Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Inside Out

I should be
thinking of feeling,
suspicious of love,
deeper than I am,
a paragon of wealth
unable to find home,
restless, insatiable,
the hare-brained genius.

I should work more,
be completely unsatisfied,
have no other desire,
give jouissance to the wind,
let rain fall on what it may.

I was found guilty
of all such shoulds,
sentenced to life
without relief
or surcease.
To survive
only in imagination,
I watched others reading
dictionaries, encyclopedias,
biblical strictures,
memoirs of rakehells.

No reason to follow
or lead,
the grime in my heart
dirt poor,
my soul a bucket of sweat,
and sun
a memory of snow,
of ice melting.

I looked upon her smile,
smiled to echo hers.
I imagined her body
I could not see.
I fulfilled
the lineaments of desire,
a truth of feeling
because it was feeling.

Nothing stopped me,
nothing but distance,
nothing but poverty,
nothing but loyalty
to the past.
They are with me now
as always,
no matter what sorrows
lace memory,

How could I
be more happy
than now?
How could I be
more free to dance?
How could I find words
to show your beauty
inside out?

(25 June, 18 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


She called herself Tabu, the scent she wore.
He wondered why she smelled so good.
She said that was what they called her.

She said she came to his table
because he looked to her like an Angel–
the beard, the shoulders, the vest, the denims.

He talked about Altamont where they killed that kid.
Meredith Hunter pulled a gun, got stabbed to death.
Bobby kept going back to view Gimme Shelter.

She said the San Diego chapter president
walked on the face of a girl who called him "a queer,
like the rest of your atavistic apes."

They fucked half the night on the pallet on the floor.
He walked her back to The Cave. Henrietta asked
how she was. He said she knew how to solve problems

like his. Late afternoons at The Bathhouse,
Angels arrived in droves–no need for wings,
they rode choppers–Bobby shot pool and won, and lost.

He happened to mention Hunter Thompson.
This wiry guy named Chocolate George sneered:
I hope you’re not one of them damned writers.

(24 June, 17 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Delicate Ones

"To think that we could have had an ordinary family life with its bickering, broken hearts and divorce suits! There are people in the world so crazy as not to realize that this is normal human existence of the kind everybody should aim at. What wouldn’t we have given for such ordinary heartbreaks!"
                        –Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope against Hope: A Memoir
                        (translated from the Russian by Max Hayward, 1970)

Frailty makes you strong with words beyond death.
The State does not know what to do with you.
What you leave behind is fed to the flames
whose words the living carry in their memories.
I would run by the river reciting Mandelstam
now that he’s gone to the unmarked grave
Stalin reserved for him in his humorless rage.
No one I know, however, can English Russian,
his in particular: Osip near Dante’s house in the sky.
So his widow honors the secret history of her heart.
The world that destroyed them always returns.
Assassins are common, they pay their own way
to be paid by the State a much higher wage than poets.
Are there assassins who assassinate assassins?
Do they swagger with their hair parted down
the middle, never missing a look their way, rising
in the smoke of cabarets and clubs, coming over
to your table, a pocketed hand bulging with promises
and pious braggadocio, You wish to fuck with us?
Power is so lucrative, you have to admire its politics.
It is only the delicate victims who are survived
by wildflowers: poppies, daisies, bluebells, buttercups.
Stand in the field and tick off their names. There are names
so human now they are lost to time, but I hate secrecy,
toss petals in the Volga, and currents catch them and carry
their cargo of beauty to the shrouded coves we call history.

(23 June, 15 July 2012)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Quill and Ink

With his dwindling bankroll
he rented a bungalow.
Henrietta objected:
Why waste his money?
He could stay with her for free.
He confessed he must dip his quill
in love’s inkwell. Everywhere I go,
he mumbled, I am greeted
by women’s luscious eyes,
I want to go with a sunborne body
where we can stay alone.

She got a kick out of her own son
talking like some john coming on to her.
So she told him of Mexico City
back when she believed in traveling
rather than stay put . . . A big city then,
but fewer than twenty million, like now.
Yes, honey, I turned tricks in this hotel
one year and one only, saved my money.
Can you believe a whore saving money?

She went back to the piano.
At noon a warm-up for the night ahead.
She played and sang All of Me, Don’t Explain,
Ain’t Nobody’s Business but My Own,
My Mother’s Son-in-Law, God Bless the Child.

Enough Billie . . . He said, You don’t mind me
bringing a woman here after hours?
I’m so horny I may never quit.
It’s no bother, she was used to that,
what did he think she was doing in Mexico
that year? gambling? courting danger?
She reflected over a late lunch
in the place she sang: I gambled
on selling myself and getting away
unscathed. Here I am to show you I did.

After that he went to get his rent back,
and celebrated in a dark dive called The Cave.
A blonde came over to ask him,
Would he buy her a drink? She smelled good,
it had been a while since his quill
had brought him pleasure except on paper.
He loved that swelling feel of strains
seeking the pitch to deliver an end
to sweet agony. She played piano
at Henrietta’ s, and he sang Body and Soul.
Then she offered her ink up to his quill.

(23 June, 15 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, July 13, 2012

La Jolla

Henrietta’s at The Wharf, in La Jolla.
She sings what she wants, her quartet follows.
Bobby languishes in a dark corner,
loving her long red hair dangling in curls,
her tall body full of curves, switchbacks, straightaways,
her low-cut dress, her twenty nails red to lure bulls.
No wonder he can’t stay with one woman,
he smiles inside, he’s hung up on Momma.
No wonder she ran off to take care of herself!
It’s one thing to sing the blues for money,
another to keep living them, time after time
with every man comes along to sap her courage,
put her on his time, feed her whisky,
insist on his nightly need to fuck her.
No wonder . . .

"Remember me?"
She’s sitting at a table alone,
drinking water when he appears.
She reaches across and hugs him as hard as she can,
barely rising from the chair, her arms long
as her legs. She sits gazing at him with a wide smile.
"Bobby," she mumbles. "You sound better than ever,"
he replies. She asks if he’s married.
He says, "Twice now. . . . You?" She chuckles. "No,
I had enough men for one life."
"You need another lifetime," he says under his breath,
"to learn to sing." He means himself. He didn’t know
how much he owed her until he heard her singing scat
on My Funny Valentine. "You sound like Sarah Vaughan."
"They compare me with Anita O’Day now."
"Didn’t they always?"
"Not her, more like Billie Holiday,
the word day somehow struck a cord with the critics."

After her final set they went for a late dinner.
Henrietta nursed a Coke. "I’m off hootch,"
she quipped. Bobby had a shot of bourbon
with water back. "For old times," he toasted,
"and to long life." "Why did you hunt me down, honey?"
"I missed you . . . more than I know words can say,
I sing now, you know."
"No, I didn’t, how could I? I been here too long.
All the same, California’s been good to me.
You still living in Seattle?"
. . . thus did their conversation go.

She lived in a little house up from the beach,
on the other side of La Jolla’s "main street,"
as she put it. Henrietta enjoyed the old words,
they made it easier to remember phrases in songs.
Or so she thought. She never said this to Bobby
or anyone, not even Danny . . .
Not even . . . especially not Danny . . .
Bobby told her of the bungalow in Seattle
he was living in, "courtesy of the man
who taught me clarinet, and his wife
who encouraged me to write. They adopted me
when Daddy died and you were said to be
dead in that train wreck."
She replied, "I never like to think about it,
any of it. They say I’m dead," she smiled,
"and I plan to stay dead
until I am."

Make me a pallet on the floor, she sang,
humming along under her breath,
making him a place on her front room floor.
Going to bed she rendered Dust my broom.
When he woke in the sunlight streaming
through her window he went walking the beach
and found a copy of John Coltrane Live in Seattle,
the double album with Pharoah Sanders,
and bought a paperback, Soledad Brother,
George Jackson’s letters from prison
with a preface by Jean Genet, the thief
Sartre claimed was now a saint.
Bobby knew there were no saints but whores.
So Sartre was right since Genet was a whore.
How else could he make a living
once freed from stir after his neck was spared?

When he returned, she was at the piano,
singing a medley whose titles he wrote down . . .
The rest of the day they walked La Jolla.
That night she went on at nine and sang until one
when The Wharf began to close.
For four hours, easily, maybe five,
he wrote in his small green spiral notebook
carried everywhere in a shirt pocket.
He was writing down all she said
now that he could sit still long enough to listen
watching her red lips curl words under the music always there.

(22 June, 13 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bobby Goes Looking for Henrietta

Tony’s in Berkeley, an out of town heart attack.
His mentor, Andrew Sarris, died in Manhattan
yesterday while Tony was passing out.
He wrote for Sarris a screenplay Spike Lee
knew nothing about when he made Malcolm X.
Once I woke from a dream that John Lennon had died.
Six years later he was dead. The gap between dream
and event narrows. I no longer drink,
Neither does Tony. Laurie helped.
When he was living with Suky
we filled Mason jars on green summer grass
in San Francisco and drained them
listening to Jim Robinson’s
New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
In Lagunitas our friend Madge
and her lesbian lover Ann
swore I stole Robert Johnson’s complete works
on one LP. They had given me a daybed,
put me to sleep somewhere between
"Come on in My Kitchen"and "Love in Vain."
I’m in Marin missing my only love,
Paula. Cathleen had paid my plane ticket
to bring me to her, we drink and we fight.
We quarrel over love and our mistakes
trying to be a man and a woman
not only in love but tender and kind.
I leave when I fear not only
for my own but for her life should she kill
with a butcher’s knife, the one I once fled.
Who can say a human heart is not a tissue
of webbing about to tear loose when wind comes up?
I rent a car and drive south after the first call
answers, Henrietta Murphy?
She’s in San Diego, I don’t know where,
but I hear all the time about her voice.
A man named Lafayette Young . . . He might know,
runs a bookstore downtown, was once Henry Miller’s
good friend, him and his painter pal
John Dudley, back in the day. Read "Letter
to Lafayette" in The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.
I stop in Santa Cruz, stroll the boardwalk,
and later wake when a cop taps on the window.
My friend John lives on Wilshire Boulevard,
painting hard edge under the spell of Jack Youngerman
with an occasional Ellsworth Kelly
urge to flower the edges until they blossom
like Venus flytraps. We go down the street
to MacArthur Park, and dole out cigarettes to derelicts
and smoke in an hour the pack that we share,
unfiltered Camels, with a jug of Thunderbird.
Trouble is there’s no music. We drive out
to Venice and pick up girls who say they like men
who are rowdy but gentle, we say we have a yearning
for women whose soft skin holds the sunrays
so God’s blessing protects them from all grief,
gives them the means to enjoy life.
I go too far, they look at me strangely,
they walk off, I declare, It’s the damned wine.
John says he needs to see this guy out here
who says he can get him a one-man show
(lest suicide become John’s remedy
for money to pay rent and buy some food
so he may make art yet one more season).
Billy will bring him back. I go without
having dipped into my bag full of manuscripts
laced with ersatz blues and browns around their edges.
Downtown San Diego, then. Young says, Call me Lafe,
I do and he tells where Henrietta may be.

(21 June, 13 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


(I return to Cathleen’s.)

Where were you?

Got looped, didn’t want to drive drunk, stayed the night, slept all day, stayed to sober up, eat and take a little hair of the dog . . . to make me fit to be with.

What kept you from calling?

This black woman with Afro instead of her usual dreadlocks, or so she claims.

Are you fucking serious?

I’m through with fucking . . . that is, with anyone but you.

I don’t know why you lie except to keep going to bed with me.

You are the best I ever knew.

What about Paula?

I don’t need to make myself any sicker than I am now,
do I?

(Wait a little, have a few drinks,
be well oiled when the fight starts.)

(21 June, 11 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One Last Time Before I Leave

Sanchez y Compania flies off before me: last minute
obviously, blackbirds say goodbye to the night,
there she will be, but not for me. Sanchez had planned
her debut? Hell, I just play clarinet and sing on command.

With Sanchez exchanging the beat for dusting the drums,
DG on alto, Dave on the keys, Clark strumming time,
Paula appears in Oakland tonight. I’m going my own way.
Cathleen's driving me to her place, crossing the East Bay.

In the air I had told myself to be quiet, nothing else to do
but stop the stewardess, ask for bourbon neat, sit silently
until she comes walking your way. Canadian Club okay?
Better than that. A space between her front teeth woos me.

You know what I want to do, dear reader, so why say?
I have one life, one only: economy is key to happiness.
I ask her how long she will be in The City.
One day, one night, fly out the next. Where to? Paris.

She slips me her phone number on airline stationery.
You live here? Sure thing. What do you like to do? Can’t say
if I don’t know you. What do you need? Promise you
won’t leave me once you have me? We’ll see. And we do.

Cathleen gathers me and my bag full of unpublished work.
During the drive I tell her I have to go out tomorrow night,
Sanchez and Company are here for a last-minute date.
The things I do for a living! I proclaim. I am a jerk.

I borrow Cathleen’s car. We drink at the Berkeley Square.
We go to her condo. I wait on the balcony. She appears
in a negligee I see through. Between her teeth that space
turns me on. A body knows another body best. We kiss.

We go to Solomon’s for brunch. I have pastrami and rye
and a bowl of borscht. Her name is Sandra. I like Bobby,
she offers, are you a Robert? I volunteer I’m a St. Clair.
My, my, she says . . . You’re IRA and I’m Black Panther.

Sandra . . . McGuiness, her father’s name. A desk clerk
at the Fairmount. Her mother’s from Mississippi. I ask
what songs Sandy likes. She just heard one by the Stones,
a bluesy thing my mother would have dug, but she’s gone,

it’s called Wild Horses and tempts me to fall in love again.
Back at her place, then, for a drink before she gets ready
to fly to Paris, and she plays the song. I ask, Play it again?
and damned if we don’t undress to bed down for the day.

(21 June, 10 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, July 9, 2012

Listening to Her Voice

I still want to hear her sing in my ear making love with me
and me with her, and who knows how many cats we shared
the house with . . . She sang Angel Eyes back where I left it
with her as curator of my heart, the only one I ever desired.
She said it was bad luck to sing in bed. I’m not superstitious,
she said, it’s just what I’ve been told, don’t see how it’s true.

She was always leading an invisible chorus of many voices,
all her own. She did Body and Soul like it should be done,
without regret or rancor, as I would try if I only knew how
to remember I was never in love like this till she came along.
She said, Sure, I’ll stay, and next day I had to be somewhere
without her, but only an hour, and missed her every second.

It’s the songs I learned very young I miss hearing her sing
the most. You know the ones, I never sing them anymore
now she’s been here and gone, I can’t bear the old weight
of St. James Infirmary or Easy Rider or Empty Bed Blues.
Not that a man has the luck to do songs only a woman can
master, especially when walking on water, as Paula does.

(21 June, 10 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Single-Minded Hope

Paula calls. She’s lost her ring. She hangs up.
I would return her call if I knew her number.
Huerfano sits through tonight’s gig.
Paula’s off. I’m persona non grata
at Paul and Anna’s door. The bungalow
is all Paula’s now. It must be her phone,
a new one. I call the operator.
Nothing doing. I do St. James Infirmary
and Dust My Broom for the first time ever,
then the blues song for Rose I wrote for Dave.
I wonder who’s here remembers their names?
If I were one of them, I’d be downtown,
where they are, not here, where Paula’s only
part time. And no one knows the nights she’s here.
I put the male mask on Easy Rider.
Paula’s on my mind. I change the pronouns
and nobody cares but me, not Paula,
if she knew. I end with Body and Soul,
five songs out of many, and clarinet
solo on the rest, Tony’s piano
forte and diminuendo, Clark’s bass
soloing, Sanchez happy laying down the beat.

After hours Jim goes with Sanchez to buy
a shipment from Saigon. I like to wait
for Christina. The bartender took Paula’s call
when she left a message. I wonder where she was
when she thought to phone the bar to leave word
she’s happy, so have fun knocking up Christina . . .
or who knows but that she’s back tonight
with Alonzo awaiting a sweet taste
to satisfy a vein in either arm.
She’ll show me. I’d grieve but can’t find the time.
Christina buys me a drink while I wait
for her night to end. What a gorgeous lass
in her hip-high hose, her long lovely legs:
I’ll take her home once she removes her hose.
She says, I like to be naked down there.
Back at her place she takes me in her mouth.
We do an hour what we were born to do
to increase the race. No need keeping track
of ovulation. We love, take chances
loving. All she wants is a child. I feel
comatose. I’m not, I just feel that way.

I go out when she sleeps. Tony drives me
to Black and Tan. Dave’s there with Rose.
Tony says Paula shows up late and leaves
early, no telling where she’s coming from.
Anyway, Tony likes to do standup
while the audience waits. He’s Lenny Bruce
playing Professor Jelly Roll Morton,
in Seattle decidedly New Orleans.
Paula’s better than ever, Tony says.
Dave says each night she comes downtown
to catch Rose near the end of her night’s work.
Rose is better than ever, he declares.
San Francisco was good for her, even
that dive where she sang the whole time
Mona stayed off the street after she kicked
and came back to life, Lady Lazarus.
(Dave was once deep in Sylvia Plath’s Ariel.
Dave changed course in reading Ted Hughes’s Crow.)
Now Rose sings in a cabaret on Jackson Street,
Mama Lu’s home looking after Mona.
Rose inhabits her husky voice, its slow climb
to reach the peak of her pitch, coming back
to languish more than rest in her body
as voluptuous as ever it was.
Tony says they should go to Manhattan.
He and Laurie could hardly get away
to Paris after learning French.
Tony needed to finish adapting
Malcolm X’s Autobiography to film
for his class with Andrew Sarris
at Columbia, even though he knew
Spike Lee never read his screenplay.
Maybe in Paris Jean-Luc Godard would find time,
Laurie’s ready to go now, or never.
Paris or New York, says Rose, who cares?
Like Morrison says in When the Music’s Over,
the West is the best . . .

I keep thinking the rest of my life is about to start.
Let it. With my single-minded, uppermost devotion,
I ponder San Francisco: Go back. But how? Walk?
I go to class. I think about options. Hitchhike?
Why not? There are all those numbers to call.
I use the phone behind the bar to call.
It rings and rings and rings and rings and rings.
Five numbers Claude gave me, and none are ever home.
I keep reading Swann’s Way. I call Cathleen.
She says she would love to spend time with me.
Paris is developing a full line
from her designs. She says she will mail me
a round-trip ticket. I reply, Make it one way,
I can ride the bus back. Christina knows
I need to go to San Francisco. Sanchez says,
Tell Henrietta hola if and when
you find her. Paula can use the money.
I ask where. Sanchez can’t say. She really
needs the work, wants nothing to do with me.
Christina wants to hear about Henrietta
and why Claude thinks she’s in San Francisco.
She’d like to go, but has to work. Cathleen
sends the ticket. To Christina I say
I will ride a bus back before a month goes by,
flying one way leaves me little to live.
I hate I feel the need to live a lie.
Christina drives me to Sea-Tac. She feels
fragile when we kiss and embrace goodbye.
In the air I read more of Swann’s love for Odette,
a woman with whom I had nothing in common.

(20 June, 8 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, July 7, 2012

En La Calle

Marge can’t speak Spanish any more than I.
You’d think she knew about high heels
and spider veins. Huerfano puts her out
where she asks to go.
She wants to make money
with her money-maker. I say
I know all your reasons, Ms. Christensen, my dear,
let’s go . . .
She reminds me she does me
for free.
Nothing’s free. Jim wants Marge to be a mother.
She quails,
whatever the hell I want to do, she says.
I say, You ever want a baby, have it while you can.
You may soon use your quota, be too old.
She scoffs, I smile, she’s sitting in Manning’s
having breakfast with me, I’m paying,
she’s loaded with dinero,
her bra cups stuffed full to brimming
like Angel’s, Beasley’s friend I met long ago
on First or was it Second? Avenue
the night Jim took me there to show me
the city, and I saw it all before I said:
Man, I was born here . . . well,
not here exactly, but up a dozen streets . . .
And Marge says she’s doing well
though she misses Huerfano when she works the street,
and I say, I never see Jim
now I live with Christina. Who? Marge asks.
I tell her about Christina
in her hip-high hose. Marge swears she has no time
for hose, she prefers the altogether.
I don’t pursue that conversation. I talk of Christina
and her desire to be a mother
before it’s too late.
Marge frowns. Why not? I ask.
Jim would let you leave the kid with him . . .
Marge, before leaving, shows me her veins,
her black toenail polish,
her high heels
about to break down.
I pay the bill. She goes her way, I go mine.
I’m singing tonight.
I sing every night.
If I go further, I’ll break into sobs.
I’m gonna go back
to Body and Soul . . . fuck Time after Time.

(19 June 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Life that Is Yours to Lose

Bobby went too long before meeting her.
They should have loved when he knew art
was the way to learn how to make this life
out of the work of art he was with her
and she with him, but how could they go on?
They were beginning when he woke one day
wondering how he would make a living
now that his education was over.

Paula loved pieces of knowledge, wisdom,
and music that came from below, above,
and what she refused she attempted first
by looking at everything from both sides.
And when she was tempted to go away
she went as far as she could from childhood,
even if trouble lay up the road from her
and at the place of her destination.

He was hired to edit copy for a paper.
He was bored by reading what others wrote.
He took too long away from the office.
Word was he was working on a story.
He left his desk empty, went out the door.
The longer he stayed away the more they,
the others, spoke for him, in his defense,
until sick to death of himself he quit.

Bobby stayed home writing about his friends,
giving them new names drawn from their actions,
as though they fathered and mothered themselves
guiding them nowhere they could ever flee.
He knew he was inventing life and death.
He found in himself what to give others.
They knew what he was doing and they fled.
That was how each one of them found music.

Bobby worked as many hours as he slept.
Paula went to class, made dinner, made love
to put him to sleep, then loved the silence
in the bungalow, reading books required
but she loved what they had to say and stayed
with each story until she reached its end.
She suspected it would be up to her
to find a way they could live in this world.

He was writing poems. He understood
a novel would take from him everything
he could dream, hoping he woke from nightmares,
knowing there was never a way to learn
what he needed to know but the hard way,
he who had let poetry devour him.
There was a city buried in his head,
or part of one, what he must excavate.

He had thought too much about what was done.
How he loved her, how he hoped she would love
the unknown that was all he offered her.
He kept going, started graduate school
with the tentative promise he could write
what he had to write. A new scholarship
for a poor boy who could play clarinet
and sing, music a door through poverty.

Paula loved him for what he was doing.
He kept working when he wasn’t sleeping.
He knew he was selfish. He didn’t like
to read what the others wrote, to say words
about their words, but it was the one way
to keep working when he wasn’t sleeping.
He went to sleep after she had loved him.
He woke her by loving her when she asked.

He went to The Blue Moon, among the lost
and found, the professor the McCarthy era
ruined, the young he listened to and talked to
at his table. And there were those for whom
the ghost of Roethke mounted a barstool
with the Milton scholar, Stein, and Bluestone
adapting Melville’s film.
There, Roethke’s ghost communed with the living.

By closing time, Bobby was home, in bed.
Paula woke to ask if he was happy.
Why talk about what made them both happy?
They returned to the stage at Black and Tan.
Paula sang her blues better than ever.
He got his lip back in shape for the reed.
They did okay until Dave came with Rose
one night after their gig at New Congress.

They sat listening to the last set end.
Dave said he and Rose were asking for help.
Bobby said they were both going to school.
Where would they find time to be anywhere
but here and where they had to be?
Dave said Rose and he and DG had work
downtown, on contract, a month at a time,
in the club Henrietta was the star.

If Tony would take over piano,
would Bobby play clarinet, Paula sing?
They agreed to try it for the first month.
If it all worked out, Bobby said Sanchez
would have to find a singer and reed man
to spell them so they could both stay in school.
They had only worked Black and Tan half time.
Dave said he’d make the offer, Sanchez accepted.

In bed in the bungalow and happy
as ever, she had no new intentions,
nor did he. Good intentions meant nothing.
Christina still worked in her hip-high hose,
Bobby was tempted and he slept with her.
He wanted to tell Paula but didn’t.
He stayed after work, she missed him until
heartsick, she left. Love’s animal poleaxed.

Bobby worked all night. He wrote the novel
he was imagining he might have lived.
Yeats said a poet must choose between perfection
of the life or of the work. Bobby knew
his life was not material enough
for the novel he needed to write now
so he could write what he wanted later.
No need to say he had it all backwards.

Paula came back for her things and Anna
and Paul found out why. They had loved Bobby,
the son they could never have of their own,
but now they loved Paula more. They wanted
her to stay. She needed what they offered.
She ignored Bobby when he was playing.
Paula sang only the songs she wanted.
She still had her kit: needle and syringe.

(18 June, 7 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Acacia Tree


Walking with no cane
and sloth’s no crime,
you can have a jones for sax
and stay with clarinet,
but baby, it’s love I need,
all the love you can give.
I draw you to my magic slate,
raise the page and there you are,
love only sane men can handle,
catch fire when you rub your thighs:
I burst into flame in between,
I’m the stick spinning the sun.

Her legs are longer than her neck,
still she loves Modigliani,
and she sketches him, he sketches her,
both naked before and after love.
It’s always when there’s time to spare,
they draw their bodies, taking pains.
When they make love he loses track
of where he is. She pulls him down,
down here where you belong, she says
and smiles longer than his long kiss
lets her stay awake, the way he wants her
sleeping on her side, where he can draw her.

coda:He had reached a place where he could let go,
feel her going too, then lie back with her
listening to her whispering into his ear
How was that? or Would you like a nightcap?
and when he said yes she might change her mind
and do what he told her once he liked more,
what he had learned from the girl he paid for
in Hotel Ibero and the woman
in Hotel Londres just across the street,
one showing him how and the other one
saying and meaning there’s no love to spare
when you go around the world to get to
where you arrived in Mexico City.

Paula did not ask Bobby to teach her,
she knew exactly what to do and did
better than either the girl in the Ibero
or the woman above the Londres mezzanine.
Paula tasted like what he was writing
in his head about oranges, peaches,
apples, pears, mangos, making a baby
under the acacia tree, where he draws
from memory to paper, waking without her.

(11 May, 12, 17 June, 5 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


If I could pluck a rose from its bed of thorns,
bring it to your bed, lay it on your open palms,

your breath would fire that flower into thought
that sears the empire, engulfs with flames

all that is not desire, all that’s not ecstasy . . .
restore what you were when I felt I knew.

(16 June, 4 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Under the Weather

Too much sun?
Barefoot in hot sand.
Into the ocean
and out to sleep
and peel.

Paula says she'd like
to go to L. A.,
Carmel’s nice but . . .
He says, Why be late
getting home?

She rubs on salve
to diminish the burn.
She says, We should go,
Jim and Pam
are probably gone.

She’s deep in Karamazov,
with Anna Karenina
to go. Summer
will lapse

They drive
back to The City,
Bobby likes to call it . . .
Claude gave him names
he finds in The Book.

None are home.
Half a dozen
mysteries unsolved:
Shake the tree,
no apples fall.

He marvels:
Paula is a wonder,
her sheer joy of life . . .
Bobby wishes he were
a magician too.

In Eugene, Paula
says, Let’s find
my cousin.
He’s gone.

street level,
the "good-morning,
let’s have a drink
to start the day
right" souls

shinny up
to the bar and stay.
Their eyes stay
on Paula.
Bobby nudges her,

Follow me . . .
Casually, they
exit quickly.
From the car they
see a flock

of drunks
clawing the wall,
and around
they peer,

(15 June, 3 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Dutch Doors


Why not find a bar full of people in the night?
Though I have little money, you own all I have,
my wife. Be my love from here to the grave.
Under the full moon, your eyes are stars, cheekbones clouds
that do not move, your face a bright nocturnal sun.
When you are naked, I am naked, no matter
comets return, meteors skid across the sky,
black holes disappear . . .


Take me then, I’m ready, even wearing a bra.
I’ve donned a blouse, pulled on my panties, stepped
into a skirt. Help me buckle my sandals' straps
and guide these lightly shod feet down the stairs.
Let us smile, say goodnight to the desk clerk.
Open the door, gentle man, guide my arm
into the street, and with my hand in yours,
kiss me, embrace me, pull me close
and repeat with my lips the code
we share each time the light grows dark.

Bobby, again:

There, Paula. See the bar with the Dutch doors?
Want to dance, hear music? No better way
to know a place. Even a juke tells more
than raucous clientele. If there’s a clarinet
in the house, let me play for you a song
you choose. Why not some blues, then a familiar song
improvised until attaining love’s sound . . .
C. C. Rider, say, followed by Body and Soul . . .

Paula then:

Body and Soul makes me sad,
why not Someone to Watch over Me?
Don’t drink. I want you with me
the way you were when we met,
when I discarded the leftover trappings
of a derelict life I followed to the edge,
where you were. You took my hand, led me back
to the beginning, where I came from
and will no longer leave without you . . .

I love Dutch doors, Bobby, they’re easy to go through.

Bobby, finally:

Sugar lady with such a sweet taste
inside the soft lines of your lips,
when I drink your nectar I don’t want to go back
to the hive but take you where
my body makes yours sleek,
resting my head in the soft nest of my belly,
where you let me roam with my tongue
your South. I reach your thighs, arise,
pour my need into you, lie back with you . . .

Now may our feet find the way through swinging Dutch doors.

(14 June, 3 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wild Hair

He’s not known more pleasure in simply walking with a woman,
simply sleeping with a woman, simply talking with a woman,
always feeling her with him when she’s not with him, as when
they met. When each night they come together, her legs wrap
around his waist, and in her he moves one way, then the other.

She gets herself in trouble when unhappy with things as they are,
gets hooked on dope, on men, sells herself when there’s no money
to feed the habit she needed to kick and stay sober for good.
She shows him the drawer where she keeps her syringe and needle.
For her, it’s all past now though it goes on feeling like it’s still here.

He’s begun drinking too much. He wants to celebrate summer,
he says. When the sky comes too close and the earth wants to swallow
his sleep, he returns to the New Congress and La Iglesia de La Puta,
throws the knife and sinks it in the wall, there is no hand guard,
and he yanks, the blade sinks deep in his hand, the bleeding begins.

Stumbling downstairs, he talks the bartender into finding someone
to drive him to hospital. His cut is stitched, the wound bandaged,
he’s told to wrap it with fresh gauze and cotton daily, and he goes
away wobbly to ponder what summer may hold now that it’s off
to such a start. He’ll drive Paula to San Francisco to honeymoon.

Anna loans them her car. They start late in the day, drive all night.
When the freeway passes by the factory works belching out smoke,
he knows he’s close. They sleep in a rest stop until they both wake.
He has numbers Dave gave him: a friend in the city, one in Oakland,
and the hotel where Dave lived with Rose and watched over Mona.

It’s the hotel they go to first and because it’s in the Tenderloin
it’s cheap enough, though the thought occurs to him Paula may
know such places from her worst days. He’s not worried so much
as wondering if he understands what she went through and how
he would feel now if it were him rather than her recovering . . .

Next morning they walk over to Union Square, feed the pigeons,
eat pastrami on rye at Solomon’s on Geary, go up to City Lights
to look through the magazines Shug keeps in the cool basement,
little mags they’re called and every writer too unknown to have
anywhere else to send their work will vow they are the future . . .

He calls Dave’s friend in the city, no answer, so he calls the one
in Oakland, who invites them over. He lives alone on Sixty-First
on the Berkeley line. He’s a photographer with a kitchenette
he’s turned into a darkroom. He takes their portrait, goes off
and at last emerges with their wedding picture, it’s about time,

Bobby says, but then this is their honeymoon, so they walk up
Telegraph, passing where Reagan’s goons killed James Rector,
through Sather Gate, prowling the campus in half-dark: here was
where Savio declared only they could stop the machine and there
Bettina Aptheker roused the crowd surrounding the police car.

It’s still not full dark when they return to the hotel lobby full
of pensioners and prostitutes. In the room they plan to drive
to Monterey, Carmel the next day: be good to get a little sun
on the beach, take a walk through Steinbeck’s cannery row,
come back here, maybe Dave’s friend in the city will be home.

Paula says she’d like to look around alone. He doesn’t mind,
he says. They’ll get an early start and be on the beach by noon.
She goes out and he falls asleep reading An Autobiographical
Novel, Kenneth Rexroth’s book the critics say is half made up.
He doesn’t care. He makes up his own life, it’s harder that way.

He’s still sleeping when Paula returns. He asks if she is happy.
She says he must sleep. She sounds happy, and he tells her so.
She takes off her clothes, she helps him undress. They love.
They doze. She wakes and attends to her needs. He hears her
in the bathroom taking a shower. She’s washing her wild hair.

(13 June, 1 July 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

University of Washington, Seattle

She walks across the room never minding the waves
sloshing against the bow of her father’s ship.

Carol Steiner, sitting next to him, says, Bobby,
She’s beautiful! Bobby thinks Carol should know,
blonde imp of love’s corridors of R & R,
her man, Dave, home from Vietnam.

Paula disappears, Carol and Dave leave.

Bobby goes back to reading Hemingway,
The Sun Also Rises . . . for the nth time.
In the hubbub, scribbling marginalia,
underlining passages, erasing,
revising his own notations,
reading himself into 1925
Paris and Pamplona,
a year for the draft to bake in the sun
through the window he sees through
. . . and don’t you wish you could too?

No point in such comparison, Bobby,
he remands himself.
Better to accrue experience,
then engrave it in ink.

Sometimes you wait half your life, Roethke said
one day, Bobby sitting in the office
where the shambling poet with his tennis elbow
and bum knee entered,
calling to her who was once his paramour,
who told Bobby the course is closed:
Leota, this kid’s pretty good,
I want him in my Yeats seminar.
Leota: It’s full, Ted. And he: Make room,
my love! She blushed. Her gray hair dyed
silver lit her dark office,
her buxom body filling a shadow.
More than beautiful. A woman
in her late forties, early fifties, once
a scholar at the Sorbonne,
writing on Rimbaud, her very own poete maudit.

Bobby walked home, where Paula was, she skipped
class today to watch sailboats on the lake.
She missed her father’s cabin on Loon Lake.
Why they drove across the state to marry
in Idaho. She had hoped they could stay
in the cabin the night of their wedding,
but Bobby had a gig to do at New Congress.
Paula understood the world very well.
She could love this man and live her life.
She hoped he realized what she meant when she said,
I have a wild hair, Bobby, don’t underestimate me.

(12, 30 June 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander