This city would give him balm yet never
take her place. On University Ave
he found Louie’s Smoke Shop and learned to smoke
Havana Tampa cigars, Florida’s Cuba
a year before los barbudos’ revolution.
Saturdays he sat in the stadium and smoked,
seeing himself doing what he saw others do,
though he did not miss football anymore.
When Irene came he took her to a game
but refrained from the cigars. They made love
in his apartment on Forty-fifth Street,
a one-way not far from Parrington Hall,
where he learned more about literature.
Not far away, in the school of journalism
he practiced writing in the inverse triangle,
the lead followed by a gradual slope
to the end, the way busy people read
riding to work in the mornings. Downtown
no one made time for poems or novels.
They talked over drinks after work. At home
they drank with their wives, welcoming the time
free of children, asleep. They read in bed.
The best-seller Peyton Place was now a movie.
No one read poetry, no one heard poets read.
He read his verse to Irene, then they loved
and talked until sleeping. She went with him
everywhere except the newswriting hour.
That quarter he was learning to write plays,
reading O’Neill. She loved the teacher’s looks,
she confessed, and he joked, You have good taste.
She still worked at the drugstore and the restaurant,
though he begged her to move to Seattle
and live with him. She wanted to, she said,
but her father and mother could no longer work,
she was all they had to keep them alive.
She owed them that for the gift of her life,
that much at least. No, she would not marry,
nor should he. They had too much to do now.
He said, Move to the city and live with me, then.
You can send them all the money you make,
I will drive you over the mountains to see them.
He begged. She refused. Cash in your ticket,
he said, I’ll drive you back home over the weekend.
They went to the Greyhound and got her money back.
(12 November 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander