Wednesday, November 14, 2012
There’s gonna be a reckoning unlike any,
his sister Ellen told him on the telephone.
She was staying the weekend: I just got
here. Floyce knew she would have her Bible out.
He talked with Manuel, then Lorene. He decided
against staying, unless he could sleep with Irene,
so he asked. She turned to her father. In Spanish
she asked, her father turned to her mother,
who said she would warm up enchiladas
in the oven and the four of them eat
before sleeping. He had been here all day,
in this house too small for two, much less four.
He heard cars pass by occasionally
on the highway that had been here only briefly.
Thirty miles east was the Columbia
where the ferry took your car across the river,
to the sagebrush plain, desolate as here.
He was going the other way. For him, water
was what ran by his house when he was here,
Lateral A, irrigation water.
The adopted son of the ancient Dutch
couple across the ditch–as it was known–
built a raft one summer that would not fit
between the ditch banks so he swam instead
or tried to, it was too shallow, still too narrow.
The kid was daft, the word would be,
perhaps a doctor would call him crazy.
The old man died, his widow depended
on the kid, who was now a grown man, mad
as a March hare, but the old lady kept working
insisting he stay by her, working too.
That was one of many reasons he lived
far away, the idiocy of his youth
on that gravel road made him happy to be gone.
There was the grown man up the road
who stopped to warn, The police are following me,
before turning and going back where he came from,
whereupon one vine was pruned before another,
spring work that to get done started in late winter.
His father said he was not feeling well.
He had been pruning the grape arbor when he fell
from his ladder to the patio’s concrete floor.
His father drew a black lung pension now.
He retired but still lived in his garage
except to eat, watch TV, and sleep. He was first
to rise. He sat over coffee with a pencil
and small pad of paper calculating money,
what he needed to spend, on what and why,
sometimes writing in his scrawled hand
what only he could read. He was like his mother
Drusilla: her hand was legible, her language
less so. Floyce used to wonder if she knew
the Cherokee syllabary, and just enough
to mesh the sounds of those symbols
in her mind with English, making a third
species of language. She was called illiterate.
He needed to go South and talk with her.
She had always talked with him. She was like
his second mother. She had always been
that close, since he walked across the pasture
alone, and he was still learning to walk,
his mother would shoo him out of the house,
she knew where he would go, and there she found
Drusilla teaching him how to do what she did,
hauling a pail full of drinking water
up from her stone well out on her back porch,
or churning butter, making biscuits, frying eggs
for him to eat with fresh butter on fresh biscuits.
In the full darkness Irene moved to him
and he did with her what no one else did
with either of them, at least not for now.
He had hoped to make a baby with her.
Her tongue slid inside his mouth and his hers.
She was already wet between her legs.
He moved his tongue there, to her second mouth.
She held his head close arching her hips high.
His tongue made circles with tributaries
forming from the river between his teeth.
He wondered, Was she his boat or he hers?
They were both navigating deep water.
(14 November 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander