Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sequence for a Russian Daughter in Mexico City

1. Her Glow

Between sets he was brooding over a Black Russian
when she came up with her delightful glow
and he invited her to sit. It was not long.
Sanchez said I need you back now, Bobby.

She was Russian, her blonde hair glowed, so did her smile,
her body was willowy but not like the weeping tree.
Laughter and a love of life brimmed over her voice.
She stretched her legs, arched her neck playfully,
and danced away. He didn’t know her name.

On stage he daydreamed, transfixed, eyes on her,
only her, it was okay, her name was Katya,
he just didn’t know it yet. You could tell
she loved to dance, her eyes glittered, glowing
as he was singing "Dream a Little Dream of Me."
2. Between


My name’s Bobby.
Mine is Katya.
I am charmed,

he replied.
You are Russian.
She is.


Eye struck.
Heart thrum.
Lips dry.

She liked
his voice.

Up there
he was here

She still smiled.
He sang
God Bless the Child

that’s got
its own,
that’s got its own . . .

Left together.
Dined together.
What else to do.
3. Song Spun Out of Body and Soul

He was always thinking about a song.
Now he knew one.
There were no words.
A song without music required a horn.
He took along the clarinet
and kept it in its case,
but now, after her, he took the pieces,
joined them together
and started with Body and Soul,
doing the lower register slowly,
riffing almost all the way up, slowing
again to fill out fully, finally new melody
waltzing off to pirouhette
as in some unknown ballet,
his fingers on the valves moving
slowly as shod feet in the footfalls
on an empty street.
What would he call such a strange song?
Why were there such feelings?
Where did you go to keep them alive?
4. Bobby’s Words to His Song Spun Out of and Into

Quetzal’s Blues

Bird-snake wing coil
tongue in your nostrils
beloved beauty
harmony with sky
spilling fury
into Ixtaccihuatl sleeping
sated with Popo’s
snowy lava,

loves you, no reason
but why he’s back here
with talons and fangs
he’ll never need now
he’s found you
between the flowers
acacia and jacaranda

words to set to last night’s notes
spun out of
Body and Soul
with no reed now, open
your mouth, I will fill
your ears with this
warning or promise,
no one ever says why
it’s easy to fall in love
living in Mexico City

5. One Hand

His first trip here at twenty-six,
the second time at twenty-seven,
now at twenty-eight. My, my, man,
you track down that birthday
on New Year’s Eve very well,
you even know what years
you were in Mexico City!
How very well I played, no,
sang. Well, I could have played
clarinet if DG had stayed home,
thank God he brought Myra
to keep him steady and jazzed . . .
How would I have met her,
the Russian, without a voice?

Manuela let him sleep where
he heard the metal gate rattling.
She talked of the bodies hung
in public and burned, word was.
She showed him the granaderos
in their black raincoats, black
gloves, faces that need no masks.
The woman Hilda with bright red
fingernails warned, Pemex is about
to close everywhere in the city.
He went with Manuela. The line
was long at every station. Tempers
broke open up and down the line.
They sat upstairs. His eyes calm

now she let her dress lift above
her knees, her toes and fingers
and lips never needed paint,
not even then, she said later,
when they were married a year.
Now he slept elsewhere after
the night’s work. You know where,
reader, need I go on? Katya in Cuba,
Katya here, Katya at the university
near Coyoacan, amusing Bobby by
comparing them to Diego, Frida,
and mornings in La Casa Azul
he kissed her and wanted to love
her on the floor. She laughed, No!

Awaiting Roberto’s return, Manuela
went to hear Sanchez y Compania
and met Katya, who had seen her
in Havana, and when Manuela cried,
Companera! they exchanged abrazos,
though they had never met in Cuba.
Bobby joined them between sets.
Manuela: Why have I not met her
already? Bobby: I’m in love with her.
Manuela: So what? I love you both!
Bobby: Uh uh, amiga, your new child
and your son and your two daughters
and Roberto will give you a handful
of fingers to love the rest of your life.

6. Of Katya

He thought he might try again.
The weather and the voices, language
he did not know, and would never know
hers. His feelings were a little seismograph
whose needle etched the ups and downs of love
and words that needed music, she was the sound,
the earth under him split apart upon her soft touch.
He would take her to the mountains, maybe someday,
who could say? The two volcanos out there were happy
with one another, the stories go. Ixtaccihuatl, Popocatepetl,
Sleeping Woman and her fat man old Popo, love spilling over.
More likely, Bobby was leaving, Katya staying, though here were
flowers from the streetcorner vendor, the smile a language of its own.
There were others whose torsos strapped to the skate were pulled along
by their long arms, they seemed long because their legs were in their arms.
Everywhere in this country full of bold people abiding with the bougainvillea
were the clang of rage, soothing lovesounds, was that why she was in Mexico?
He was halfway somewhere. She was the fire and the laughter, bright smile and eyes,
and her pause to absorb what she saw, everywhere there were alamedas to saunter in
and tell him in her English better than the Spanish he corrupted, saying to him his love
was what she awaited, moving between his arms, and what could he say, he was moving
with her, the sun pouring down like rain later in the day, when maybe they’d be inside . . .
7. Last Set

She cleans the shit off his soul, she stokes wary hope in his head.

She plunges through the Black Sea waves, she surfaces in the lake.

How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky

DG does a bar or two, breaks into melody,
nobody sings, nobody knows Bobby could weep
but his throat is frozen, his knees are wobbly,
his heart’s shot through, the bullet lodged deep

DG says that’s how Charlie Parker laid it down.
Tony looks into Laurie’s eyes, Sanchez into Carmen’s,
but what can Bobby do, all around him is empty
of her to whom he sings this slow in a minor key

How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky

She has done what she can, she’s gone home kissing him goodbye.

He goes away tomorrow, he’d love to be with her the day after.

(2-9, 11 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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