Screens. Only the door in the wall
and what’s on the other side
lets no air come through.
It’s the night fills the lungs and brings on dreams
that are not dreams but memories.
And I remember nothing when I wake.
There’s no porch back here.
It’s all backyard and beyond the garage
where the shower is and its smell of rain,
the pasture leads to the pine woods
on whose edge she sleeps,
my second mother.
The woods keep her alive. Fireflies dancing.
No-see-’ems in the high grass, crickets in the trees.
I woke to her dream: She’s always walking
or in her rocking chair, or pulling up
the pail full of well water or making biscuits,
and where does she go
–I don’t know.
When I wake I’m in the woods, I’m full grown,
she’s leading me by the hand into dark
places I could never see without her.
I can call her Drusilla now I’m tall,
but not Grandma, which makes her feel too small,
she gave birth to six boys, three girls, and one of me.
She never calls me Grandson. Why should she?
Her mother died giving her a brother
stillborn, dead too soon to be named.
She dwells a long time looking for their grave,
and it is a closed house with no windows
and only earth for walls.
I don’t know where she’s leading me.
I don’t even want to know. I want out
so I go. She follows. She wants me back.
All the feathery world is asleep now.
I steal a wing here, a wing there, I fly
but where are my feet?
They look like claws. I want to hear baseball
on the St. Louis radio, the Cardinals’
scrappy Red Schoendienst hammering a pitch
to get on and Stan the Man with his swing
unleashing the bat from his body’s coil
and sending the winning run home.
That’s how I went to sleep. The close air. The crickets.
The eyes closed to the animated, fiery pine
no one walks through who isn’t dead.
How many times do you wake in one life?
How many souls are there? What is a soul?
Why not call them people? Call her Alma,
and she corrects you: Drusilla, honey, Alma
is nobody’s mother, she’s all she has.
And that’s how she finds the door that leads out to rain.
It comes through the screen windows when wind blows.
I could go out there now but who is home
who is not asleep or at rest . . .
It is those I’ve never seen I look for.
Alma was her grandmother, who had no white name.
Just the dark cry of betrayal
following the end of a way of life
and Drusilla taking my hand again
now that it clasps hers
and wants to show me Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Yes, if there were time,
if where you want to go had the marks on paper
proving you were who you are, but how can I know
the past when the present is all there is . . .
Yes, Grandma, Drusilla, Second Mother,
Love of Life that Ends and Death that Begins
the End of Love . . . keep walking, keep working,
keep watching for those who have lost their names.
(14 October 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander