To be in Tom Taylor’s mind was to share
the cultures of his mother and father,
Matilda the Scots, John the Cherokee,
both full blood, both determined to survive,
and only Tom’s sisters, their daughters Pearl
and Doll were vulnerable, to the brothers Clifft,
Frank and Jeff, a wastrel and a farmer,
as father John farmed outside Tahlequah.
Pearl was too young when Drusilla was born.
She should have danced more, found her own body’s
delight in the arms of more than one man
before she was abandoned but harassed
by her daughter’s father, a drunken whoremonger
who insisted he see Drusilla when he wished,
and the knock on the door announced his arrival,
invariably on Saturday or Sunday.
Across the pasture, beyond the horses,
Pearl could see her sister’s place. Jeff came by
when Frank was there. Doll brought along their son
Tom, named after his uncle and like his mother
looking more Irish than his aunt was Scots,
so his uncle Frank liked to say to Drusilla,
who did not understand but never asked
her father to talk, and when Drusilla
was old enough Pearl took her off to hear
the music and see the man on the horse.
Manuel Romain was a few years older.
Pearl was old enough to live her own life.
She took Drusilla with her when he came
to one of the nearby towns. He saw her one day
looking his way and invited her to supper.
They strolled Van Buren. Drusilla walked with
her mother. They walked down to the river.
Manuel kissed Pearl on one cheek, then her lips.
Drusilla somehow knew what all that meant.
She stayed in the hotel lobby playing, waiting.
Tom Taylor stayed in Fort Smith. He had his own suit
to make, a swarthy woman with black hair
whom he hired to tend bar in the saloon
with his name outside carved in the cement,
the wooden, unpainted Indian by the door.
That way, Tom revealed without speech his need
to be one among the wealthy,
no matter his feelings or what he remembered
his father had told him of the old days,
the ancestry of people uprooted.
Her name was Lily. He had to work hard
to discover how to make her love him.
Tom was not to be discouraged.
He pressed his suit relentlessly . . .
(10 October 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander