Yellow scarf around your head
of black hair, red flared skirt,
black blouse with tiny yellow
and red flowers you had picked
in case I might pick up a phone
and wait as you climbed down
from the cell where Mommy put
you for safekeeping in Seattle.
Malcolm Cowley’s Exile’s Return
lay open on one arm of the chair
I sat in and you sat at the foot of.
Your way of declaring a respect
I had not even begun to earn.
Nor would I, until years passed
with the waves lapping the boat
and our bodies rocking with it.
Your art was imagining clothes.
Your drawings went to Paris
to be realized with whole cloth.
Downtown San Francisco,
Cathleen’s. At first not yours
but another's, who started your
career. You gave it up for me.
I would never understand why.
We went to New York to live,
I could not live without dying
so we fled into Massachusetts
like Puritans who put down
sin by poisoning holy water.Bobby, you said, time to go,
the Sangre de Cristo lie above
though they seem to be below.
He had known already a place
Cathleen danced and stripped
to music, was it Caravan?
You cannot stay with alien eyes
covering you with their bodies.
Great whales must go a long way
with such burden to approach
Seattle at night through dream.
All day he was consoled by water.
When she was finished drawing
he told her the stories he recalled
without the names of Constance,
Earlene, Melindra, and others
whose names he lost to memory.
It was her name he never forgot,
nor did he want to, he saw her
forever in his mind’s eye and she
returned his long letters always
with long letters she wrote when
her men were between pleasures
and toil. So they hoped she knew,
but there was an end to such trust
when love was only a word uttered
and heard, and in fall the rain fell.
In Seattle rain was sometimes mist
but with summer the sun seemed
to send its little dancers to the lake
to cavort on the glistening waters.
She wrote, in San Francisco, this:
I always dreamed we started here.
It was the only other city I knew
where Dante designed the streets.
(19 March 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander