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

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