The black guy across the table was Tony
who he’d last seen over Chinese in Chinatown.
It felt like many years ago but for Bobby
days crawled now where once they ran fleetfooted.
The woman’s name was Lydia Gonzales.
He asked her if she’d care to cross
la calle para café en Aggie’s.
She said, I learned English before Spanish . . .
It’s native, hermano, a mi alma.
He said, I don’t know Spanish or even English
well enough to fool any living body.
It’s all I can to write what I think I know.
Lydia said she was falling in love with Tony.
Just like that, she said it.
Bobby said, Oh, I was hoping it was me.
She smiled and reached toward his hand.
Next day he made a call to the fading number
on the fading paper torn to write it down
so long ago in the psychiatric ward.
He told Tony Lydia said nice things of him.
Next thing he knew Tony and Lydia smiled
across the table. Sitting together, black
and white–that’s what she was in the census–
was not to be their way. They chose privacy.
When Professor Dave asked if he could stay,
Bobby said he could if he had a scholarship
like the old days. Dave said Bobby had played
a bottom card. Stop coming, you flunk out,
Bobby, they’d say pay your own way now
and work your way back in, take courses,
get your gradepoint up. When and if you do,
don’t stop showing up with your homework.
Bobby chuckled. He should defy the masters
of civilized Western thought? He’d keep coming
until Dave put the cabash to him, then he’d bring
stories the higher-ups could read if they would..
Bobby actually thought that might be the ticket.
Little did he know. The boys in the upper room
were like Ripley and his white-coated conferees
above the ward. What they said was final, kaputt.
(II: 15 December 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander