He’s on the street, where he belongs,
looking for the mother. He knows the father’s dead.
The vicissitudes of immutability.
You may as well accept your street-bound fate.
It’s not time yet to kick the traces out . . .
Here’s a corner, take it. She could be there
around the edge of where your body starts
from hers. He’s played this set long before,
her music got under way inside him.
How can I say something knowing nothing?
That question’s revealing, Bobby, sing on
down the sidewalk, stooping to snare loose change
for your university scholarship
next year. A little change here and some there,
and begorrah! I can’t just lose it all,
how else can I live like this, from one day
to the next night? He found the old café
from Henrietta’s day. She was recalled
by the family behind the counter.
Over coffee they told him how she loved
to come talk on her nights off. She told them
all about her little boy.
All I remember is her long red hair,
her nails, her chiseled features,
her chameleon voice . . .
Honey, she was as down home as anyone is.
Just because Seattle’s a city don’t mean real
people with heart and soul don’t live here.
Grandma told me how she loved their farm
when she was little. Mama never talked.
All she let me hear were the songs she sang
I’d heard before, only the versions changed.
She never said a word about her mama’s place.
She loved men. She loved liquor. She loved
to love, kept that heart of hers ready to flare.
When you leave the café you are in the city.
You keep walking around. Read Neruda’s
only poem with an English title.
Walking Around. How far down can you read?
There’s a lot of ground to cover, mother.
I know as little as when I started . . .
Maybe I could do . . . Henrietta Murphy’s blues.
Lie back and wait till the ghosts come to you,
then pay attention, pay bills with your love
of words, how they sound on your salty tongue
they say resembles hers . . . don’t have nothing
she didn’t give you . . . Who gave it to her?
The whispers of the dead, if they are dead . . .
Let them speak.
(23 May, 4 June 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander