Sunday, September 30, 2012


She said not to use scissors on Sunday.
She kept me out of her dresser drawers.
She told me stories I thought were of ghosts.
She moved as quickly as her grandson did.
We were both moving through her one-floor house.
My uncle came in. His horse was saddled.
I was too little to fear falling off.
He gripped the bridle, said talk to the horse.
His horse had the name he gave it but what
he said to me was I could call him Horse.

One day my uncle Abraham Clyde rode
to the cemetery with me behind,
helped me down, then found my brother Bobby’s
dirt-brown, thorn-covered thimble full of earth
and I traced with one finger the name Floyce
where there was room. He must have seen. An owl
made his sound. The moon was gone. It was night
without stars. You couldn’t see any clouds.

I remember nothing but the horse tied
by the bridle to the cemetery’s
swinging gate, my uncle’s flashlight, the ride
on up the way, farther from home, as I
was lovingly told once I saw her by
my grandma stooping down to kiss me home.

Effie Drusilla–or was it a c?--
stood too tall, her father claimed, to favor
her mother. He was full-blood Welsh, he had
no horses. Her mother was called a breed.
She’s small in the Tahlequah photograph:
Her mother, named Peralee, was called Pearl.
She loved a man who rode a horse to town
and sang the songs he played on his guitar.

No stone marks where she and her son lie dead.
Not even my uncle’s horse I called Horse
knew where to go, but grandma did. She took
me walking that day, not as far as
Cross Cemetery, but up by the edge
of pine above the pasture, where the horse
pulled up the grass. She said if I could see
through the earth I would see where she came from.
Pay me no mind, she’d add, I see some things.
You’re better off knowing what the dead saw.

(29 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Recalling His First, Absentee Vote for JFK, Seattle, 1960, Age 21

Exchange your tea bags for white hoods.
You have a world to win and winning lose.
Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Viola Liuzzo,
Andy Goodman, Jim Chaney, Mike Schwerner,
Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers,
Malcolm X and Birmingham’s four little girls
bombed in church . . . my my, blood did run,
didn’t it, honky children? I-don’t-give-a-damn-
everything poetasters of the Western world,
heads up and unrecoverable from thy asses,
don your Klan paraphernalia, help engender
Hell on Earth owned by those hoarding money
or banking on the lottery to make a living,
the thoroughly fucked-up, know-nothing-
and-who-cares . . . O you name the plague,
you’re part of it, the amnesiac advocates of
voter suppression, unlimited corporate funds
from God knows everywhere and anywhere,
all against Barack Obama and kindred souls
of whom I hardly need to tell you I’m one . . .

(29 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, September 28, 2012

Heaven's Undertow

Nobody coming or going, even the wind is still, though saltwater laps like a cloud
the sky’s shores.
I am in my element. I have a new song. Wanta hear it? Nah, just sing it, sing it through.
So Paula does. The room shuffles its feet.
No takers.
I go home with Christina. Melindra’s on night shift. Rosemary’s waiting tables. I am numb.
But not for long.
You know how the earth finds water when the witching wand comes around, dowsing . . .
That’s what Christina does.
With me.
I’m what she wants, I guess, I know she likes to share her bed with me, even now . . .
The song goes:

Come to bed, bed down your skin, our love’s lost.
Water me down to my thirstiest root.
I’ll keep you here till you begin to grow,
till your leaves appear, till your flowers show,

. . . and continues until Tony follows with a coda and the piano goes quiet,
drums and bass and Paula finished, letting me look long for the final note.
It’s that word thirstiest I have to change. I’ll look for it days and nights. I may never find
anything but most thirsty and even then I’ll change it back and forth . . . I don’t know how
to say I fail . . .

Let me go back to seed, I’ll come on home
when you call, I won’t be far, I’ll come home
when little stars grow where the moon is full,
Winter, spring, summer and the ship sets sail . . .

So the battle never quits, the odds are long, a heart that’s full can’t find a stopping place.
What’s it like to sleep through the night? I kiss her all over, she does the same for me.
If she’s a river I’m a rock, if she’s the sea the moon takes me down: heaven’s undertow.
Heaven’s a hardass place where planets whirl, black holes flourish, space for a song to die.

(28 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sweet Jesus

Bobby sings "Sweet Jesus" in his sleep.
The words don’t wake him,
the music does. Melindra likes her jazz
churlish like Chris Conner,
or June Christy, from old Stan Kenton
big band memorial days . . .
You’re not funny! she declares, just odd.
He tried to make it better, but is
hard pressed to think of more
like Anita O’Day, yet not her,
she’s too gone to be even near
the same dais. Without her favorite man
blowing softly before and behind
what she has saved to say . . .

Can’t call up names this early,
Melindra cracks.
I have a full day of classes
and an all-night shift. Aren’t you glad,
he quips, I’m not there no more
anyhow, anyway, nowhere
on the ward . . .
Melindra rolls over and puts him in her
and rocks as he rolls under
her thighs and the thunder comes next
if not last.
And so Sweet Jesus grew to be a man
whose followers followed him
sweetly and always gently everywhere.

(27 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Night Off

Under Alaskan Way, the drunks sober up, the cops drink free.
I will be somewhere under here, he said to Rosemary
waiting tables. She invited him to pick her up after hours.
He was living with Melindra now and had planned to say no,
I don’t get out much now, other than with my clarinet
at the New Congress: Come by, I’ll buy you a drink.
He watched her sashay back and forth and love roused
its animal. He wanted to be cold, tell her he had to be a mensch
but simply said, Come by the Poopdeck, we’ll have a drink
together. If he was being cold toward her, he’d know next stop.
The peanut shells strewn on the wooden floor, sax and bass
and beer, Jabbo Ward the Black Prince on soprano,
Seattle’s own Sidney Bechet, and Freddie Schreiber
the white boy’s Charlie Mingus walking his bass on back
and catching up to set the pace for the long long note of love.
Rosemary got off work, came in, he bought her food and drink
and they parted company at closing time under the freeway.
He knew he was being cold, he had to be that way
to be true to himself, it wasn’t what he wanted
but it worked, it kept him working, he made Melindra happy.

(26 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Devil on the Back Roads

Got lost in Oklahoma looking for the highway,
should never drive off to make love early,

one whose frightful eyes were red-rimmed deep set
ringed with ashen circles sauntered over
to the car, looked in to see the red-haired woman
in the passenger seat, I didn’t wait
to say Good day, but let flood the morning sun
so he could not see the bare legs of my lover

Grandma would say she went to the back porch
when the devil knocked on her locked screen door

on a moonless night with no clouds in Arkansas,
told him to go before hell was covered over,
and he walked off, muttering, she declared,
for came a time she remembered her dead mother
chanting her strange charms and up rose the dead
to stomp and sing prayers that were warnings

and I thought of her in her grave and said to him
I’d find the highway by myself, Bye bye, go home

That’s the last time a good old boy from hell
turned up when I lost my way and found the devil

and may it be the last time the dead make me weep
they are so cherished where they lie down very deep

As for my long-legg’d red haired lover with red
hair all over, love lost its way, derelict, and died

(25 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


Monday, September 24, 2012

Fourteen Lines in Rough Draft Beside a Jukebox

He was listening to Buffy St. Marie singing "Cod’ine,"
thinking of dope, booze, addiction, and began writing:
"To my old love, far away now, very much alive
and very loved, and she’s not alone, I stopped too
in time to start living again" . . . in his memory banks,
the seemingly deliberate way it surely seemed to her
how he stayed out until bars closed and he came home
and could not help but wake her, his vigil perverse:
he wanted her and everything required to have a life
with her, say, one they could share after all, proud of
the lyric poet with a prose style and his beautiful wife
brilliant not only when she entered with her own light
a room but with intellect kindling fire, igniting minds.
And asked himself, How do I forgive myself after that?

(II: 24 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

"One-Way Sleep"

                                                 Vivian Benz

She was married to a man I never saw.
I worked where she worked,
the Toppenish office
of Washington State Employment’s
unemployment claims.
She worked in the back, out of sight.
Little wonder I never saw her husband.

I worked at the window, taking claims.
We dallied during coffee breaks.
She had red hair, dyed, she admitted.
She was full-blood Nez Perce.
It was her sense of humor I loved.
I thought she was cracking a joke
saying So-and-So went the one-way sleep.

Vivian Benz. She asked all about college.
I was learning to write poems, I declared.
She told me one in her native language.
I can’t repeat it here, I don’t remember
what I never knew, how to find her words.
It was about this: She went to the river
and found a diver who pulled her under.

Under what? I said. She stood and walked
to fill her cup. Under him, she said.
That’s what he said, it’s what he did.
We never talked, he was a two-face, one
who makes you laugh, then cry, he gave
me a baby and I ran away, I walked
not ran, I was on my way, one way, to sleep.

(24 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, September 23, 2012

This Love

Melindra took him into her bed and he stayed.
Her blonde brownness, her impeccable touch
left him craving her love, giving her love,
wanting finally to be what his man could be
for her woman, wanting to stir and mix
what was on her mind with his. Some touch came
from there to fill the body that was not its own,
moving the other to want to give and take and . . .

So he began to believe he knew how to love.
And she slowly accepted she could give him love.

(22 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, September 22, 2012

No Song

Myra began modeling for photographers and painters.
She stayed in the same apartment reading Grande Sertao:
Veredas. She wanted to recover her Portuguese.
She might try translating a Guimaraes Rosa story.
She needed to study the language with a master,
which meant more money, so she began posing nude.

Some nights Myra went up to the Jackson Street café
to catch Rose and Dave on stage. Rose was unhappy,
Myra heard the bitter tone in Rose's lower register,
her refusal to glide on up and cut the blues with sorrow.
Myra hoped Rose would reach the pitch to shatter her loneliness:
she needed to hear his sax, feel his touch, wake up to music.

Rose was living not far away from Myra now,
Dave was seeing his mama through what he called her dying.
Dave was writing music and showing it to Bobby.
Sometimes Bobby found the words slowly, but he kept on.
One night Rose asked Dave to see what he’d been doing.
He showed her his music keyed to Bobby’s lyrics:

You’re gonna miss me when the water’s to your waist,
the levee’s busted open, the city’s drowning,
look for me down under, I’ll try to be there twice,
I don’t know where or how you lost your ring,
we will never marry, the flood washed love away,
I can touch you in your sleep, when you weep, down deep

. . . and Rose complained, I can’t sing this, it’s not a song,
not yet. She fiddled with it after hours.
It never did come true for her. Bobby’s
lyrics had nothing for her to do but long
to go where she knew no one and didn’t belong.
She knew that’s where the songs were . . . but not for her.

(22 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, September 21, 2012

Earth Opening before Closing over Our Man in Seattle

Myra found Doug sprawled on the floor, spike at half mast in his arm.
When she touched him the needle wobbled like a flag.
All color gone from his face, his blood unfurled in a pool
still filling the space under his body and alongside
his lame wrist curled under his good arm, the one that held his horn
left in the case, its reed unchanged for weeks.

Bobby took Melindra to the wake at the cemetery.
She seemed to him like a flower in blossom at the beginning of autumn.
Myra sat with no expression on her face, tears streaking her cheeks.
In that tiny space of earth a tape of D. G. playing Round Midnight
was loud enough to drown out all voices, but there were none.
No strangers appeared but the stony faced gravediggers,

no priest or minister, only Rose, Dave, Sanchez
with La Compania–Tony, Clark, and Paula,
Bobby guiding Melindra to the front row to sit with Myra,
between her and Joe Petta, who had come from La Conner
to say goodbye to his longtime friend Doug Harper.
Others no one knew, only that they were those who remained of his family.

After the coffin was lowered into the grave,
and while the men were filling and tamping the earth,
the tape changed to a series of cuts from Our Man in Paris,
an old Blue Note album with Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke
siding with the tenor sax man someone said "was the perfect cross
of fox and hedgehog," as Bobby recalled reading somewhere once.

Petta had brought Myra a gift, his painting on the doors of a clock
with one inside, what Doug had loved more than any other work of art, jazz
excepted. The ten friends were gathered around a long table in Chinatown.
Melindra asked Petta what he called it. Tbe Doors of Summer,
Heaven and Hell, Joe said. Bobby whispered in her ear: The wolf crouches,
the clock opens, the door divides, the girl waiting inside can leave now.

(21 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Bonnington was rarely anything but serious.
Some patients preferred to call him glum.
His wife bore him no children, they married
happily, once. He painted on weekends.
Bonnington never talked about himself.
He refused to talk about his wife’s death.
He listened. He believed in the "talking cure."
He had his own doctor.
                                   Melindra arrived on time,
drove quietly to the Alki Café on the road
from the beach where everyone raved
about the food, the drink, the service.
Bonnington wanted to know Bobby’s story
since last they talked. Bobby tried to tell him,
but finally admitted, I’m more fucked up
than ever, I got to get away from Seattle,
a while anyway. My mother’s in San Diego,
singing in La Jolla. Bonnington perked up
when Bobby said he needed to write her story.
What happened to your own? Bonnington asked.
Melindra listened.
                       On the way back to Bonnington’s
house she asked Bobby if she should take him
home or would he like to stay with her tonight.
Bonnington laughed. He apologized. He chided
Bobby, You’re still the same Casanova . . .
Bobby laughed uneasily. Bonnington invited
them in for a drink. He played Mozart. Bobby
thought of Paul and Anna. What if one died?
Would the other still see him as their son?
after Melindra, Paula . . . his stillborn desire
to give country music the blues, improvise . . .
Bonnington said his wife died in her sleep.
Mercifully. He brought out his portrait of her.
She reminded Bobby of Cathleen, or Melindra:
the hair the same color, smiles equally radiant.

On the way back Bobby observed Bonnington
was playing matchmaker. I asked him to, she said.
Bobby kept quiet. Melindra drove to her house.
Where it was like old times. He felt at home.

(20 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Floyce Alexander–say both names without pausing–
was a mama’s boy. His daddy hoped he’d amount
to something, be a diesel mechanic
or an occupation that paid money,
not, for God’s sake, worshiping the Devil
poetry. You have to know everything,
the big man said, lowering his mask to weld
after sparking the torch with acetylene,
talking through the shield he couldn’t see through
although his daddy said he could and that’s what counts.
Whadyameanby everything?
his daddy heard his son cry out through fire.
He tried on his daddy’s gloves, his hands ash.

In Seattle he stuck with Bobby and his friends.
He was fond of the sax player DG
with whom he wandered alleys drinking Paisano.
Floyce Alexander played clarinet like Bobby.
Once anyway. He didn’t now. He only wrote
poems. Like this one:

Squish, squish, squish
mud goes between barefoot toes.

Someone said, Seven syllables more
and presto! Haiku!
Floyce Alexander thought: Fuck you.
Nelson Bentley said, That’s not necessarily haiku,
don’t count syllables, but listen to what happens,
maybe something like:

Squish, squish, squish
goes water between toes
frogs leap through

There, Bentley said, and you have five syllables
left over. Why not say, the Haiku student asked,

salmon leap through to get upstream

and Bobby entered the fray:
You’d have to make the reader see the falls,
the fish ladders the salmon climb
and what’s at the end, where they spawn.

Floyce Alexander said, Squish
is the sound of making mud
between bare toes after a rain.
Bobby added, You don’t hear salmon,
you see them, you hear the waterfall roar.

(19 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Original Autopsy


Melindra called: they agreed on when to pick him up at the New Congress.
She seemed surprised he was still living there. Full time now, she asked?
The night approached when Bobby told Rosemary he would be gone awhile.
She didn’t ask where or how long. She said she would be at her place.
That might be the last time he saw her. Or so he felt in his wary bones
his life went. Maybe it was all a circle. Like the wheel of life, as some said,
you die and come around again: who knows what you will be, or why . . .


His first love was Cathleen, as Irene was for Floyce Alexander, that hayseed.
Cathleen was somewhere in the world of fashion, her head above the water,
Venice, Rome, Paris, Berlin, London, to and from San Francisco: everywhere.
Irene Castenada was lost to the farmboy with his chalaqui y mejicano claims.
If Floyce was all that, why wasn’t he with her now? He was just like Bobby,
a class traitor, a poor boy who didn’t look after his own, just another stoolie
for secrets deposited in poems or prose and called stories when all they were
were what the people would call lies if they didn’t know they were the truth.


That was where he was, but was he anywhere? He was still in love with Paula.
So what? She’d never live with him again, he was lucky they were friends.
What did Cathleen feel in her heart for him? Was Earlene happy, her son alive
as fully as he hoped? Where was Connie, in whose bed now? What of the lives
he could not name now? Melindra still cared what happened. But did he care?
The night came. The last set over, Christina blew him a kiss. Melindra waited.


When you’re out in the dark and go someplace you feel you don't belong, why
do you weep when you remember, say, Rebecca going backward into the lake,
Katya suddenly appearing between sets in that hotel way out in San Angel?
Why are you sad when you were so happy when it happened and now grieve
as though someone died? When Rebecca did die her weight pulled you down,
you drowned whatever you were, had ever been, would ever be in spite of all
happiness left to surprise you: Paula loved, Katya loved; you were well loved.

(revision:18 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Preliminary Accounting

Melindra called: they agreed on when to pick him up at the New Congress.
She seemed surprised he was still living there. Full time now, she asked?
The night approached when Bobby told Rosemary he would be gone awhile.
She didn’t ask where or how long. She said she would be at her place.
That might be the last time he saw her. Or so he felt in his wary bones
his life went. Maybe it was all a circle. Like the wheel of life, as some said,
you die and come around again: who knows what you will be, or why . . .

His first love was Cathleen, as Irene was for Floyce Alexander, that hayseed.
Cathleen was somewhere in the world of fashion, her head above the water,
Venice, Rome, Paris, Berlin, London, to and from San Francisco: everywhere.
Irene Castenada was lost to the farmboy with his chalaqui y mejicano claims.
If Floyce was all that, why wasn’t he with her now? He was just like Bobby,
a class traitor, a poor boy who didn’t look after his own, just another stoolie
for secrets deposited in poems or prose and called stories when all they were
were what the people would call lies if they didn’t know they were the truth.

That was where he was, but was he anywhere? He was still in love with Paula.
So what? She'd never live with him again, he was lucky they were friends.
What did Cathleen feel in her heart for him? Was Earlene happy, her son alive
as fully as he hoped? Where was Connie, in whose bed now? What of the lives
he could not name now? Melindra still cared what happened. But did he care?
The night came. The last set over, Christina blew him a kiss. Melindra waited.

(18 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, September 17, 2012


Rose was beautiful, Rosemary said, scar and all.
Rose was singing All of Me and Bobby remarked
she never failed to sound like Billie Holiday.
Rose’s scar did not mar her beauty though
Billie’s were all inside. So were Paula’s,
though her body’s faint tracks led straight to hell
if her beautiful feet followed her there.

Sanchez had canceled tonight’s performance.
He was out with Huerfano copping shit.
So Clark said stopping by the New Congress
to pick up Paula. Bobby took Rosemary by
Doug and Myra’s place to see how they were doing.
DG said she was in the hospital.
Bleeding that wouldn’t stop at home. He smoked
a j and passed it around. He was down,
as down as Bobby had ever seen him.
Bobby tried to talk him into coming
to hear Rose and Dave, living apart now
but near perfectly synchronized on stage.
Doug had to be home should he get a call.

They stayed to hear the entire set. Rose came over
and met Rosemary. Rose wanted to know
what happened to his face. He lied. He joked,
Like I told Rosemary, this woman beat me up
with her umbrella. I had gone too far,
too drunk to hear myself before it was too late.
On the street Rosemary said, Don’t worry,
honey, you will make a beautiful corpse.
He thought that was pretty goddam funny.
They went to her place where they fucked and slept.

(17 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Bobby didn’t give a shit if he wrote today or tonight,
or at all. He went to Manning’s to call Melindra
to ask her if she would help him bandage his broken face.
She wasn’t home, so he went to the hospital.
Someone asked if he had insurance, he said no and left.
They called after him, the women behind the plate glass.
It was only plastic, he knew, but he wasn’t protected
by insurance, so why give a shit? He went to Aggie’s.
He sat in a booth drinking coffee, looking at the street
to see if anyone he knew passed by. There was no one.
He decided to hitch downtown, he was tired of walking.
He was fucked out, if the truth be known, he told himself.
No one stopped. He walked all the way to the New Congress,
where Rosemary was sleeping in La Iglesia de La Puta.
She was playing bluegrass on his phonograph. Her body
curled into her lap. She’s really very pretty, he thought
to tell her. They went out for a bite, they could sleep
at her place tonight. First, she said, let’s fix that face.
So he looked out at the cars traveling Alaskan Way
while she cleaned and dressed cuts to head off scars.

(16 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Huerfano II

"The role of the artist is exactly the same role, I think, as the role of the lover. If you love somebody, you honor at least two necessities at once. One of them is to recognize something very dangerous, or very difficult. Many people cannot recognize it at all, that you may also be loved; love is like a mirror. In any case, if you do love somebody, you honor the necessity endlessly, and being at the mercy of that love, you try to correct the person whom you love. Now, that’s a two way street. You’ve also got to be corrected. As I said, the people produce the artist, and it’s true. The artist also produces the people. And that’s a very violent and terrifying act of love. The role of the artist and the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see. Insofar as that is true, in that effort, I become conscious of the things that I don’t see. And I will not see without you, and vice versa, you will not see without me. No one wants to see more than he sees. You have to be driven to see what you see. The only way you can get through it is to accept that two-way street which I call love. You can call it a poem, you can call it whatever you like. That’s how people grow up. An artist is here not to give you answers but to ask you questions" [italics added]."

–"The Black Scholar Interviews James Baldwin," The Black Scholar 5 (December 1973-January 1974), pp. 33-42

My god, Marge, you have to know you did what you could.
What did I do, Bobby? Give him sex? What’s that worth?
He tells her that’s not what he meant. He think to himself
she tried to reverse what the nun did to him, dispel grief,
his grief, with her coarse yet pitying, even worshiping, loving way.
She says she wanted to make love to him and wanted him to love her.
In her world, she said, men and women no longer made love with.

Huerfano came home, found them in bed, and said, Don’t bother,
and walked out. Marge said he must be pissed. Bobby said, Sure is.
Marge grabbed his penis, he pulled away, put on trousers and shirt
and followed Jim down the street to Ravenna Park. Jim hit him, he fell.
He got up and Jim hit him again. He got up a third time and Jim hit him
a third time. Jim said, She may have said Oh, it’s OK, Jim won’t be home
for a day or so, but it’s not OK, I don’t say anything when she fucks you
somewhere else, but hell, I don’t like it, it’s just that she’s suffered too much
having our daughter taken away, doing time in prison like me, facing the rest
of her life turning tricks to make a living when my inheritance will be used up soon.

Bobby tells Jim he was talking with her about Gerry. Beasley? Jim says in disbelief. She blew Beasley and forced him to fuck her, but that was nothing more than the nun did to him. I don’t know why she even bothered. She may even have helped Beasley die, for all I know. She didn’t come home for a week and when she did all she could talk about was Hamlet, what Beasley told her about his version of Shakespeare’s Danish play, I like to call it, and there she learned Denmark was the Wild West, there were black people there and Beasley was talking about something other than patricide, he was saying his father’s ghost was around when he arrived home to tell him the master of the plantation had murdered him to have his way with your mother . . . How does a young black man revenge himself on the white master? Gerry always talked in this baritone voice and measured his words precisely.

Bobby said he asked her since you weren’t home, and it all came to this, her demonstrating on me what happened when she was with Beasley. Jim said he knew all that; why didn’t you ask me when I got home? I was putting in my time in jail, and with the help of my lawyer getting off a drug charge–someone must have smuggled a lid into my pocket because when the cops stopped me, it was there, and the only thing that saved me from going back to stir was they arrested the guy later for possession and for some reason, I don’t know why, he confessed he’d tried to unload all his shit on me . . . You could have waited and I’d tell you the rest of it. Hamlet was named for the Shakespeare play, his father knew how to read and now all you hear is how Frederick Douglass was the only slave lucky enough to learn to read. Maybe Beasley was modeling his Hamlet on Douglass, he never said, I just liked to hear Gerry talk, he went at it so smoothly, clearly, driving the words into the air like jackhammers . . .

Hamlet returns to save his mother from her owner, he comes home white,
that’s the part that knocks me out, Gerry took John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me and reversed the process! Then Hamlet’s years in the North as a fugitive slave came to an end. He smuggled himself back and it was when his Ophelia commits suicide that Gerry said, I need to finish it before I die but I don’t know why Ophelia drowned herself in the bayou waters, I don’t know why she’d do that if she didn’t believe Hamlet was not who he was. Bobby took fresh grass with rain or dew clinging to the blades and wiped the blood off. Jim said, Let’s go back and I’ll take Marge to the Viceroy for dinner and apologize, she’s a good woman, for me, and I don’t want to lose her, and you’re welcome to come. Bobby bowed out.

(15 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Nun, the Preacher

Bobby had no heart to go on.
He drank, smoked dope, contemplated needles.
His old habit of writing at night stopped.
He blew off all but work. And Marge blew him.

Was age catching up and swallowing all
that gave him what he required to live well,
namely, language, the currents of the mind
spilling over and into the body.

Between acts of pleasure, in the bedroom
of their ongoing tryst, she filled him in
on Beasley, what he’d confided in her,
following no tangents pondering why.

I was a good Catholic kid, he said,
from a Negro neighborhood. I mean Black,
he would add self-consciously, then go on
to plot the tale of the nun who raped him.

Sister Mercedes was white as a ghost,
he’d say, chuckling under his breath, and add,
She cried out, Fuck me, Gerry, fill me up
and free me from the ungodly white race!

Bobby didn’t laugh when Marge said she laughed.
Bobby found it more than plausible Catholic
sisters would wonder why God made men black
if not to embody the Gospels’ words.

Marge said she told Gerry she was no nun
"but God didn’t put me in my body
to masturbate, I’d rather fuck than feel
self-righteous, I was born a Catholic . . ."

Bobby was not surprised: Could anything
she or anyone down here said move him?
You only get surprised if you’re naive–
but she didn’t give him time to say so.

When their eyes blinked together in daylight
eating dinner at Manning’s on the Ave.,
Bobby started talking about murder
in Selma, the death of Viola Liuzzo.

I had a photographer friend from school
had his way paid to Selma by his church
to bring back what he saw. He met Martin
Luther King, the man who lived the gospels.

(14 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kafka's "Theatre of Oklahoma"

                                                                  to Paula

          Nothing that we love over-much
          Is ponderable to our touch.
                                              W. B. Yeats

The frozen sea inside melts as love
re-enters your eyes through your mother Joy,
your retired-navy father, your sister–your husband
the horn man thawing your heart playing his solo.

I loved your need to be free, I drove you away.
Cathleen took me to her home and turned me human.

Kafka wielded an axe, you see what he found:
Joseph K. executed in a quarry;
kept out of the castle, K’s hired as janitor
provided he gives up his art.
In Amerika Karl rides the train to find
Nature Theatre in Oklahoma.

In this tragedy, Pearl Taylor of Tahlequah
is born, marries, and dies in under thirty years.
Pearl’s daughter names my father for her true father
Manuel Romain, who loved Pearl after he played
Spanish guitar and sang songs for at least an hour.
Below their room little Effie looked after his horse.

What’s not forgotten lies in the letters you keep:
As our crow nests in tall grass, you leave, I follow . . .
I lived south of your Oregon: your eyes, your wit,
your laughter, your music, your walk like a sailor’s.

(13 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


Wednesday, September 12, 2012



Woe assailed with a razored blade
The dark soul carbons its white edge

You ride the wheel in the backyard
Whadyathinkthatmeans, Bosque

Say nothing I don’t know in spades
Aces up your sleeve down your arm

I like to say what worries me
on days the wind blows the sun shines


Another story with no ending that begins. Tell that one. You have nothing else to do but pray. The Priest requests you confess your sins against the Church. God can take care of Himself and His Son has a room of His own: yes, His Everyman, name and all His pronouns incarnate in capitals. Washington, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, Berlin. Now there’s no Wall, the lady Merkel hoards her money until time to save the World from crashing and O! this lean- between-the-ears gent saddles You Tube’s horse, Moslems see him coming, Libya explodes, Cairo goes crazy, digital civilization is bemoaned, the moon’s misbegotten, so bright you can see the plains flooding from far off, the Saved raiding ships, pirates of the heart, the Everdamned.


I go see the land rise and fall
I have nothing to say today
I see you naked in my sleep
I am amazed you share my bed
I fan the nipples of your breasts
I kiss the lips between your thighs
I come through the door of this life
I go catch a boat downriver

(12 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Leave Them to Their Sleep

Miranda.                                                       O, wonder!
              How many goodly creatures are there here!
              How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
              That has such people in’t!
Prospero.                                             ’Tis new to thee.


Her nails are lacquered, I am moved. Who else
comes around to her door ordinary
in bare skin?

Do you dare bank your fires in my boudoir?
Come here, baby, give deep suck to my life
so I may move with you and where we wish.

The door closes. The intercom shut off,
the room that is her sole home goes quiet.
Laughter and blood’s shiver thread their bodies!


Papa has a wand, its voice fills her air.
This is her hour of memory.
What he conjures he conceals, then reveals

her bare feet tracking over the ship’s deck
come to the island of giddy old souls
and wise to the wickedness of lovers

who have no courage so do not love her
as she would them, and they are not for her.
Papa smiles upon her from his heaven.


This image gently haunts my aging mind.
I tell her I love her and will always
be here where she may reach me in distress.

The uncommon has become uncommon,
truth no longer separate from fiction.
Throw your life on the ashes, stir to flame.

I am not unhappy, Mama declares,
I am simply weary in my body,
but enough! you wake my soul! Is it yours?

(11 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander


Monday, September 10, 2012

Inextinguishable Need


                                                                Has a new master.

To need nothing,
own nothing.
They who have nothing
have nothing to lose.
They who have everything are lost.
Nothing of value is lost.

Wind blows across the plains,
through trees on the horizon
that must be felled
so fog may lift from the fields,
where you saw nothing
before the felling.


                                                                                                Get a new man!

Small measures of value feed
your Inextinguishable Need
for Mercy,
your story.
Take care
of your spirit, your gimp. Don’t go dull
on us. The sun sets. Sunrise
after dawn’s tentacles cover
the moon. Here are trees that stand
somehow. Make it to the forest. Settle
where no safety is,
nor need for Prospero’s wand.

(10 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Simplex, Complex. Order an upstairs douche
with full bidet privileges, can’t you?
We were having a last drink together
before our last night in bed in Uptown,
sitting on the mezzanine, taking our time.
I danced with her when she so loved Byron’s
"She Walks in Beauty" and taught it to me
until nothing else about her got through
but the way she cast a line to hook me
or failing, I was sorry for my fish
so frantic to leave the shore and get back.
Margarita for her, Jax Beer for me.
The man on the phone thought I was kidding
though he offered to call around for us.
At the door to the car she offered me
nothing, neither a ride nor a Good Night.
I was left having to start all over.
Some red circle began turning, squealing.
When she got back my wrists were in handcuffs.
Bail made, she drove me Downtown, fucked me dry.

(9 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Now I grasp seaweed around my neck
in my sleep.
The bottom is taking me back.
If I were to wake . . .

Arc de Triomphe, city of walkers,
Seine below the bridge,
valor's undertow.
The wall falls, there is the old world again.
Do you
believe snow falls in the north
while she dons a bikini in the south?
I am not myself.

Young, I believed the world would be won
for my father
who is long dead. My mother no longer
mourns. Now who mourns her?
I remember her last advice:
Raise hell, my bairn, or there will be no
heaven on earth.

You see the sky and you hear trees fall
Paris, Berlin, Odessa.
The great city of my youth, Mexico, D. F.,
city I loved more than any other.
I speak but no one hears,
I am no one now.

The lake of flowers shimmers like joy
in the lingering voices
I hear so many places I can’t count
in my sleep.

(8 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, September 6, 2012


                                                                      to Karen Lee Clarke

I could no longer write of what’s closest,
only of the far away country.
There is an end to our days we imagine.
I would never know the language of death,
I want this life to go on. I need
her love to last–shall I say forever?
And yet the mark is on the wall, nihil
and its sad lies, the end of joy.
I will not fail your troth. Nor mine. I love
as always not one but many.
I walk again. The pleasure of the earth
a foot trods, now one before the other
falls true. My friends are all dead or dying.
The mind can not be so wise as the heart.
How can I imagine love many years
after, why do I wish to go far back
for one day when all my life is lived here
with the gypsy, the woman of music
in her fingers caressing black and white
piano keys creating sound that lifts
this body high as the dais to sing.

(6 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

True Blues

                                                           Psalm 191

                            Three days in the deep I searched for my heart.
                            The way was without detours. Surely
                            Something wants to discourage me
                            From intimacy. Am I going through something
                            Or is something going through me.
                            My appointment to suffer is canceled.
                            Im smelted and snapped.
                            My priorities once again cause me to rely on the joy
                            Of the scourge. I cast my torment on the fire.
                            Once again, the tape and the title are one.

                             --from False Prophet, by Stan Rice (1942-2002)

                             "For a long time he stood there against the dim light from
                              Divisadero Street and the passing beams of traffic."

                               --from Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)

Berkeley, 1972:

We were sitting on his balcony, second floor, Something Apartments,
and his little girl was playing beyond the stack of pages
with poetry on them, something about Jack Kerouac
we never discussed, I never read, he reminded me nothing of, as I say
in the West, its northern part anyway. And let me tell you
the little girl was a smaller version of her mother, electric with life
like the woman behind the closed door of her room
writing. He drank. I drank. I read. He read. We each had elegiac
apostrophes to the noblest human being of our day
gunned down in Memphis taking a breath of air on a motel balcony.
My new friend turned to me and said, She’s going to die soon . . .
God damn, she’s all I have, really, all we ever needed.
She skipped through the living room behind the open sliding-glass door.
Michele, he said . . . She came to him and he kissed her and held her
and I was drunk enough to cry at a moment like this, but took a drink
to scotch my tears. Her mother emerged to feed us potato soup
New Orleans style . . . Ever after I wondered was she working on,
or toward a novel that day? The novel? The one published not long
after Michele’s death. I returned the next year: I called, he invited us
over, Karen Lee and I, driving across country. You do get around,
living in Massachusetts now, west of Boston, north of Dallas, he joked.
His wife was out. It was night. Michele had died between my two visits,
leukemia reaping her future. Her mother was excavating Divisadero.
Archaeologist of the dead. They came up out of the swarming earth,
yet she knew the cartography of the penniless carpenter's apprentice
who walked everywhere and raised his own dead. A book of poetry,
their daughter’s face on the cover, was wholly devoted to her brief life
till death, and a mutual friend home from France published the book,
and many years later Karen Lee was going back to New Orleans
on a business trip and I was tagging along to visit him in his new home
in the Garden District, where I never saw inside, and not then either:
brain cancer killed him after many brave books, and I stayed home.

                                 dedicated to Anne and their son Christopher

(5-6 September 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Les Projets / Projects

Charles Baudelaire

He was saying to himself, as he walked through a large, lonely park: "How lovely she would be in an elaborate, ostentatious court costume, descending, in the ambience of a beautiful evening, the marble staircase of a palace facing broad lawns and ponds! For she has the natural manner of a princess."
     Later, walking along a street, he stopped at a print shop where, in a portfolio, he found an engraving of a tropical landscape, and he said to himself: "No! I don’t want to possess her darling life in a palace. We’d never feel at home there. Besides, on the gold-spangled walls there would be no space to hang her picture; and in those solemn galleries there are no nooks for intimacy. Decidedly, it’s over there that I must go and cultivate life’s dream."
     And, while his eyes analyzed the details of the print, he went on thinking: "On the seashore, a lovely log cabin, surrounded by strange, shining trees, I forget their names . . . in the air, a heady, indefinable aroma . . . and in the cabana, a powerful perfume of rose and musk . . . and further on, behind our little home, the tips of masts swaying on the waves . . . around us, the room, illuminated by a rose light softened by shutters, decorated with cool matting and exciting flowers, with unusual chairs in rococo Portuguese, of hard, dark wood (where she will recline, so calm, well-fanned, smoking lightly opiumed tobacco!), and on the veranda, the racket of birds drunk with light, and the chattering of small black girls . . . and at night, accompanying my dreams, the plaintive singing of the music trees and the melancholy filaos! Yes, that really is the scene I’m looking for. What would I do with a palace?"
     And further on, as he followed a wide avenue, he saw a neat little inn where, at a window, cheerful with curtains of rainbow calico, two laughing faces were leaning out. And suddenly: "I must think–he said to himself–that I am a tremendous vagabond to go searching so far for what’s so near. Pleasure and happiness are at the first inn come upon by chance, an inn abundant with voluptuous delights. A huge fire, bright crockery, a passable meal, a rough wine, and a very large bed with sheets a little coarse but clean; what could be better?"
     And then returning home alone at an hour when the counsels of Wisdom are not silenced by the clamor of the outside world, he told himself: "Today I have seen, as in a dream, three domiciles, all equally pleasing. Why compel my body to change its place, when my soul travels so easily? Why carry out such projects, when the project itself is sufficient pleasure?"

–translated by William H. Crosby

* * * * *
Il se disait, en se promenant dans un grand parc solitaire: "Comme elle serait belle dans un costume de cour, complique et fastueux, descendant, a travers l’atmosphere d’un beau soir, les degres de marbre d’un palais, en face des grandes pelouses et des bassins! Car elle a naturellement l’air d’une princesse."
     En passant plus tard dans une rue, il s’arreta devant une boutique de gravures, et, trouvant dans un carton une estampe representant un paysage tropical, il se dit: "Non! Ce n’est pas dans un palais que je voudrais posseder sa chere vie. Nous n’y serions pas chez nous. D’ailleurs ces murs cribles d’or ne laisseraient pas une place pour accrocher son image; dans ces solennelles galeries, il n’y a pas un coin pour l’intimite. Decidement, c’est la qu’il faudrait demeurer pour cultiver le reve de ma vie."
     Et, tout en analysant des yeux les details de la gravure, il continuait mentalement: "Au bord de la mer, une belle case en bois, enveloppee de tous ces arbres bizarres et luisants dont j’ai oublie les noms. . . . , dans l’atmosphere, une odeur enivrante, indefinissable. . . . , dans la case un puissant parfum de rose et de musc. . . . , plus loin, derriere notre petit domaine, des bouts de mats balances par la houle. . . . , autour de nous, au-dela de la chambre eclairee d’une lumiere rose tamisee par les stores, decoree de nattes fraiches et de fleurs capiteuses, avec de rares sieges d’un rococo portugais, d’un bois lourd et tenebreux (ou elle reposerait si calme, si bien eventee, fumant le tabac legerement opiace!), au-dela de la varangue, le tapage des oiseaux ivres de lumiere, et le jacassement des petites negresses. . . . , et, la nuit, pour servir d’accompagnement a mes songes, le chant plaintif des arbres a musique, des melancoliques filaos! Oui, en verite, c’est bien la le decor que je cherchais. Qu’ai-je a faire de palais?"
     Et plus loin, comme il suivait une grande avenue, il apercut une auberge proprette, ou d’une fenetre egayee par des rideaux d’indienne bariolee se penchaient deux tetes rieuses. Et tout de suite: "Il faut,–se dit-il,–que ma pensee soit une grande vagabonde pour aller chercher si loin ce qui est si pres de moi. Le plaisir et le bonheur sont dans la premiere auberge venue, dans l’auberge de hasard, si feconde en voluptes. Un grand feu, des faiences voyantes, un souper passable, un vin rude, et un lit tres large avec des draps un peu apres, mais frais; quoi de mieux?"
     Et en rentrant seul chez lui, a cette heure ou les conseils de la Sagesse ne sont plus etouffes par les bourdonnements de la vie exterieure, il se dit: "J’ai eu aujourd’hui, en reve, trois domiciles ou j’ai trouve un egal plaisir. Pourquoi contraindre mon corps a changer de place, puisque mon ame voyage si lestement? Et a quoi bon executer des projets, puisque le projet est en lui-meme une jouissance suffisante?"

–from THE FLOWERS OF EVIL & PARIS SPLEEN: POEMS BY CHARLES BAUDELAIRE, translated by William H. Crosby (BOA Editions, 1991)