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