Myra read and Doug learned
Nowhere was a word for Utopia,
meaning it doesn’t exist but who knows?
He claimed not to understand
Sir Thomas More. What’s more,
she liked to read Dante and make up
her own translation, even improvise:
Virgil, What will I learn I do not know?
When do we leave the devil’s asshole?
Why does rising come only after falling?
Her daddy had been Danny’s friend
who avenged him, murdering
the murderer, and now, in Walla Walla
state penitentiary he was reading
The Autobiography of Malcolm Xwhich Malcolm Little could not do
being dead, an assassin’s bullet
through his head while he was speaking
in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom.
Myra liked to say Dante would know
how her daddy felt now, he’d write
him into the Divina Commedia
as one who might have saved Alighieri
from being banished from Firenze.
Doug loved to listen to her erudition.
He’d known a black woman before
Myra, but no one like her, so filled
with whatever passed for normal life
down here, but so smart and amazing
he said to her, You should get away
from here, go to college?
She replied, I’d end up somewhere
I didn’t fit in . . . Doug thought
she didn’t fit anyplace here either.
Then one day Myra got a telegram
reeking bad news, her father’s death.
You’d think she would have said
something, Bobby offered next day
when he heard what happened.
Doug turned away saying she was told
only the day before. Bobby
took his anger out on himself.
Melindra tried to get him to stop
drinking. Bobby came home drunk
and passed out at three a.m.
She heard him talking to Danny
in his sleep, soothed his eyelids
with her lips, and he did not wake.
Dave tried talking him into giving up
the hootch, Rose was singing less
with the combo and working more
at the Black and Tan. The story
of Myra’s father was passed around
from Dave to Tony, then to Sanchez.
Sanchez told Bobby to sober up
or get lost. Bobby tried. He talked
to Myra to learn what she knew
about the man her father killed.
When she told him the whole story,
Bobby stopped drinking
and gave up his plans to leave town
for San Francisco. Cathleen
didn’t know any of his people.
She was doing fine without him.
Myra Jacobs went on loving Doug
Harper and DG kept coming from
the all-night turntable. She loved
going to sleep that way. He said
he couldn’t sleep any other way.
What about what I do for you?
she chuckled and made him moan,
if a man in heat can be said to moan . . .
(22 March 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander