a voice inside said. The snake’s tongue spat back,
You have no joy in your heart, she left you.
The voice ignores the tongue, the mind the soul
and nobody goes back to where they were.
Cathleen suggested a flight to Honolulu,
and high in the air they learned the currents
churning under waves, studied undertows,
and how air mixed with sun to blow softly.
Cathleen home from Paris worked her way north
to ask Bobby, Was he singing, playing,
living a good life? I’m in love, the fool,
as usual, one week of wonder lost, said he.
She had no one but knew a truth or two:
how the world worked, its stop-or-go caprice,
unruly games of chance. Throw in your chips,
walk away. His words turned to metaphors.
Neither understood the weather forecasts.
Sanchez threw a party. Cathleen saw Clark
and they caught up on quotidian life.
Bobby went off, failed to write a poem.
Heartsick, he slept with Katya’s memory . . .
Cathleen slept with him in the bungalow.
Paul and Anna had them over. They dined,
discussing Paris, her San Francisco success.
His old love was happy, he left early,
she followed, asking, Do you want to go?
I have tickets and tourists go elsewhere
during the rainy season. I buy clothes,
I love to languish after sex, drinking champagne
on ice. Why not? Well, think it over. Why not go,
your life is running out, almost thirty
and all you do is sing and fall in love
uneasily, then write off your heart as caprice.
In the air looking down, he remembered
Joseph Conrad said the ocean could tell
the age of the earth, waves like rings on trees.
The farther out the more they looked like mud
furrowing the sea, its waves as cold as the truth:
his life on hold, her allure, their old commitment.
He stared into blackness until the plane landed.
A mack in his two-tanned oxfords looked like
what nausea in the womb would release.
Cabbies counted on the top-dollar prostitutes
to tip at least as much as the fare was.
Trade winds came with rain in the evening.
Lights on the hills above Diamond Head
and the beach of Waikiki were dwellings.
Katya said no one who lived was content to dwell.
In morning sunlight flashing off the sea,
Bobby noticed his palm contained new lines.
On the balcony he read them closely
while standing, thirteen stories up.
Cathleen slept late. The kettle drums started.
She awoke ready. He always enjoyed her,
their old love smell rich with her aroma,
her body arching to take him deeper.
Nothing to do in Honolulu rain
but nurse high-neck, nonalcoholic beer.
She stayed with seltzer. The bars were bustling.
When the week ended they went home.
Flying back seemed to take longer than the flight here.
The guy one seat up badgered his children
to sleep. Who could? Cathleen, that’s who.
When she went back home to San Francisco,
Seattle was Bobby’s again. North by northwest,
you need to study the cards with new eyes.
Consulting his calculations, he wrote
Lady Taroccha to see if his hunch was right:
He was going nowhere, I’m here to stay.
Word came that Dave was bringing Rose
back to Seattle. Mona would come too,
haunted, still tasting her habit’s sweet taint.
Black and Tan thrived; New Congress, too
Christina wanted him to live with her
and be her love full time. Bobby said sure,
stayed nights with her and days alone.
He wrote mornings, sang nights. When Rose
was home he’d go back to his reed and play
without words except those where his head was:
Henrietta Murphy, and if alive, her whereabouts.
(18, 26 May 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander