Rose came to love Paula like a sister.
Paula loved music, the improvised kind.
Her mama insisted she learn the piano.
At eight or nine she was in the paper
for a recital she said others played better.
She was that way, she would be called cool now
after forty-four years have gone by.
She hit it off with Myra, who told Doug
Paula knew more of life at the bottom
than any white girl she had known.
That was no surprise. She loved Alonzo
for supplying her with dope for a screw
and a fetus she found a higher cost
than the going price for good methedrine,
the good dope being the most expensive.
Alonzo was from the bottom, where Myra began.
Paula got pregnant, he didn’t kick her out.
He gave her a place to live and loved her
by teaching her all he knew about jazz.
He shot up meth with her, took her to bed, to fuck
when the word love referred to the impossible.
Alonzo tried to share her with his friends
when he had to replenish his supply
and found himself short. Paula refused
but didn’t hold a grudge. She would learn later
what else to do when Bobby became a drunk.
Not a mean drunk, just one who couldn’t stop
until she was gone. That’s when he quit. For a while.
She was going her own way, gone for good
by then. He might never be as happy again
as when they began to love, and after the draft
scared hell out of him they survived, they married.
How can happiness last without changing?
But why get beyond the ken of this tale
without introducing the tragedy
first . . . Tragedy? Another tragedy?
Why do these people go on fucking up?
Easy, if you know history:
the sixties bled into the seventies
like this: Vietnam. War came home and stayed.
Weather people hid out years and people forgot
until the wanted posters were frayed and only
the tattered remains were left to read,
and who read when the TV was not on?
Paula . . . A student, she read the classics.
She read Homer’s Iliad to comprehend war
in Indochina, and the Odyssey
to imagine what would happen
after the last chopper lifted
from the last Saigon roof to write
finis and open the gates to the guerrillas
to recover their city. Nixon had resigned
the presidency for lying about skullduggery.
Ford seemed to step out of Aldous Huxley.
Rather, he stumbled, no longer nimble,
the football player of his youth
become a puppet now whose strings were pulled.
Bobby’s Brave New World baloney
shut down when he found love with Paula more
than he might ever know again.
As Pound’s Mei Sheng had written in China
one hundred forty years before the Christ:
And she was a courtezan in the old days,
And she has married a sot,
Who now goes drunkenly out
And leaves her too much alone.
(28 May, 8 June 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander