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