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