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