Sunday, March 11, 2012
Marilyn was Jewish. She had a mind like a steel trap. Like the academics say.
She liked to show me her world. Her mother lived on Queen Anne Hill.
Marilyn had never married, though she must have been my senior by more
years than Melindra. She had lived in a kibbutz in Israel. She would do it again.
She loved the country and defended its existence with all her might. She was tough. She loved poetry, but she didn’t love the stuffed shirts she’d known who wrote it. She said I should show Roethke some of my poems. I told her I was chicken shit incarnate. That didn’t cut any ice with her. She kept at me until I said I would.
If there’s one subject I can’t share, it’s my religion. I believe in people being who and what they are, without restriction. I was born Catholic but I can’t believe it. I know Irish are Catholic in droves, but why would the church give me shelter? Marilyn went to synagogue. She never talked about it except to say she had gone. I had to admire her, she was people after my own heart. I told her of Melindra, she listened as though it were my heartbeat she heard, my pulse in her breast. I wanted these women to meet. I never asked Melindra. I stopped short of it with Marilyn. I did steer the conversation to Yahweh, was he the same as Mammon?
You know what people say. You’re a whore if you fuck with every beautiful girl you meet. I was a whore, then. Let the bastards contend with their own souls. I would do what I wished. No one was going to tell me what to do or make me feel guilty. I would pursue my own sins and look them in the eye, one by one, but by myself. If I was a whore, let it be. Who gave a goddamn what they said? I told Marilyn none of this. She held open house for me in her large houseboat. I told her about the one I lived in with Cathleen. It was around here somewhere. I told her about Cathleen, who was living in San Francisco, whom I was missing.
I went to see Marilyn after I’d been out of town. Sanchez got us a gig in Berkeley. I wanted to see Cathleen. She was home. She crossed the Bay Bridge to see me. She parked and we walked up Telegraph Avenue until we found a bar she said she knew. There was even a fireplace. She went with me to hear my clarinet. Sanchez dedicated to her, out loud, a drum solo. He didn’t know her last name and I never said it. She was Cathleen and that was enough. She was separated. I told her I knew a woman living on a houseboat not very far from ours. I was overjoyed. You know what it’s like to feel the world is yours and know it’s not?
In Seattle again, I asked Marilyn to look for a houseboat I could afford. I was
going to repeat the past, Gatsby style. Marilyn said she’d never move back here
now that she lived in San Francisco. I let that go. We kept working together.
She was like the mother I did not remember except to hear what people said.
Christina kept working at the New Congress. Melindra stayed at the hospital.
I wrote poems and showed them to Roethke. That was when he said he was
like me at my age: You sleep too much, you drink too much, you smoke too
much, you eat too much, you fuck too much . . . " Then he took the poems
(7 March 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander