanted her. That was plain, and Bobby said so straight out,
he had to tell her the truth, he was afraid, how would they go on living
once he left the ward and retrieved what was left of his scholarship . . .
She worried about him having no job. She didn’t make enough, a mere

(16 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Making Up

That’s what he was doing, this:

I rode the bus back north. I was nobody’s now. Not even Mexico’s. Especially Mexico.

It was all made up. He knew why
he was here. Henrietta Murphy.
Danny St. Clair, father of Bobby,
took her baby Bobby from her
and she went to hell. Follow
her there. Bobby found her
in a room of her own in Mexico
City, above the Hotel Ibero lobby,

and that was all for his nighttime break. He left her in hell with a big H. Orpheus would
bring her back. How could her son pose as Orpheus, all he knew was this: what was it?
Persephone among the damned. She did what she must to stay alive, there were so many
there. They wore their skins like sheathes put on to tempt and lure the paying customer.

He couldn’t stop making it up,
he drank what was in the cup,

and all the lights were going out,
all but his, this was not night

but day without end,
dreaming the work ahead.

(15 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Melindra Collins

What do you want from me?

A light.

You’re not on the ward now.

No, I’m in bed with you.

You can’t smoke here.

I meant what a light always means: illumination.

(That’s the kind of talk Melindra likes to hear from Bobby.)

What do you want to do today?

Make love with you.

How about, right now, this: . . .

(She does what she was about to propose, but no need, she knew he’d go for it.)


What is it to love like this? Are they at the beginning or near the end?
On her dead-end street, days as well as nights hushed, she prefers the second story.
Out the window, a little park, with no accouterment for children.
You go where you hear the freeway. From here it’s far away.
If you’re Bobby you have to cavort a little, being happy.
If you’re Melindra, you want to find a tree you can’t resist.
He points one out. Looks like teak. He sits, then her. They lie back on dry grass.
Rhododendrons abound.
Sunday. Sun. Days of rain gone by.
Comes night. Still learning to love one another. Time to return to where they met.


His teacher comes up one night bringing books and a sheaf of white paper,
saying his own teacher was in a far worse place than this, and the name
sounds familiar. His teacher doesn’t believe any of his confessions,
how he stole, chiseled, conned, made it with men’s wives, ran numbers,
rolled fairies in Ravenna Park, simply doing what he had been taught.

Read these, his teacher says, handing him the Melville–Bartleby,
Benito CerenoThe Encantadas, Billy Budd. He chooses Roman Gary,
The Roots of Heaven. He’s already nearly memorized Goodbye, Columbus,
had not heard of Something about a Soldier. Hoaxes intrigues him.
After his teacher leaves Bobby picks up where he left off . . .

What do you do after failure strikes, what do you limp back home to find?
Say you feel like a sap, you still love the trees in the Japanese Gardens.

(14 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, February 13, 2012

Searching for the Built-in Shit Detector

Like Hemingway, if I talk about it
all the words are lost to the air.
What you do, Bobby said, is good
if you feel good afterward,
or was that the sexuality of morality?
I can’t remember what I don’t know.
I can’t write what I don’t remember.
If I’m not there who is? what happens?
I can’t even invent convincingly.
Hemingway made you think he could
because you believed
you were there where everyone was
in a story that survived its making.
Maybe, Bobby said, I should talk it out
to learn if it’s worth the effort
to wait for the words to reach the paper.
I can’t even convince myself
I shouldn’t throw away what little
I’ve kept with the kindling by the hearth.
Anna said, Why don’t you call Melindra
Collins, that beauty you call Lovely?
You should marry her, be happy
in your chosen agony.
Bobby said, I should have married
my clarinet. Paul admonished,
Stop thinking like Hemingway.

(13 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Incarcerate my hope.
Sew my future tight inside your bag
of right and wrong.
I want to see mustangs gallop,

wolves run free,
ammo for your harvests
dumped into the sea.
I want to love my country’s best

not have to decide the worst
is the best
for we who seek to live not die.

Turn before you reach the end:
Go back, reclaim the ground.

(12 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Old Man Now

He was improvident with his talent.
He knew only the frugal ones made it.
He was too young to know the difference
between nurturing and hoarding and love.
Love was something you couldn’t do alone
unless you lacked essential affections
like respect for the privacy of words,
giving your work a house to grow old in.
He knew he could go on like this, but why?
The bones were brittle but the flesh was not.

He remembered Elizabeth’s visit
to Ward Seven. She brought her crinkly eyes
with the sunlight still glittering in them.
She studied history, she loved to love.
Now she was engaged to marry a man
he did not know, hence her visit. Cathleen
was married in San Francisco, she said.
Elizabeth’s fiancé said Berkeley
was their destination–no Mario
Savio or Bettina Aptheker
had yet appeared, Sather Gate was open
territory for the ordinary
culture vultures scaling the monied walls,
and inside were various birds of prey.
He asked Elizabeth, What will I do
without my gypsy? Go to San Francisco,
she advised, Lure her back to the houseboat.
It took years. She divorced and remarried.
He lived in another woman’s houseboat.
A woman he loved was raped in Berkeley,
shadows there were like the dark everywhere.

His gypsy. She was here. She always was,
the history of forgetfulness reads.
He never thought he’d live to be forty,
much less eighty: only seven to go.
Cathleen said she tried to live happily
ever after and also have her cake,
but no, she could not stop remembering
his wit, she called it, the way he kissed her,
the enormous gamble the road promised,
the stallion she sought to pull her wagon.

(11 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, February 10, 2012

Starting Over

She gave birth to him, which was enough:
His father took him one night and broke
her heart so much she gave it away
to many men, all of whom lacked the fire
of Danny St. Claire, lover and gambler
who called her a whore behind Bobby’s back.
His mother may not be visible now
in Henrietta Murphy’s image
in the photo Danny’s friend gave Bobby.
No need to pretend she survived his birth:
her love shattered here. In the New Congress
Hotel bar, Christina Jones working in
her hip-high hose told Bobby she was his
father’s wife after Bobby’s abduction
and Henrietta’s death on the tracks.
The clergy buried her and no one knew
of Christina, the apostate among
the faithful, married to the bigamist
widower. The throng encircling the grave
said their own prayers and she said nothing.
The night his father lost his life upstairs
Christina took over when the other
working girls led Bobby to the back room.
Her every word was balm for Bobby’s grief.
Danny’s putative sins did not matter,
only his happiness with Christina.
They required a life of their own, she said
that night after walking him to her place,
the one she shared with Bobby’s father’s ghost
now that Danny was free to haunt the streets
of Seattle . . . Who knows how long? Not me,
she smiled through her tears. Yes, dear reader, tears.
She could have been Bobby’s elder sister.
She had hoped to hear the Holy Rites said
over the coffin of Danny St. Claire.
Bobby listened to her tell why she left
the church in the wake of her refusal
to believe her sin could be forgiven
by one-third of God, His Son. Danny sought
the Holy Ghost’s forgiveness. Christina
knew his soul received God’s grace when blood left
Danny’s body. Bobby could not believe
his father or mother communed with God.
Who claimed perfection for poor Jesus Christ?
Now Melindra Collins told her sorrow,
her abortion. He listened. She told him
the reason. Freedom, she said, for the child.
How can you be free if you’re never born?
And Melindra answered, My child is free
from the death it may have been forced to live;
and I found my calling: Saving mothers
from the endometriosis riddling
the womb cut out of the body to spare
a life. She would never have a child now.
That did not matter. Nor did the church.
Melindra would never tell any priest
because she did not believe she had sinned.
Melindra Collins thought she might love
Bobby St. Clair. Why? Because he listened.

(10 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, February 9, 2012


He started looking for the words again
when all he knew were those of her name.
She was a man’s woman, some had said
but what did that mean? She loved men.
Did that mean she drank with them, loved them,
but never remained with one man alone . . .
They all called her beautiful, long hair red
and it must be, it looked dark but not full dark.
Her legs were long, he forgot who had used
the word insatiable. (Lovely found a frame
for the photograph.) She was looking straight
at the camera, smile full of mischief, eyes
dancing. There was the ocean behind her.
Her long hair streamed over her shoulders.
Her breasts and hips, her legs were shaped
with exquisite care by some accident
of birth, the beneficent nature of God,
he did not say. He kept making it up.
She was named for her mother, Irish
from her father’s seed. He looked close.
Her lips were dark and parted, her tongue
visible between her teeth. Beautiful
was worn like many words, but it was all
the creature before his eyes could be said
to be. (Lovely read slowly, said, Start over.)

(9 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"absent from my city"

Bonnington asked about his plans. Bobby
said he still had his scholarship, going
nowhere but back to school. Bonnington asked
why. Bobby told him the longer version
of his ambivalence about learning:
I do what I must to make a story,
why I always watched a lot of movies
and made up a play that would speak and move,
convert the stage into a narrative.
I would watch John Huston’s Maltese Falcon
or the Treasure of Sierra Madre,
then read Dashiell Hammett or B. Traven
so I might comprehend adaptation.
I thought I could measure Aristotle
against the action rising to a point
of conflict–I love that word denouement
and trace the fall back into normalcy.
Are you sure it’s Aristotle, Bobby?
Maybe Plato’s cave, Bobby quipped, shadows
from the projection room against the wall.
I do what I have to for a story.
Doesn’t every writer? Bonnington asked.
Bobby didn’t know writers. His teachers
read his work like they read everyone else.
He even read what his teachers published.
There was one whose novel he loved. It was
about this guy who comes back home to find
his little brother running with a gang
led by a young woman who wants this guy
for herself, a fierce bitch he doesn’t want
his brother hanging with, and meantime falls
for this woman and plans to marry her
but first must free his brother from the gang.
A little like Blackboard Jungle, he ends.
Bonnington asked him what he was writing.
Nothing. I hope to write of my mother,
Henrietta Murphy. I know her name,
little else. I dig under the surface
of this city. It helps to be born here.
Yet I know so little I have grown ill,
so aggrieved by ignorance I have done
nothing, and am absent from my city.

(8 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Anna and Paul invited Bobby to stay at their house for the weekend.
He left the ward mid-afternoon Friday, due back Sunday night.
Lovely, who said over and over to him, My name is Melindra,
gave him her number and said she’d be free Saturday night.
He phoned her and called her Lovely. She chuckled in reply
and asked if he could come for dinner. He could stay the night.
She would drive him back, she had to work Sunday graveyard shift.
Anna and Paul drove him to her two-story house on a dead-end street.
Treat me like this, he said early Sunday, and I’ll stay in Seattle forever.
She said, OK, but you must become a famous poet or novelist . . . or teach.

She had to keep the name Melindra, nobody would remember Lovely.
He kept calling her Lovely and she kept matches ready to light him up.
She was nine years older. He was old enough, she said, A perfect age.
She loved the poem "Graves at Mukilteo" and recited it by heart.
She drove him out there so he could see where Hugo’s poem came from.
All poems came from somewhere. Richard Hugo worked for Boeing.
Bobby could tend bar. She didn’t care what he did if he learned from it.
She took him back to bed in the middle of the afternoon. They loved
loving. They were going too fast, she said. It was too dangerous
on the switchbacks, she preferred the straightaway Kansas-style.

(7 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, February 6, 2012

Un-beginning, -ending Day

Lights go on, still dark.
Scurry of orderlies,
doors opening to close,
sanitary food smell . . .
He puts his pen down.
They get up, not him.
Midnight his light goes on.
All night he writes
on unlined white paper
beside the typewriter
Clark brought up to him.
Dupree tags along
to see what this life is like.
Bobby listens closely.
They have little to say
he needs to remember.
The teenage girls run
echoing through the halls.
The nurse he calls Lovely
carries matches to light
his smokes. Her eyes glisten.
She’s young but older,
a looker: gold blonde hair
with a lisp on her red lips.
He teases her, says she
should see him out
of school, she teases
back, Where would
we go? Are you married?
They both say no.
Before the boys leave
he asks about Jim.
Marge is pregnant.
Better than street jobs,
he remarks, hopefully.
The nurse returns.
She keeps saying her name
but he prefers Lovely.
Who are your friends?
Street thugs, he answers,
like me. She wears white
tightly. He asks for a light
to peer between her wrists.
She likes the name he gave her,
unaware he’s leaving town.
Paul and Anna ask,
Where are you going?
What of your scholarship?
Why throw it all over
for a change of scene?
Anna worries most.
He’s the son she wanted
when she was young.
Trouble is, Bobby says,
I’ve never been anywhere;
I want to stay out of here,
farther away, the better.
He knows New Orleans
is too far. He ponders
San Francisco. White city
in sun, fog, and rain.
So Cathleen likes to say
in red envelopes, her white
pages bound with blue thread
like Emily Dickinson’s fascicles.

(6 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Two-Headed Coin

Nobody keeps him here. They say
he stays for his own good. O yeah.
Lights take the place of sun and moon,
Scrabble and pingpong life’s great games.
Fuck all this, he thinks. He says yes
more than no: What were the questions?
One teenager is named Kristin,
the other Cecile. Poetry?
What of Joseph Conrad’s novels?
Read Lord Jim, then Hamlet, or vice
versa. There’s poetry for you:
In the destructive element immerse
'tis bitter cold and I am sick at heart

Turn those around, there’s where you are.
Kristin comes from San Francisco,
she's hip. Cecile from Seattle
prefers Eliot to Shakespeare.
Kristin recites, Cecile orates.
Kristin gives with rhyme off the street.
Cecile apes The Waste Land English.
Tony the orderly says, Pool’s
what this place needs to go upscale.
He’s from the Madison district,
lives in Chinatown, the idol
of teen glee. His colleague Jamie
would trade Gimpel the Fool for pool.
There is no uptown Seattle,
Earlene declared. Bobby missed love.
Her love. Cathleen’s. Why not leave here?
Bonnington’s eyes are dark brown rays
breaking through Bobby’s put-down words.
Stand pat, they say, No point going
away from here, you will only
be back. Earlene’s New Orleans,
Cathleen’s San Francisco (She’s gone).
He could toss a two-headed coin.
He’s still fucked up. (He too is gone
for a time. San Francisco’s hills
as steep as Seattle’s Skid Road,
though more sheer.) Will the spring day come
his ship docks and he gets shore leave?

(5 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Doctor and the Stevedore

The doctor lay on his bed face up reading
Hemingway, turning pages quickly
and when asked what he was reading
ignored the question and kept going.

The stevedore came out of ECT to take
his shower, confused, grateful for a hand
to help him out as he had been helped in.
The lines in his face filled with a red glow.

Neither one would say a word to the other.
The white walls and ceilings and floors
and plexiglass windows and steel doors
provided silence for speech to endure.

Bobby started speaking only if spoken to.
He read when not writing. He was waiting.

(4 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, February 3, 2012

Weeping, Whispering

The book banned from Ward Seven, the Bible,
declared you had both father and mother,
although Bobby bogged down in Exodus
with all its tabernacle tapestry,
cheating thereafter to find all the parts
that spurred his restless imagination.

Donald J. Bonnington M.D. et al.
to verify he is a doctor / shrink
takes long strides and sees him three times a week,
more if there’s a need. Then group therapy
Mondays and Fridays, where the petite wife
with her wrists bandaged, the young boxer crazed
by hoopla predicting a great career
unbegun, the two teenagers in love
with "The Hollow Men" but they haven’t read
"Heart of Darkness," where "Mistah Kurtz" came from.
Nine more so-called souls: a baker’s dozen.
Why did Cathleen go to bed with her boss,
the married baker who kept his socks on?
Bonnington listened, said Hello, Goodbye,
and recommended what to do, between.
He painted weekends, had read Thomas Wolfe,
though the only writer he really knew,
Tom Mooney, a doctor in the Far East,
was dead, beloved therefore immortal.
Bobby St. Clair confessed his many sins.

I tire of this imitation of Christ.
I drew my mother to resurrect her.
I looked for the words to bring her to life.
Is my father in Hell waiting for me?
I could neither swim nor walk on water.
How may I heal such flaws and find true speech?

(3 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ward Seven

There’s one in Chekhov,
who was never in Seattle,
nor was Bobby ever in Russia.
Besides it’s Ward Six there.
Now Bobby is a floor higher.

He eats in the florescent room
where the Chinese lady sees
to his needs, fork, knife, spoon,
plate full of hospital food.
She watches him eat and smiles.
When he’s done she disappears.
The orderly takes him to a room
where nurses take his vitals
and a vial of blood. The door
is closed. He lies on the bed
looking out the window.
There’s a radio tower,
he thinks of France,
where he’s never been.
A red light flashes at the top
of the tower. One word, Alain,
comes into mind
and stays.

He senses the door is locked.
It’s dark. He does not care.
Waking, he does not try the door.
When he hears the key he knows.
Dark turns into day,
the door opens. He’s free to go
back to the florescent room.
The Chinese lady does as she did
before, and he follows suit.

When he goes out the door
to stay, he looks it up, Alain.
He rifles through the stacks
until he finds the photograph
of Simone Weil with her teacher
Emile Chartier, whose pen name
was Alain. He recalls the image
he saw looking straight out
to see inside the mind’s eye
a girl sitting at a man’s feet.
The mind is never as reliable
as a library. Here they are,
the young Simone and Alain,
the philosopher, sitting side
by side in a plate covered
with a thin paper but fading
in a dusty book unopened
how long there’s no way to know.
No sun reaches as far as here.

He had never heard of Simone Weil
or known of Alain until now,
the girl who worked in a factory
to be one among the workers,
or her teacher, neither one
of whom he will read
until he’s old, if he ever is.
He is. Who else would
say this at seventy-three?
By now he’s read some
of what he did not know
existed then. He was ill,
the doctors said, one at a time
until he admitted he feared
shock treatments, though they
assured him he had no need to fear
what would never happen.
There were other things
to know, or remember.
You did not starve to death
to stop a war, to change modes
of cruelty into human justice.
Pity Alain’s brilliant student
whose dying did not deliver
Europe from its bloodbath.
She withers into nothingness,
where once she was blessed
with delicate beauty, as are
all saints. Bobby knows nothing
of saints. Not at twenty one
fifty two years ago.

(2 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Henrietta Murphy

If you can’t tell a story straight, show how
what happens follows a true labyrinth
without a thread or any way to know
where you have come from, or why. The background,
backwater flood tide, Bobby St. Clair–style.

Earlene’s mama took sick, cancer, and her papa
–two familiars she spoke lovingly–
had cancer already, its final stage
bursting in its Venus fly trap flower
eating him alive. She had to go home.

To say Bobby missed her is a grim joke.
What’s worse is she’s never returning here.
And he’s not going to live in Monroe,
Louisiana. His heart is broken
when he turns twenty one in Seattle.

He started walking all the way downtown
and talking to whomever would listen.
Clark introduced him to this girl, Cathleen,
who pulled straight As and partied all weekend.
Bobby moved to a Lake Union houseboat.

Sure, he paid more for such grand-style quarters,
but he was in love, and what would he do,
what did he do now, once Earlene was gone
but write out his heart on a typewriter,
throwing away as much as he would keep.

He was gone from the apartment Connie
once kept him sleeping after fucking night
into day. She had other lovers now:
Jim said he told her Bobby was in love,
and Connie told Jim she was happy too.

Clark, the dapper flaneur of Seattle,
urged Bobby to show up at his party
on Capitol Hill to meet this poet
from Spokane, seventeen and already
published, writing poetry for Roethke.

Who? Bobby asked. Roethke, this great poet,
Cathleen can tell you. Who was a beauty.
She left the party early to go home
with Bobby, her first night on a houseboat,
waking naked, her olive skin glowing.

Her eighteenth birthday was a month away.
Bobby said, Stay. Cathleen said, I’d love to.
Clark came to visit to see what there was.
Cathleen loved Bobby at first sight, and he
loved her with a passion he never knew

possible. Cathleen kept him home. She loved
this lad with Celtic ways equal to hers.
When he loved her he lost himself in her.
He worked at home. She learned to feel the house
moving like their bodies when the lake swelled.

Earlene kept writing. Roderick missed him,
and so did she. Maybe he could come down
somehow. She would work. He could write poems
and stories in a home with warm weather.
She had never missed any man so much.

He wrote to tell her the truth. That was all.
He hated the way he had treated her.
He loathed himself. Cathleen was gone all day.
He walked downtown. He walked downhill, uphill,
came home, and one night Cathleen was not there.

Clark told him she had gone back to Spokane,
a summer job in a bakery there.
Bobby had met her friend Elizabeth,
who now held his hand, pulled him close but no
farther. The summer passed. Bobby wrote on

tables, drinking coffee, cup after cup,
and friends of his father told him stories
of his mother. Nothing personal now,
but your father took you away from her,
her only child. She turned wild, went crazy.

She was out drinking and died in a car
smashed on the tracks trying to beat a train.
What was her name? Henrietta Murphy.
What did she look like? She was beautiful.
Red hair. Long legs. Insatiable with men.

One of his father’s friends had a photo
that became his to place on a table
and find the words for what he was seeing,
then taking it with him to ask the friends
if the words he wrote down even came close.

They told him the truth. Henrietta changed
overnight once Bobby was lost to her.
No one knew why St. Clair needed Bobby;
he had no right to keep him for his own.
He had his reasons but they died with him.

Bobby carried her photo everywhere,
sitting over coffee, rarely eating,
forgetting to sleep, he had to find her
with words that kept slipping away from him
until Clark found him weeping, whispering.

(1 February 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander