Monday, April 30, 2012

Manuela Roma

Manuela Roma, tell me if you will
what words you poured with passion through my lips.

There we were, and here, the blonde Sanchez hired
drove us to your Colonia Prado Churubusco house.
O you’re . . . ! No, not me . . .
Then come inside, tell me who you are.
Two years and the paramilitary were there, and you
on the plane to Prague.

Our friend said he hugged you once and knew
why I loved you.
But love’s always long in coming . . .

It is the love of the world you taught me,
I never learned but I listened and saw what I could
remember of father, mother . . . history, that curse,

and heard how they go in between the ribs to hang
your body upside down until you talk,
then only if they believe you do they let you down.

It is the story of Nora the glamorous Saninista
seducing the general, excusing herself to doll up
and emerge more beautiful than the blade she conceals

pues, Manuela, that is the story you told me I never forget
to remember
and there you were, alive, just as your words had said.

The blonde told Sanchez his time was up unless
he paid her now for more.
She drove her car very well, that’s how he paid her.

The rooms in the Londres were even smaller
than Ibero’s,
though the price of a night there was higher.

(21, 30 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

What the Women Did When They Loved as Girls, the Boys during the Void of Love's Absence

Love never wanes. The boys gone, the girls relax into their bodies
as though there were no end to the dream of a life to come . . .
Love never wanes. The girls enjoy the simplicities of life, the soul
of their own wit relaxing into a warmth only women know . . .
Love never wanes. The boys cannot find their compass without
the north of their bodies to gibe with the south of the soul . . .

I don’t know what you know, man, but the wilderness is a city.
Cut away the growth of vines and roots and there is the treasure
you can reach only with the help of up-and-coming archeologists,
the degree’d and amazed, their eyes holding out for the secret
answers to all the questions they brought from school to the lip
of the jungle called City. I gotta say, man, you know everything.

The girls need to file away the remembered passages and live out
the future, that lovely dream that never ends, it may be life itself.
The boys are hard at work in their downtown Mexico City hotels.
A week without music is better than a life with the wrong song.
And so it is for her: the angel of liberty arches on the Reforma,
crossing Insurgentes, immortal struggle always to love the angel.

(20, 29 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Practicing Ecstasy

Sanchez said he was going, with Bobby if he wanted to come,
so they did go, the two of them, as in the old days they convened
in the music room startling the soundproof room with a loud sound
no one else ever played in such close quarters, even the janitor moaned,
the security guard dropped by; two lads, Bobby said, practicing ecstasy.

The only two in Mexico. Dave was in San Francisco by now, with Rose,
staying with Mona when Rose was working, singing in the dive downtown.
Tony filled in on piano, Laurie driving him there. Clark took over drums:
Ah, versatile flaneur! such infinite love of the beat, paradoxical affinity for
sacrificing melody to walk music through the risk of a night’s love, its danger.

Doug Harper and his beloved Myra Jacobs, what to say . . . Sanchez loved them:
they were his jazz ideal, a little like Lester Young and Billie Holiday (but no blues
you could distinguish: her fawning smile, his own rapture, music joining their lips,
like songs say but never show, not like theirs). Jim and Marge arrived when the lads
were off in Mexico; Jim happier than before: You don't grow up on the streets smiling.

In Mazatlan they went to Mama Muchi’s for smoked marlin. They shared a room
in the Lincoln Apartments. From there they saw the madam Matilda lead her bevy of girls
along the walk above the beach, and Bobby body surfed in the warm waves but not long
before he was catapulted into the sand and wore a bruise on his forehead. Mark of Cain,
Bobby said. A night at Matilda's, more Mama Muchi, one more sally with the waves

and sand, then riding Tres Estrellas de Oro to Mexico City. Viajando en bus!
Bobby met there the woman poet he had heard so much of, Manuela Roma . . .
He would always remind her of someone else until she learned him better . . .
They were a week in D. F., boarding in an ex-convent in San Angel
at first, then Manuela drove them downtown to Mina y Buenavista.

Across the street Sanchez stayed in the larger Hotel Londres,
its mezzanine what he liked to remember later as "a virtual plaza."
Bobby roomed in Hotel Ibero. The orange- and green-haired prostitutes
took their down time together, lolling a step above the desk clerk’s domain.
Bobby climbed the stairs with one of auburn hair, chiding himself, "I've never paid."

(19, 29 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Morning in the Local Forest

I go looking for my tracks to find a bear grinding them
with four paws raggedly turning the earth into sinkholes
filling with rain covering mud so sky can see its face
in a ring of pine around the perimeter of trees.
If I were the bear he believes me to be I would climb
the ripples through the cold wind to find a cave to sleep in.

I want the frog finding my tracks to lead me into swamp
water. I will stoop and mimick his leap and drink the muck
to fill the webs between my toes with rainwater to sip,
dazed, dreaming the beautiful will find a prince in my skin’s
scaly folds. Birds light and look like they sound if they are large,
a fox darts across the path, animals scavenging food

scowling men with their boar bellies filled to please the mad dogs
truant from garbage heaps. What could men do to become men
who need no masks to fool the forest in its leafy task
replacing the sky with canopy, the echo of steps,
an occasional cry from the little ones caught and killed.
Who knows what happens next in this nefarious, dark place?

Hunters slide through familiar thickets and stand up high
where deer don’t smell you first if wind can't catch your scent.
Leaves fall tattered to the earth, then the first snow falls
and lakes freeze. I wandered here many mornings lonely
for voices no human knows. I would invent words I hear
that animals seem to speak where they do not fear cold air.

Without wind in summer, sun is like a skillet on skin
aged that way. The sons absent from their fathers wade for fish.
Nothing burns that is not dead already. Muskies pull hooks
from the arching poles slithering through the callused fingers
of leisure. If this were jungle men would pay with their blood,
but it is the banal at noon tide, a trampled forest.

(18, 28 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, April 26, 2012

First Love

We did not live in town. Nothing there eased my father’s need
to be done with what was never his.
In childhood a family so poor
they had no alternative
but to live in the Arkansas mining camp where he was born,
or in Oklahoma cropping for shares another man’s cotton,
he vowed he would buy land and build around the house
resembling a skull, the life to come.
I pitched my body into the wild rye
before the uprooting to plant
new vineyards to go with the gnarled originals.
I would talk more of my grapes when I quit grieving them.
My father sold them all,
the man came down from Cherry Hill
to pay the money to uproot each vine,
put in a trailer court, and live a way my father never knew:
the man looking down from a high place
knowing all below him was his.
I had spurned my father’s offer. The Black Irish beauty’s
Polish gypsy blood lured me away to go east,
then south, from where I had come as a child.

It was below the hill I learned to love Irene Castenada.
She would not go away with me.
We rode the beautiful horses that were not ours;
my father worked on the cars of the men
who owned the horses, who offered them,
they were so amused by my father’s son
chasing, as they put it, the Mexican girl’s beauty mark
marring one cheek above her lush Modigliani neck,
her long legs that pulled my hips between them,
no longer on the horses but in the car
after the mass, in another town, on a hill we called
our own. When I left that place I left more
than my father’s impecunious wealth.
Irene Castenada would not go to the city.
She stayed on the Roza. She spoke ingles for her parents.
She worked two jobs. One I had once worked with her:
The smell of potatoes in the warehouse,
the clatter of machinery that stopped
when the belts stopped, the brief noon we laughed through,
the nights to ourselves. She was my first love.
Here, at this table, she is my last love.

(18, 26 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


She said suicide, she knew, was part of my biography.
She called what I did a storm, even greater than mine,
she said. I quickly fell in love with her
before I knew what to say, I who could do nothing,
we lived at least one ocean away, and that only
I prepared myself for the worst, hearing I was loved
and turned off the road abruptly, and she told me
what she said as I began writing this latest chapter
in my dissolving life. I swerved and saved the lot of us.
The children worried they would be left alone forever.

I wrote a song in commemoration of our brush with zero
where wolves called to one another across the dark,
vacant land. She said if I would go for gas, she’d stay.
I walked a mile one way to the bar with a gas pump
and left my wristwatch as collateral for the gas can.
Hearing the wolves howl going and coming
you have to admire their unreserved loneliness.
She welcomed me back. Her dress lifted,
she lay back in the ‘64 Healey’s passenger seat.
I returned the can, retrieved my watch, went on
with the top up, rain starting to sprinkle on the way.

She drove from there to the river. The ferry
transported us to the other side. Coins on your eyes,
I quipped and we both laughed to pass the time . . .
Later on she went away and said she was gone for good,
I’m not coming back. I lay on our bed and stared
out the window, the same view of lights
as in Seattle, in Ward Seven.
In this wheat town across country from that city,
I contemplated suicide. I thought how once my life
turned on a wheel I named

I felt dead already.
The voice of the one who followed Rebecca woke me.
I had said Rebecca’s name in my sleep.
Paula left for good. After a year,
I was on the verge of departure.
She came back one night to say goodbye.
She lay on the bed with me, insisting we keep her clothes on.
We slept. In the morning she left, I followed and was gone.
I forgot the condition of wolves.
The ferry emptied, the pure, smiling ones
leaving first, down death’s descending scale.

When they reached me I said, I have no preference.
The man with the pole spoke: You should have known
long ago you were leaving and where you were going.
You learned to love and drove away the only woman
who loved you for no reason except she believed you.
Where you’re going love and trust have no importance.

(16, 17, 25 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


1. Stuttering

He. I-I do-do no-not know
how to . . . to . . . ta-a-alk,
how can you if tha-at, that
you-ung you can’t lu-ove?

Hush. Start over,
go slower. There’s more time
than you know.
You talk fine, inside.

She. Say after me:
you see her, she sees you,
love being made.
You see her,
she sees you, you make love,

you see her, she sees you,
she’s making love,

you see her, she sees you,
you’ve made love,

you see her, she sees you
taking her love, you see her,
she sees you seeing her love . . .

Before love blooms

she knows he must say
what freezes his tongue
and frees his eyes
to look upon her whole. 

2. Juice

Now the poets, beatific all,
juiced and smoked,
their talent dangerously
hovered near some edge,

innocent. Kerouac, Ginsberg
required the dithyrambs
of Cassady, moving as fast
as Charlie Parker’s chords,

perpetual-motion style–
Apres nous le deluge:
Hendrix, Joplin,
Morrison . . .

You believe you survived.
At thirty, you had it made
or you didn’t have the juice.
Make it, baby, with me,

so many don’t come this far
without losing, but not
your life, not your life . . .
You do begin to age now,

a little less fiery in burning
your body’s bridges. Here
you work so well
time flows like a long poem.

(16, 17, 24 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Hour Before Night's End

She said, Sure, pretend you love me,
I’ll show you how to climb the mountain
and step into the space between.

Your sighs sink into me. Waking ,
I reach where you said you would be
once I became brujo to your bruja.

Partake of our long arousal
and together, attend
to the way I hear
lovers fare in your far world.

In your language, a sigh evolves.
Sleep where you said I could be
voodoo to your delicate doll.

Stones border the green earth grown
against blue sky where sand is floor
and our skin heavy with musk,
love we make in your mind and mine . . .

When I am absent, another comes.
He is said to give you what I could not.
If he asks too much, you hurry him
from that time to this.

Who knows what sighs mean?
How many caresses will you accept
in lieu of fury?
Into your pink my cream pours.

Smell the air, imagine our smell,
lick a body down to where legs begin . . .
nails, lips, hair, the body’s shore.
Your skin pours over my male fever,
in your female, fervent heat.

(16, 17, 21-23 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Calico cat shrieking in the snowfall of mid-April so far north the body screams for release into its original skin south of here, but . . . I walk not well, though I walk, I eat not well, though I eat, I sleep not well, though I sleep, and the creatures surrounding the first person singular are each one my beloved that I caress so much I invent the title of this and care nothing for its origin save that it lives, as do all other loves in my life, past, present, and future, though some have gone, true, and some will never arrive now. The calico cat is shrieking because a kitten is being made in the snow. A red-wing blackbird chucks or maybe clucks, and dives. Two mourning doves sound like wood chipping when they fly. Cathleen sleeps. The nine cats sleep. I sleep on my feet, when I sleep. I am an aging man waking before growing too old to confess:

All I did I did to justify my existence and maybe along the way, some one of yours. There being in the lives of those I love too many lives to hold in mind, and may I say, dear reader, that was my intention when I was young no less than now, when seventy-two years gone by I look to see the seventy-third pass away and stop the fool in me from dying, he was always so fond of folly and the desire to abandon the old road for the one he did not know with the promise that a new city, a new land, a new language is all in the sound of words and not their meaning, no, where the hand goes the lips go and where the hand and lips go the body follows and there have been so many discoveries I cannot see them all at the same time, I am that blind.

(16, 21 August 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Easy Rider

Maybe you've noticed by now, dear reader, this story lacks a single point of view:
esta hombre sabe demasiado . . . por que? quien sabe? . . . considerate afortunado . . .
Bedroll tucked under one arm, I carried it everywhere.
Owl looked under its lids to see me coming. If I had wings would I fly?
I sang Easy Rider, Give me surcease from this pain. If I could find pain’s sound
that’s all I would hear, you can’t let pain take you over. That way lies ruin.

She was sure she loved me but did not know why for fifty years,
the time she took to fall out of fear and begin. She creams her Black Irish skin
emerging from the lake. Her skin is the color of black olives. She kisses me
before telling me she fears one of us may soon go. She wants to die
no more than I, some things you can do nothing about.
The wilderness she fears, says when I’m gone where in Hell will Heaven be . . .

Now when the wind comes up, she makes me a bed to couple with her own.
The night the rain came through the open sliding glass doors in Oahu
she said I stayed too long inside her, seven years ago aloft in Honolulu’s
Pink Palace, where the women once strolled the lobby and made love
when they fucked and imitated happiness when they thought of fear.
Bodies once rubbed each other for fire. Must you be a brujo to love a bruja?

(14, 20-21 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Chekhov

pretends to be yours. He shucks and jives.
If I wore pince-nez would I know why?
Women pass by my door. Chekhov follows.
One waits where she finds a stopping place.
He invites her to read his new story.
He rides off to do his job
of keeping life in the body. What soul
exists takes too long to find.
He works for little or nothing.
Life is too precious to be pecuniary.

In the story my Chekhov delivers
some people's lives. They question,
he wonders: What will happen to us?
She asks, Will we meet next year here,
will either of us return? Chekhov thinks
of the youth awaiting in empty rooms
transfusions of serf’s blood to freedom’s . . .
and laughs. He was once paid for laughter
but found his metier in "A Boring Story"
and the lady remembered for her dog.

Or those who pretend to be tender
to become their ideal, how they suffer:
There’s more to "The Duel" than a duel.
The madness in "Ward Six" is criminal.
Better to be nine years old, full of fear
on "The Steppe." The risks you must take.
You see the beauty dancing on her toes
and marry her, selfishly, a young man
but so old inside you bleed to love.
One death will make no difference.

(13, 21 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Out Where There Is Near

Tomorrow the stars go out at midnight,
see them flick off to please you.
If there’s water you can sail out,
if not snapping turtles will maim you.

There is no safety. The world is round
where a red blur streaking across the sky
is no meteor. Black holes abound.
You have need for adventure? Why?

Sucked in, swallowed, here the other end
resembles birth, but this garden ain’t Eden,
it’s up for sale, with slaves thrown in free
to help turnover. Nothing new is new.

Eyes that see this see too much, are plucked.
Grass fires blow into conflagrations.
Little storms whip up interstellar winds.
Their roar masks the road between planets.

Tonight a map to follow loss:
They go riding to oblivion,
two riders on two white horses.
They bed their horses in the barn.

Storm clouds erase the sky under night.
She says, Take me to your bed. I have none,
he says. The gully where his bedroll lies
is too dark to see, she stumbles and falls,

he slips his hands under both her arms
lifting her. In the barn they love on straw,
she sleeps. He dallies with shadows
taunting him: Light is the path to follow.

(12-13, 20 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Can I Say . . .

What can I say no one but I can say?
My name. I’m told I could find my name,
forename and family name, in Mississippi:
my doppelganger, whom I’ll never meet,
Floyce Alexander. Nor is the name anywhere
in the original Welsh no one I know could say
who had not tarried in Cardiff, Swansea,
or the coalfields of southern Wales
Floyce Been came from to Arkansas,
competing like my father with the mules
pulling full coal cars up the long tracks
running like a ladder all the way to the top.
The men complained the bosses erected no veils–
that was the word–between raw gas and air,
and first fire, then explosion, all breath too far
above to reach underground. So many years
and then fracking, before its name, was torn
from its mother filled with her green bounty.
In the boom that day, as in I have been,
and am no more, his name already passed
to me two years before because my father’s
first son Robert Rufus died at two months,
no hospital letting him in my mother’s arms
pass through its doors, and two years later
she went in, came out, took me home
to the house edging wild pines where fireflies,
mockingbirds were seen and heard . . .
seven years before my birth certificate finally
appeared with the name my father sought
so unusual I might live . . . That was my South
and I no more its son than the tall Welsh-
Cherokee-Scots woman who mothered my father,
six sons in all, three daughters . . . their father
dead in the street at dawn in Sallisaw, Oklahoma . . .
her newborn twins, Beulah and Lahoma,
buried next to him, his murderer freed,
my father said he wore the same ring
the judge wore, exoneration followed,
stoking American ashes older than its fires.

                                    for some of my dead

(12, 19 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stay at Home

Bobby thought about the fix he was in.
If it was hell where he was, what’s heaven?
Anna came to the bungalow and talked.
She wanted him to learn a new language,
or the way she said it, English was fine
if you wanted to stay home all your life . . .

Paul wondered where Melindra was these days.
Bobby told him all about Christina.
Bobby was trying to work up the sand
to tell Melindra, who would then call him
the obligatory bastard, cad, worse . . .
and be gone from his life like night from day.

He took Melindra to dinner, she paid
as always, she loved to see him clad
in the dinner jacket the Viceroy supplied.
He told her about the quartet’s music,
the difficulty Sanchez was having
over the less than ordinary name

Sanchez y Compania. He wanted
to go on the road. Mexico City
was where his unruly heart had wandered.
To see the largest city on the earth.
To be heard by all its many people.
To play and sing. Will you take we with you?

It was a pipe dream, specialty of those
stay at homes of whom he was but one.
She invited him to stay the night. Her house
was too big for the small man he was now,
if man he be. I have a class tomorrow,
I'll be up all night with my story.

(11,18 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

The Long Gone

I was your once-upon-a-time-man,
you were my only woman
once I was sane after the long illness,
the rusty keys of coitus interruptus
my red-haired first wife, Rebecca,
let me practice on her fine-tuned body.
She was long gone. I died. I never knew
how to die but alive, like the flower
you came along to choose for me.
That’s the way to resurrect the living
dead, if it will last. You flee from me . . .
With abandon I seek you everywhere.

Agamemnon brings Cassandra home with him.
A net thrown over them, speared by trident:
Clytemnestra’s revenge for sacrifice
to the gods of their daughter Iphigenia
so the winds would hurry him to Troy.
Electra talks her brother Orestes
into slaying their mother and her paramour.
Flushed with rage, blood-red river, the tide’s roar,
Electra’s heart running fast out, Furies
chasing them to the bright-feathered judges
holding court, they are hounded far from home
and sea . . . Electra, and Orestes mad as she.

We had danced in the Canterbury. No music
Chaucer knew. Driving through dark a tire blew.
You kept me such incomparable company.
All our happiness poured out with my rage
through the empty streets after closing time.
Not even the nun telling me I was possessed
could stop me from starting over again,
I lost you. I had not learned the word forever.

Those who read deep into night, Englishing
Greek, leave the future in hands now folded
that opened and gardened the heart to grow
seed broadcast down furrows of open palms.

(11, 18 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


                                                                                      para Katya y Isa

Cloud swarms, rain hives, disappearance of love’s skin, your own ratio,
what is yours was never anyone’s and how you fared was inevitable,
relics buried with bodies of my kin, deep as the shallow box would go,
my kin . . . father entering with coal dust filling the lines of his hands,
mother bathing wounds where he can’t reach, inside out the dust

I remember the way you left your car and heard the shot, saw the man
in the pull of a field of fate, ankle twisting as he fell, powdering dust
and normal as it was, the stink of death turned you toward the house,
its door. There I could no longer see you. It is enough you are alive.
Your son is back where he was, safe as any body in a murderous

Powder in your skin lined with dust, storms pour with a second hand
rubbing the clockface of the dour sky. Thunderheads over one horizon,
lightning eyes, and if you are happier here it does not feel like country.
Who could bring you back already has, the ratio of life to death is better
than where wolves nip the horses’ fetlocks, overturning, more is

Some bodies are most alive wheeling in circles from the top of the pole.
Where butterflies have gone. Acacia. Jacaranda. Maguey. Tree of life.
Beauty like a red flash hovering where the lights go on, no dust there,
how can I tell you of such things with colors for words, and what colors?
In the courtyard beyond the plaza stand the horses broken by dull

How could I risk such youth? Habit. No sense being uncertain. Space
on the lee side, windward too. No need to exhaust more precious time.
Tumbled. Stood. Wavered. Strode. El el aire la danza de los voladores.
Same time each afternoon, clouds come up, spill their load. All night,
dance, anyone afoot, who wants, who will, a little like whispering, your

(10-11, 17 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, April 16, 2012

Stone Flesh

Start chipping your shape, I mingle breath,
find you that way, who would know you
if only for your Brancusi motion . . .
I in my Giacometti garb, silkstrung lean
as though my young years were again
in the boudoir of my prostitute lover
I marry . . . I meet you on the corner
and we are never the same, the bird flies,
the frail body about to break, so there you are,
diminuendo baritone purling minor sounds
through fiery voice from here into your there
or back where rawhide with lips' wet love bonds
your wrist with its many-ringed fingers conch’d
between my lips, how can I work now that
Pygmalion has his liege, and I start,
stop, musk filling shadows in the far hall
and don’t want to touch or knock on your door,
such aroma your sweet cunt flowers
with my small cock's burr a makeshift chisel
having you, and you with me in this quarry
Michelangelo missed, Lipchitz passed by,
I can’t keep track of how you make
my heart spurn blows chosen to fit
the roundelay, staccato squirm, lover’s only
apology for what he / she fails to muster
until the marrow hums with startled wings,
lifts, veers, swoops, feathery storm flakes
sleep covers over what you will not hear
this far into the museum of shattered stone
flesh there is no leaving without a little death.

(9, 16 April 2012: II)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, April 15, 2012


                                                                  The heart of another is a dark forest.
Photo of scalp hung by one nail.
Mud-smeared window of a cold house.
Some man's family crowding together.
Earth confronts its losses.
Men kill. Men die. Men
always. I know. I am one. I kill you.
I hang your head by the long braid
you spend hours preparing for me.
It's the gun, honey, throw it
on the ice. The West's temptation
to kill what can't be understood
quickly. Children play
the dark forest mystery.
Sharp crack, then silence.
I have nothing to say. The sand blows:
I love my mother, I hate my father,
I shield his eyes to soothe her nerves.
To get the news listen to the floor
where the valley rises into mountains.
Bright stars blind the moon.
Undo your braid so it falls
over your shoulders.
I want to love you.
How many times . . .
Nothing flows but the lovers' run,
long leap. Waterfall. Kill your children.
I have no peace. Kill me.
Let's make war, starve our enemies.
It may be a game but someone will lose.
Photo out of frame, away from the light.
A little history to forget
how conquest feels.
Go home.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In the Church of St. Joan of the Cross

What more does Bobby  need to know
than what she felt when the fire licked
her body with its pale bestial tongue,
the pain permeating her sight
unstained by her persecutors' crazed cries
as flames reached into what she saw,
the light ascending into light,
her body becoming bones and ashes . . . 

He came here with mother Henrietta
the first time, and only on the feast day
of his patron saint, San Juan de la Cruz,
did he return to La Iglesia
de Santa Juana de la Cruz,
each year a new padre, and all their words
the same test of faith . . . and on that one day
he did not rise when the church was empty,

nestling his head between his broad shoulders,
his fingers spliced, all his weight on both knees,
light swaddling the dark around the altar,
the moon braiding a path through the skylight,
eyes fixed until he saw there the French child
embraced by the barefoot Spanish friar,
Bobby transported by that pool of light
to the street, the path leading through the night.

(8, 14-15 April 2012: II)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander 

Bobby Alone

                  In the real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning.

                                                                           F. Scott Fitzgerald

I'm sitting in a chair naked, wanting to love
with my body hers, with what I have
that she will give me. Desiring impossible
relations, I may need to go to her,
I was never a coward,
in the presence of women.
What was I, then? Why was I loved at all?
I, who have the love I did not return.
The few women who filled my heart
would have me smile instead of weep.

I have always believed in luck,
what I was taught by my gambler father
and the mother of my mother,
the families Murphy and St. Clair,
spawn of the green, fierce catolica
bent against the British tryrants
whose orange Cromwell pikes impaled heads
to set the tone for centuries of war
the invader was always meant to lose.
Still, the enemy haunts my heart.

Why go on when my grief seems insincere,
gratitude a con to garner kisses . . .
I, merely one among millions,
get up, dress, go to La Iglesia
de San Juan de la Cruz
to be with my patron saint on his feast day,
December 14, 1965,
de la noche oscura del alma,
I pray on my knees, in my heart
el dia de la resurreccion . . .

(8, 15 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


Christina: 3

                                                        I have seen what I have seen.


I don’t imagine there is anything to imagine now,
we have seen it all,
so we think.
And we remember nothing.

Bobby sees his father throw in his last hand and lose his life,
not long after word
of Henrietta . . .
He drinks straight from the bottle, furious, cool on the outside.

Don’t mix business with pleasure, a friend said. Danny loved Bushmill . . .
Why go on?
It was the same friend avenged his death, whose heart gave out in stir.
Always say goodbye.

He took me out to the tracks where I saw the train’s gnarled remains,
but Henrietta
was nowhere
to be seen. I remember what there was to see no one saw.

Christina took me to the wake. My older sister, I thought.
But not old enough.
Why go on?
She’s not old enough to be my mother. She is my lover.

She rolls her long hair into a bun, lifting her arms, her breasts.
Plucking bobby pins
with one hand,
the other holding her hair in place, her body still naked.

I ask her what now? She takes the last pin from between her lips
and turns with both eyes
upon mine.
There’s nothing more to be done, Bobby, than what we did last night.

I leave to buy a bottle of Jameson. No more Bushmill
between us.
Remember Danny,
he’s dead for sure. But Henrietta? She died in no one’s arms

she is dead . . . Why wouldn’t she be dead? She never came back.
Christina paid dear
to love him.
More than once before last night, she said, Bobby, you’re just like him.

I have seen my father, I have seen my mother, my Christina
is not my father’s.
She loved him,
I know, but I grew to be a man in time to love her now.

We went to town, she bought me brunch, I told her this is the place
I last saw
Henrietta say,
Have what you want, I won't be here much longer, I love you, son . . .

I remember the sunbright day, the crowded streets, her warm hand
holding mine
and we took the bus
north to the locks where ships came through once the water lifted them.

When Christina and I kissed goodbye on the street she went on,
I went home
to the bungalow
and fell asleep reading the
Cantos, book open where it lay.

(7, 14 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, April 13, 2012

Christina: 2

                                    Do I wake or sleep?

And yet nothing stops you. The wilderness of bodies. A tangle of clothes and sheets. She whom your father loved, whose body claims all you will ever know of his legacy, the stark tremor in your loins.

Why confuse the past with the present? her eyes spell out in their own confusion, how does a woman feel to have her thirst slaked by a young man she might have mothered though he be her contemporary . . .

Bobby wrote what he could remember. Then he set the page aflame. Then wrote it again, the way he wanted it to read, what nothing but these words could see, and they so paltry he stayed unhappy.

She said, My god, what have I done, dear Bobby? Thee hath consoled my ragged soul, he replied. Where is there to go now? she wondered aloud. He wanted to smile but no, he said, Back in thy bed . . .

But he did not mean it, she knew, he was as sad as she that there was nothing to keep him here with her, and he, what did he care? she thought, he had a woman already, she who was his world’s light.

And that was how they spent the day imitating, commemorating, becoming the night’s way of life, what bodies do when mystery prevails upon them to seek the unknown within the ordinary,

quotidian pleasures that do not weary the mind but prepare the heart for ease in the city’s streets where nothing is or will be to quiet the staccato heart, the sudden sheen of knife and a gun’s pop.

And even that was tabu, the hope anger dissipates, a narrow corridor down which we go to our next appearance when the wheel stops now to turn within the loveliness of a woman whose ire

needs no priming, the boy who is more than the man his father was, if for no reason other than he breathes . . . she should have known he didn’t need her to make his biography complex.

(6, 13 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


We were at the place where the earth dips low
to follow the sun down to end the day.
Dusk, twilight, moon glare, blackness before dawn.
First light, mustangs covering the plateau,
men with guns on horses spurred to follow,
box canyon nothing wild enters and leaves,
hunters converging, surrounding, killing
as they murder their brethren for money
in the marketplace of the courtly damned,
strutting among the widows in their grief.
We who are impotent save in our words,
who travel without ammo or love’s hope
through the astonishing map of our lives,
take no ease in this land with time’s slim thread.

(6, 13 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Time's Parabola

You write in language I will never know,
Cyrillics like Mayan hieroglyphs, stone-chiseled.
I dream your soft eyes by the Black Sea’s shore,
barefoot nakedness, your steady, bright flame,
love of life lighting your Odessa eyes . . .
Words will never embody your beauty.

I can’t hear what I see in the wide world
of your heart, feel your body’s tattoos carved
in star shine, parabolas of the earth
turning over, under, above, beside
the night’s shiver of love, the offering
flesh makes to the mystery of old souls.

Who was ever worthy of your Russia?
Dostoevsky’s St. Petersburg;
Tolstoy’s Moscow; Chekhov’s fate
to squeeze out drop by drop his father’s blood,
the serf’s son akin to my indentured father’s
father whose murder left him no share of the crop . . .

as no life is literature, we know
lovers’ hearts in tandem don’t skip a beat,
are little cushions of time where we sleep
and wake and dance through the night’s miracle.
I thought words unworthy of your beauty,
all this space between years disappearing.

                                                                for Katerina Abalakina, 
                                                                living rather than dwelling
                                                                at the end of Sky’s corridor

(6-9, 10, 12 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Christina: 1

Rose wrote back, I really do love you.
If you could come here I’d show you.
That was what Dave told Bobby after all
of what came before. Bobby said
Dave should go. You’re a romantic,
Dave replied, You believe love is all
I need . . . and then Bobby mentioned
truth and beauty being all you know
on earth and all you need to know.
Dave thought, Why confuse me with Keats?
and said, This ain’t the nineteenth century,
Bobby, Seattle was never London.
And they were off with pros and cons
on what Dave might do to have Rose,
so beautiful and true, back here with him.
After the night’s gig, they drank
in the back room with Christina,
who told Dave, You’re a fool not to go
to San Francisco, you will never be
at peace with yourself otherwise.
As though he had not already,
Dave confessed Rose said
she would never marry, he didn’t know
why, must have been her folks but I can’t say,
to which Christina declared it did not
matter, you marry because you
need to keep the love between you.
Dave said Rose did not want to be
burdened with him, she had Mona
to care for, she could make it fine.
She never told him she had a sister,
now he wondered if another
was somewhere out there too,
but kept trying to still his jangling nerves.
Christina insisted Dave ought to go,
Let Tony play piano, Laurie gets him here . . .
Christina felt like a mother:
She wondered what she’d feel after
a night in bed with Bobby,
she wasn’t any older than
Melindra . . . but no, my heart, keep quiet,
I have my self-respect to keep me warm.

(5, 9, 12 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Her Letter and His


Rose sent Dave a letter.
He ripped it open.
Sun broke through.
But where? Here he read:

I got a job singing, honey.
I can take care of Mona
and myself now.
I miss you like hell
and Mona is almost
out the other end.
I start the job next week.
I will take her with me.
Don’t worry, tell Bobby
to sing as you play "Rose."


He played papa: She
could bring her sister
and come back. Why miss
her like this, no need . . .
She could have it all
if she wanted. He could
move and take Mama
with him if she wants . . .

no need . . . She'd hear
her song, he moved back
in his head to keyboards,
no sense being that way,
you make yourself sick,
I should know, I am
a fright in the mirror,
she’d do fine without
me, not me, she’d do
with me, she’d do fine
without me, she would
do fine. I love her so

he goes to the mountains
and takes his mama,
she takes on so happy
he couldn’t do anything
as grand as lift her up
as high as the first snow.


He played the song through.
The place was near empty.

Bobby came up and sang it.
Nobody showed up to listen.

DG had arranged a solo, so
he played it just for Myra.

Some days, Dave muttered
to no one, life is no song.

He stayed up late: I love you,
he wrote, I don't want to die

without you, I have a home
for you here, I'm here alone

losing my mind with worry,
never felt such goddam pain.


He crumpled up the page.
He knew it would do no good
crying on her shoulder . . .

She had all she could do.
This was the end of his song
with her. Give her a life

she earned. Rose, take this
empty envelope, steam it
open and use the stamp

to send it back with word
of what you need and want.
I want you to love your life.

Let me help you. Tomorrow,
copy her address and send
this as far as she was there.

(4, 11 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


And then went down to the horizon’s edge,
where a gate swung free on its ancient hinge,
where the ballplayers who had won the game
were slain, among the long roots near the sea
spray rising and falling into waves large
with hurricane whipping them into froth . . .
I do not know if there were many dead,
I can hold only the living in mind,
and one only, her eyes stirring ashes
of fires banked against the turbulent earth
as her body moves, she a foal stepping
through a canter to glide into her lope,
such a pace does one life hold in her legs,
her youth releasing the storm’s energy.

                                                                      a la belleza oscura

(3 April [posted here 11 April] 20012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, April 9, 2012

Rose and Mona from San Francisco

Rose Palmer, Dave said. You need a name, you got one now, stiff ass. The cop glared at him. The cop clammed up fast. Like Lili Palmer, Dave added: With a flower tucked behind one ear; . . . The cop called for backup. Another cop was told this guy was out of line. The other cop wanted to know the problem. His girlfriend left town. Dave said, She’s with her sister, Mona . . . Johnson. One’s Palmer and the other Johnson? Women marry, Dave said, and many unmarry. The other cop stood by while the cop behind the desk took down the rest of the info, said, We’ll send it out on an APB . . . that make you feel better? Dave said, That’s your problem, honky, to which the cop replied, You’re a funny bastard, you must love Lenny Bruce . . . Too white, Dave said; he took his rain slick and split.

Sanchez was miffed when he learned Rose was gone and could not be found. Clark said, Why don’t you ask Tony and Laurie to check with their contacts in San Francisco, and Bobby said, Melindra will, if needed; she lived there too.

No dice to roll now. The game was over. Bobby went back to the mike and Dave returned to the keyboard. Tony and Laurie stayed away tonight. The trio was glum and the music stayed in a minor key. We might as well improvise on Mahler, Sanchez offered, and here came Doug Harper to make it a quartet. DG suggested they do Body and Soul. Bobby tried to sing it like Billie Holiday, and Sanchez said, Be yourself.

The neighbors told Dave that Lu Ann was doing fine, it’s good for her to have company. He was relieved to see her on her feet, without the cane, looking like her former self, and walked next door, home, with him. He told her about Rose. She nodded and said nothing. He asked her if she wanted to stay with the neighbors, he needed to work tonight at the New Congress. She asked him to play for her. He sat at the old piano, untuned, and did the best he / it could do with Round Midnight. He fixed dinner and ate with her and they talked a little about his excursion before he escorted her to the neighbors. She told them she’d like to stay the night . . . again, she added a little sheepishly. Without hanging back on the beat, the neighbors agreed it would be best.

Before he reached the New Congress, Dave called Bobby from the Black and Tan to tell him all was well, no need to worry, the new guy was the best. The bartender answered and told Dave he got a call from San Francisco. Rose, he said. And her sister? Dave asked. Here’s her number, she wants you to call. So Dave did, later, from the hotel.

Mona answered, sounding sleepy. Rose, she said, was looking to land a job doing blues for tourists; some dive near Chinatown. You straight? he asked. I’m fine now Rose is here, she answered, I missed her so. She’s all I ever had, Dave, and I let myself go when she was gone. Be patient with her, Dave. She wants to do right by you.

Bobby and Melindra came in, Dave filled them in. Melindra was relieved to hear Rose was in touch. She had to go to work now, having dropped Bobby off and Dave said he’d give him a ride home. Bobby wanted to know what Dave had in mind for tonight. Why don’t we do that song you wrote? And Bobby replied, The one you call "Rose"? Why don’t I do it a capella and watch your face fold up like a flower left out in the cold? except Bobby kept to himself what came after "a capella," and Dave said no, I wrote the music, you stick with the words . . . adding like an afterthought, Just like I plan to stay the course with Rose if she lets me. I got no illusions, Bobby, she’s always had her way, she never had anything she didn’t earn . . . The hard way. Why don’t I play it through and you pick up the lyrics second time around?

(2, 9 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Search

In the morning Rose and Mona were gone.
The man at the desk had not seen them.
The sun was shining through the rain.
No one on the street had seen them.
No one among them mentioned police.
Melindra drove them everywhere.
Dave’s frantic anger, his silence
a weeping beyond telling, already mourning.

They searched half the day. In the empty room
they gathered Rose’s things with her sister’s.
She may have wanted to do one thing Mona
would have done for her, her only family,
and took her away to go where she wanted,
even if it was to fix. Rose would watch over her.

Melindra acceded to Dave’s wishes and drove.
They had only complicated these lives.
Lives so fragile rain was better for the web
than those who loved them shaking their frailty.
Give them time, Bobby said, give them each other.
There was nothing to do with the day but look.

At last Dave went to the police station.
He had a photo of Rose in his hand.
They duplicated it and gave it back.
Dave claimed he wasn’t sure of her last name.
The photo is enough, he told himself,
she would hate me if they found her . . .

In their darkness they took the freeway home.
The rain followed, filling the dawn.
Melindra drove all the way into Seattle,
entering as sun broke through clouds, lighting the day.

(1, 9 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander




As the quartet was preparing to go,
Rose called from Portland, barely audible . . .
not Rose but a whisper saying, This is Mona.

Before Dave drove her to the bus tonight,
Rose had called Melindra to get Bobby
to take her place. Rose had the right number.
The one Bobby gave her. He hated phones.
Melindra needed one, she was a nurse.

Rose took the phone to say she was in a hotel
on Burnside. If something happens, here is
where I am. Can I come see you? Dave asked.
Tonight? If that’s okay. Sure, come ahead, Rose said.
Dave and Bobby drove her car. Melindra
had a day off coming and slept in the back seat.

In Portland they found Rose in the hotel
on Burnside. Though she seemed to slur her speech,
she was not drunk. A woman was with her.
Dave, this is Mona, my sister. Then Rose
began telling the story of their life
together. Dave wanted them to come home.



Mona wanted to stay. This was where her people were, the pushers, the hustlers, and the whores who were her sisters even if Rose was her only one by blood. She didn’t sing a lick but she lived in Rose’s voice, who was always knowing and fearing what Mona was living and wanting to bring her home with her, wherever home would be, she would have to dry out and Rose take care of her. She would move away from Madison when she had the money and she could learn to make good money with her voice and rent a place somewhere close enough to downtown to find work in one of the clubs but far enough away to keep Mona from going back to her old ways. Rose, the long-limbed, tall, older sister would take care of her frail, delicate, smaller, more beautiful sister, Mona, who hardly had a voice at all now, whispering more than talking. Bobby, standing there, was remembering the day Clark found him awash in his tears streaking the grimy skin of his face, unable to speak louder than a whisper, and if not for that day, would never have found this brave woman whose name Melindra belied the strength and power that resided in her heart or wherever the soul could be found, if that was what it was kept her with him in spite of all his errant urges.

The cast of Dave’s drawn face was all you needed to know why there would be no marriage now, perhaps never if Mona could not live without Rose worrying about her. Dave knew so little he may as well know nothing. Rose never talked of where she came from or from whom, nor did she want to, saying, That’s all behind me, the more I know the less I will have to go on now: They drained me and I was a little girl hoping my folks would change so I could smile more and laugh a little like the other kids on the street but when they were not sleeping they were fighting and I left before Mona was old enough to go. I should have taken her with me. Why didn’t I have the power to follow what I knew had to be done to save her as well as myself?

Melindra told Bobby they had to go back and get Mona some help before she stole away to make the bread to use again. Bobby told Dave, and Rose had to think about it, she said. Dave let her alone. He had enough to think about. He had to see about his mother, she was stronger these days but he didn’t like her going out when he was gone, walking in the dark, even if she didn’t go farther than next door to the neighbor’s house and back. They were Lu Ann’s oldest friends and yet he didn’t want them thinking he couldn’t care for his own flesh and blood. Lu Ann might be "family," like her friends would say, but Dave was her only child, he had his own to care for, so how did he ever get it in his head he could marry Rose and do the "live-happily-ever-after" waltz?

They stayed the night, the sisters sleeping on the floor of the room where Mona had a bare mattress for a bed in one corner big enough for Rose to sleep next to her. Dave, Bobby, and Melindra drove to the closest motel, telling Rose they would return early in the morning and get on the road back to Seattle. Rose turned away and muttered, I’ll have her ready . . .

(30-31 March, 7 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"My Needs Are Such . . ."

Dave drove Rose to the station and bought her
one-way Greyhound ticket south to Portland.
She said her needs were such she could never
marry, too much remained for her to do,
no need to tell him more. He watched her leave.

Dave explained her departure to himself
as much as to Bobby listening for words
that would unriddle their upended lives,
four arms cracked open, splintered, and why Rose
fled south to do what she must attend to.

Rose called Dave from Portland to say she loved
him still, missed his comfort of her anguish.
She had a room now and would get a job.
No matter. He pleaded with her, Come back,
I will never speak of marriage again.

He made her sadder, she needed to live
there for a time. Why not? She had feelings
he knew nothing of, nor would she say why.
Trust me, Dave. I know what I have to do,
and the connection was broken, like that.


Bobby felt like an interloper now.
Her song echoed in his head, Rose’s voice.
Why didn’t he stick to the clarinet?
He sang Easy Rider, St. James Infirmary
in her honor, weeping inside like a baby,
and hoping for tears that would wet his cheeks.

Dave played Rose. Bobby sang with a flourish.
Night moved by, clarinet still in its case.
He had no need of his woodwind when Rose
was not here to move the minor chords through
the timbre of her voice, a line her deep vibrato
tracked to bring words back where she had left them.

After that came the anticlimactic
and uninspired songs Danny sang like wind
blowing up into a gale filling DG’s horn
with a little roar blossoming out there
to complete the night without agony
underscoring sound covering old ground.

As the quartet was preparing to go,
Rose called from Portland, barely audible.

(30 March, 7 April 2012)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Two Fools in One Body

I thought it would come to nothing, he reminded himself. She said, I can’t give you children. He replied, I can’t promise you money –paused–or fame . . . even if, when I die, my stuff–he chuckled–gets discovered.

In the small clearing, where their bodies nearly filled the circle when they were making love, and now at rest still left little room, the rain began to fall, slowly, and by the time they were scantily dressed, the mist had become a downpour.

They ran back to her house, laughing like little children, covering their heads–his shirt, her blouse. His chest was bare and she wore no bra . . . he wanted to stop and follow the arcs in the air her nakedness traced.

If rain were the worst fate to befell thee, is lightning not far behind thee? Going to mass cankered his speech if not his soul, he began believing the Jesus myth all over again, even if his mother and father lived as though Christ had not lived. How could you know?

He railed occasionally when the subject came up, and she never again asked him to attend mass with her. He kept religion to himself and at twenty-six his only politics was Vietnam; but now, at seventy-three, perhaps more vocal than in his youth, even occasionally seeing in the evidence at hand what might be coming, he believed the Church would attempt to usurp the power of the State through the seemingly infinite riches of the forces of reaction and the unimpeachable decisions of their toady, the U.S. Supreme Court.

He loved her very much–how much, he would not say, even to himself. At twenty-six he saw ahead of him only what he had survived so far. That, and the miasma of music and poetry that might lead nowhere, but he had no intentions of giving up either . . . For what? It was not in his heart to sacrifice what he loved for anyone, and she held out for his work coming to something, enough at least for him to "persist in his folly," as Blake recommended "a fool" do if he were to "become wise."

She was going to apply for entry into medical school, sell her house to put herself through. She worked on the materials when she wasn’t at the hospital. Her father’s career was leading to her own, especially now, after her hysterectomy. One day Bobby made a crack about how she could become a call girl now that pregnancy was no possibility. She shot back, You want to pay me every time? adding, Don’t be a fucking boor, Bobby! He made a lame attempt to apologize. She left no doubt she was more than merely disappointed in him. He left.

He huddled in the bungalow. Rain fell. Maybe he should talk to a priest. Or see a shrink. He told Bonnington what had happened. The doctor said only Bobby knew why he thought such a remark would be received in the spirit he had intended, if he had, Bonnington added like a warning, then suggested Bobby might try reading Freud’s study of jokes and their relation to the unconscious. Such wit thee have no need of, Bobby reminded himself.

It was still raining when he made the street and started to enter the first coffee shop he came to. He saw Jacqui through the window, with another man. He made it to an overhanging eave, sagging against a wall, waiting for the downpour to ease. He was already working in his head on a story about a fool who fucks up his future by running his mouth.

He kept to himself all afternoon, writing. He made it autobiographical, as always when he chose a fool for his subject. In this story there were two. The fearless one he wanted to be (A) and the one he feared he would become (B). They were each other’s best friend. B moved to Mexico after A was drafted and died on patrol. Though he was 4-F, B claimed to be weary of the rain. In Mexico the protagonist began to think in the biblical argot that Bobby called Jesus-eeze, what going to mass had done to his own soul. Clearly, the fool had become a madman only, babbling in ingles and learning the espanol exceedingly slowly.

When he reached a stopping place, Bobby read through the Fool’s lines in King Lear. He put off adding any more to his own tale. Lear was someone he never understood. Maybe he’d marry Cathleen someday and have a daughter like Cordelia. But that required more suspension of disbelief than he was capable of . . . Still, they might have sons and only the one devoted to silence would love his father.

He slept and woke when Melindra entered without knocking. He was happy to see her and did not think of Cathleen any longer. Melindra said Rose had called her and wanted Bobby to sing for her. Rose had fought with Dave after steadfastly refusing again to marry him . . . or anyone, as Rose always added. What Rose was doing or going to do she didn’t say. They drove to Dave’s house, it was empty, and Rose had not been in the Black and Tan.

(29 March, 5 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When You Run and Think You're Walking

1. I keep looking up words, Bobby told her, I don’t know the difference between running and walking.

She said, Running as in "running out," dear man, and "walking back" . . . Why don’t we go for a walk and go straight ahead until we have to turn back to keep from running out of steam . . .

She was always a kick in the ribs; count them.

She liked to invent occasions for kisses. That’s what happened on their walks during which no one ran, not even the dogs they encountered.

The dogs were inured to humanity: too many useless rules . . . Birds may have blessed the air for holding their weight, but that was long ago, when God was still around to answer questions in person, in parables of course.

O well, she said, we can avoid the dog on the path and walk faster than the bird can fly. Don’t you want to run the gauntlet, honey?

You don’t understand, sweetie, or you’re playing dumb.

He went on this way until she led him off the path into a thicket with a well-worn circle of grass in the middle. You had to risk the climb through. It would be worth it, he knew.


All the songs come back to him: Amazing Grace, Wayfaring Stranger, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? and the others he heard in the storefront church. He was between little and growing, as they said about boys, but he knew what he liked, by God, and took the sound home with him, wherever home was in those days. Was it Grandma Murphy? or after Danny took him off to live with him . . . He missed his mother and sang those songs with her in mind. She had a fight with Danny once, in the apartment that may have been the same one Earlene and her son Roderick inhabited, he didn’t know the difference if there was one . . . Fighting did no good. Bobby stayed. Henrietta saw him one more time, on the street in the rain and took him to an early dinner, asking if Danny, whom she called for his sake Daddy, if he’d mind? adding, I want him to know we found each other down here, honey, I love you so, I don’t mean to be a bitch, but he didn’t know what the word meant and when he told Danny his father defined the word by using his mother’s name in the same sentence. Even between boyhood and youth he was old enough to object. Danny let it go and went out to make some money, he said. Bobby walked out and ran down the hill, past the Greyhound station, into downtown, and walked all the way down to the water. He liked to watch the water move, it felt like something inside him was moving.

Twenty-six was a good age to remain. She said he would get better when he was older. Her skin was as soft as the green grass on which they lay. Her turquoise eyes. Her blonde hair with brown roots. Where did you get that name? he loved to ask her just to see what she would say. She always shot back with something to change the subject, like going from baptism to a brothel, though he’d never been. He was never baptized on time, not until he was seven; and he never needed to pay the beautiful who shared his bed, When he told her what he said to change the subject, she replied, You do alliteration like a natural, Mister Poet, but don’t die young, I’m already too old for you, and laughed. Something in him knew he wouldn’t run all his life. You had to walk, even alone, to find out what there was to know. That’s why he studied the water at the end of that skidding, sliding Seattle street.

(28 March, 4 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bobby's Dream

The cross he couldn’t climb up
loomed too high. He asked the man
why his death satisfied God . . .
his face dissolving, even its bones,
even the dust under the skull.

The G.I. insisting he be called God
fired a round to celebrate,
his body smeared with mud.
Camouflage, he claimed.
You could smell blood, see it run . . .

His ways were inscrutable, said he,
spraying, ripping the immaculate bush.
Bobby followed suit.
Rifles swayed from side to side,
spitting until the screams timed out.

The man on the cross
was going home first but never dead,
he was a short-timer now.
Bobby asked what that meant.
He said, I live on God’s time.

Joe wasn’t going anywhere,
not with all these children waiting
for him to choose one,
lined up to compete to be
the last moving target of this war . . .

Which war? What would a cross do?
Bobby sighed defeat, why not? . . .
bare feet sliding on the stony path
down a nightmare filled with rain.
What did dreams do for Jesus?

(27 March, 3 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Bobby Goes to Mass

If the wages of sin are death, baby,
I’m the luckiest man alive.

That’s what was on his brainpan
when he woke. She said, Bobby,

baby, I’ll blow your little horn
if you go to mass with me.

Sitting touching Melindra's body,
Bobby sang, and he listened
and did not dig the priest:
Come march with us against abortion,
be careful what your children watch
on TV . . .
Bobby wanted to ask,
Isn’t the blues the devil’s music?
I know a blues lady whose soul
is pure as yours, what about her?

Melindra led him down the aisle
and back to take communion.
Once home, she kept her promise.

(27 March-2 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Between Hope and Grace
                                   Virgil, What will I learn I do not know?
                                   When do we leave the devil’s asshole?
                                   Why does rising come only after falling . . .

Poems to fill another book almost ready,
one called Grace to pair with Hope
Hope for a lady of brave sorrow, of light;
he wasn’t happy with Grace.

Poem of courage, poem of memory:
what was the right order?

He would leave Papa out of it,
a schoolboy’s task. Look around you,
where the wars were waged endlessly.
You didn’t need Jake Barnes’s wound,
everybody down here was born with one;
and if Seattle’s rain was ideal for mourning,
there were no Catherine Barkleys to mourn
where women and children were born to die.

Nor do you need to learn the art of bullfighting
to perfect a way of learning the art
you are given to practice.

What’s inside must merge out here with brio,
where there were no aficionados.
You banked your fires until your ashes stirred.

He had his Dante down. His guide
was Myra Jacobs, who declared his ersatz
terza rima sounded like improvised street talk
transplanted from the fourteenth century
of Firenze to the twentieth in Seattle’s
early sixties. So said this woman
born on the same streets as DG,
the man she lived to love,
whose horn poured honey
through her opening door.

Bobby marveled at the brightness of her eyes
flashing when she read Dante aloud
through the Italian accent resident
in her imagination, and on her lips to stay.

Nothing of his could he claim as translation,
those three lines forged for Dante
a kind of makeshift Virgil.

In the poem Hope that terza rima was envoi
to a daughter’s grief for her long dead father.
In the poem Myra, Bobby’s words for Dante
were purported to be Myra’s own
before her own father’s heart broke open
while reading the recorded words of the dead

Twelve years later, 1977, Myra told him
of a novel whose original, La Storia,

she’d read slowly, closely, three years before.
You couldn’t do better than Elsa Morante.
Bobby read History: A Novel. History
was transformed into fiction you could read
through the reflection of Dante’s
Divina Commedia . . . Myra’s brother

died in Vietnam, his letters home poetry,
first and last, and in between was memory.
And here, on the table, was the poem
called Grace, this one;

he was almost happy.

History now was poetry
in fiction’s guise. No wonder Virgil led

Dante down to meet the devil's own
and through the ice to rise
to reach the in-between place,
then scale the heights to the arms of Beatrice
waiting above the clouds to kiss . . .

Why did Bobby wait a dozen years
to read the words of Cesar Vallejo
Morante took for her book’s epigraph:
por el analfabeto a quien escribo

foreshadowing all other words
"for the illiterate, to whom I write,"

even those Robert Henry St. Clair
scribbled during the fifty years
he read Vallejo, all save "To the Volunteers
of the Republic" in Spain, Take this Cup

from Me, Vallejo's final book before
he died the same year
Bobby was born to say someday:
How could you know what was needed
if you never found the courage to ask?

(26-27 March and 1-2 April 2012 )

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander