Thursday, May 31, 2012


I would have been a young man at your birth.
From the start we were seven hours apart.
Lovely-loving-love, I was of an age
to be your father. Considering my good luck,
I do not pity this aging body,
though I crave to know where and when I am going.

I am a happy man whose Black Irish beauty’s
chiseled body loved me near half a century.
She has made love truly a work of art
give or take more than one failure,
an overload of desire, and no excuses . . .
How could I excuse what I failed to do?

If it were not for your golden pussy,
I’d settle for being a full-grown man
whose forever young gypsy wife opens
her legs and her black-haired thighs to his cock in rut . . .

That may be how love is made all century long
everywhere. In America no one is wilder
than you roaming your chameleon shores.
If I were home when you knocked on my door,
and the war was over, I would answer:
At first love slowly, then furiously.
–St. Anonymous,
in the month of May, year of our Lord 2012

(copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sugar Blues

Why don’t she act right?

Why don’t he do right?

Where they going if not wrong?

Up there’s the three-cornered shelf
we put each other on, broken shelf
hanging in the dusk by a thread,
O sugar, don’t give me up for dead

Go out of a morning to cut the cane,
to thin the trees, pitch the hay high,
do a day’s work for a dollar’s pay,
bring it all home under the moon.

Feel my body fit itself around you,
climb up here, go down all the way
to the bottom, you can find me
where I been waiting all day.

O woman, you see me like this,
I got to get inside to give you
sugar with a little salt for taste
to bring out what’s sweet in you.

Where you gonna be tomorrow?

Where will you be going today?

Why do we begin and end with a song?

(21, 30 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Original Crime

I have a long way to go
and no time.
You would have to know
my itinerary,
original crime.
There’s a book for that
Pages with no lines
in their palms
or under the sky,
nothing in the snug coffins–
ashes with skin shredded
on charred bones
floating in oceans.

One wave like another
and each as old as the bone
that stove in a father’s head
before the Chinese
produced gunpowder.
By this daddy’s time
bullets were efficient,
clubs be damned:
you were dead
when you stayed dead,
no more resurrections
or prayers in absentio.
No more credos
promising or believing

justice bound to come
around the corner,
for nothing comes
out of something,
heads rolling,
the sentence announced
once the widowed family
gets through its sullen
Did you see their rings,
all on the same fingers?
God said the Devil
would ride us down
into oblivion’s claws.

For now and forever
forget what you want,
be glad if you get
nothing. No father’s
death is worth your own,
or so say those
from whom flesh takes
its original shape.
I came of age in silence.
How could I say speech
was the cure
when all I heard
were empty words:
Spite and venom, hate.

Let love care for those
who pay the bills,
we can hunt the bush
for jackrabbits
and wild boar.
Hope there’s meat where
the fat boils off
the bone.
When the preacher goes,
the widow gathers
her orphaning children
to hold them to her.
Six sons, three daughters
sharing one mother

until the twin girls die,
the final spawn:
one named Lahoma
for the red land
their ancestry shares
with those who are
much more the other
than they; Beulah
named for the land’s
Golden Age, maybe
even eternity,
if that’s another name
for the sea above,
the clouds below . . .

(20, 30 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Traveling Through

                                                                                for Katya, in transit

Indiscriminate life
is no journey anywhere,
the round trip was scheduled long

Eagle fanning its wings to get aloft
looks for the nest
atop a train station
. . . take me to the station

let your baby down slow,
sure, baby, slow . . .
Can I ever get back where I left
once the conductor punches my ticket

and who in this remarkable world
but you knows how to go everywhere
the blues is bought and sold
where you walk by, walk by where

I left my baby there,
was a sad cold place to leave her,
but I got no choice
to share with her my beans and rice

(19, 28 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, May 26, 2012


He is always missing from his own mind.
His large, callused, arthritic, gnarled fingers
are all that caress her love young enough
to be the dynamo of thought and speech
he knows as lover, waiting for her heart
to open.

He is always overlooking her hell
to make a cross of his own salvation.
She says her breasts are too large. Not for me,
he replies. Her legs fold around his hips
like a Chinese fan unfurling to move
the air:

I don’t know your name. You know how to change
to let your body emerge from your mind.
Having flowed a little ways, your flesh swerves,
somersaults, curves into a smile I share
once I have lifted you to know your name
is my own . . .

Say the name each day, every night as long
as clouds stretch their thin arms across the moon.
As long as he stays home to care for her,
he knows no less than others what is gift:
your love that no one can take from me now
except you

saying, I’m not coming back, eyes flashing
with her own flame, the way a fire can flare
once the ashes banked against the pit’s walls
are stirred. You knew more I than about love
lifting you from where I once started your

(19, 27 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Honolulu Is Too Small for Me,

a voice inside said. The snake’s tongue spat back,
You have no joy in your heart, she left you.
The voice ignores the tongue, the mind the soul
and nobody goes back to where they were.

Cathleen suggested a flight to Honolulu,
and high in the air they learned the currents
churning under waves, studied undertows,
and how air mixed with sun to blow softly.

Cathleen home from Paris worked her way north
to ask Bobby, Was he singing, playing,
living a good life? I’m in love, the fool,
as usual, one week of wonder lost,
said he.

She had no one but knew a truth or two:
how the world worked, its stop-or-go caprice,
unruly games of chance. Throw in your chips,
walk away. His words turned to metaphors.

Neither understood the weather forecasts.
Sanchez threw a party. Cathleen saw Clark
and they caught up on quotidian life.
Bobby went off, failed to write a poem.

Heartsick, he slept with Katya’s memory . . .
Cathleen slept with him in the bungalow.
Paul and Anna had them over. They dined,
discussing Paris, her San Francisco success.

His old love was happy, he left early,
she followed, asking, Do you want to go?
I have tickets and tourists go elsewhere
during the rainy season. I buy clothes,

I love to languish after sex, drinking champagne
on ice. Why not? Well, think it over. Why not go,
your life is running out, almost thirty
and all you do is sing and fall in love

uneasily, then write off your heart as caprice.
In the air looking down, he remembered
Joseph Conrad said the ocean could tell
the age of the earth, waves like rings on trees.

The farther out the more they looked like mud
furrowing the sea, its waves as cold as the truth:
his life on hold, her allure, their old commitment.
He stared into blackness until the plane landed.

A mack in his two-tanned oxfords looked like
what nausea in the womb would release.
Cabbies counted on the top-dollar prostitutes
to tip at least as much as the fare was.

Trade winds came with rain in the evening.
Lights on the hills above Diamond Head
and the beach of Waikiki were dwellings.
Katya said no one who lived was content to dwell.

In morning sunlight flashing off the sea,
Bobby noticed his palm contained new lines.
On the balcony he read them closely
while standing, thirteen stories up.

Cathleen slept late. The kettle drums started.
She awoke ready. He always enjoyed her,
their old love smell rich with her aroma,
her body arching to take him deeper.

Nothing to do in Honolulu rain
but nurse high-neck, nonalcoholic beer.
She stayed with seltzer. The bars were bustling.
When the week ended they went home.

Flying back seemed to take longer than the flight here.
The guy one seat up badgered his children
to sleep. Who could? Cathleen, that’s who.
When she went back home to San Francisco,

Seattle was Bobby’s again. North by northwest,
you need to study the cards with new eyes.
Consulting his calculations, he wrote
Lady Taroccha to see if his hunch was right:

He was going nowhere, I’m here to stay.
Word came that Dave was bringing Rose
back to Seattle. Mona would come too,
haunted, still tasting her habit’s sweet taint.

Black and Tan thrived; New Congress, too
Christina wanted him to live with her
and be her love full time. Bobby said sure,
stayed nights with her and days alone.

He wrote mornings, sang nights. When Rose
was home he’d go back to his reed and play
without words except those where his head was:
Henrietta Murphy, and if alive, her whereabouts.

(18, 26 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, May 25, 2012


Now I am great of girth, my teeth all gone
but two, Meniere’s disease in my head,
the axles that were my knees cannot rise
once they drop, my hips still revolving, slow
but having loved they still wield their instinct,
though I know when I die there are young men
who will stanch her grief. So I would have it
on earth as nothing in heaven will be,
and for the time left, may my sacs fountain
between her thighs and the rain walk the sky
to find oasis.

Old above my waist, I stay young below.
My voice cracks but still sings in minor key.
Her fingers redeem arthritic shoulders
that feel as though I wore a yoke to work
like oxen who can know no greater love
than to labor for mere humanity
whipping them along to plow the furrows,
for all a beast is born to do is work
and eat and sleep and breed before he dies
under sun or moon, doing what he must
to cross time’s gulf.

She knows she is only one of many
too beautiful to forget, remembered
as blessings, one at a time through the years
we roamed. These women were my beloved
teachers, images of our devotions
little pictures in the mind’s gallery,
where memory pays dues like anyone
for whom laughter was a child of kisses,
of gentle touch, each one’s gift wholly balm
where we have walked together the places
on earth we loved.

So many men and women bright with years
returning in their dreams will cross divides
to caress a new love that never fails,
a heart released from the pain a body
abides as long as quick blood flows slowly
through beast, ox, and bear. When they sleep
they will die alone, say biblical charlatans
disguised as men whose only rest is death’s
cradle. Prophets they call themselves, for whom
apocalypse is imagination
and beauty evil

–and there the manuscript ends: a sentence
with no subject, searching for the new verb
that will gather nouns to stage a concert
among those bent upon living again.
When I rock in my chair I remember
the woman who was my second mother,
my mother’s mother with her long red hair
and clear eyes and her daughter’s long legs once
her own, dancing, loving, walking, lonely
for a companion though none could replace
her brave man, rocking in her chair remembering . . .

(17, 25 May 2012)

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Sure, man, let’s go, can your sister come too?
She can. One arm around her, I sit in
the drive-in theater in my birthplace,
watching Jimmy Stewart’s Kim Novak creation
embody beauty’s mystery
just the way he wants it, in Hitchcock’s name.
The immaculate tall blonde from Stockton,
California, I met in the house on a hill
in Oklahoma, will grow into a woman,
then mother, still answering to the name
of Carol, but now she's a silver-haired doyenne
of Beacon Hill, San Francisco.
When the movie ends we must decide to stay home
or drive all the way west to start over.

(II: 17, 25 May 2012)


"Ideas are never fully realized. At times they retract, hibernating like some beasts do, waiting for the most opportune moment to reappear. Thought does not die. It only bides its time. The idea that seems dead in one time reappears in another. The spirit does not die. It moves. It duplicates. Sometimes it supplants, and even supplicates. Disappeared, it is believed to be dead. It reappears. In reality, the spirit announces its presence in every word we utter. There is not a single word that is not infused with memory and forgotten thoughts, imbued with dreams and failures. And nevertheless, there is not a single word that cannot conquer death because there is not a single word that is not the carrier of imminent renewal. The word fights death because it is inseparable from it–stealing it, announcing it, inheriting it. There is not a single word that is not the bearer of imminent resurrection. Every word we utter simultaneously announces another word that we do not yet know because we have forgotten it and another word we do not know because we desire it. The same thing happens with bodies, which are matter. All matter contains the aura of what it was before as well as the aura of what it will be after it vanishes. For that reason we live in an age that is not ours, but we are also the ghosts of an older age, as well as the foreshadowing of an age that is yet to come. Let us not lose sight of these promises that death holds."

                                                                                     –Carlos Fuentes,
                                                                                     dead at 83 in Mexico City,
                                                                                     15 May 2012.

So they are both gone now, he and Octavio Paz, the great poet first and now the great chronicler, lover of justice and beauty. El labertino de la soledad / The Labyrinth of Solitude, Paz’s indispensable essays, and La region mas transparente (translated as Where the Air Is Clear), Fuentes’s first novel, were everything to me in 1967, my first encounter with Mexico City. I found in those books the confirmation of what I had seen and sometimes only sensed inside the city itself, the first fragments of a map that I now found a part of myself. Fuentes’s Terra Nostra, a huge novel that, like The Death of Artemio Cruz, neither Mexicans nor gringos (mi, por ejemplo) are likely to forget . . . along with Distant Relations (my most recent favorite Fuentes novel)–why not list their titles? . . . A Change of Skin; Old Gringo; Diana: The Huntress Who Hunts Alone (a fictional memoir of his love affair with Jean Seberg); The Years with Laura Diaz; and the superb novella Inez, beyond which I did not reach (not yet)–mere books as well as glimpses of reality, of truth, whatever their names, the soul of a Mexico that will live in me as long as memory keeps faith with the moments that follow one after another, until the one that is suddenly the last.

(15, 24 May 2012)


He was too sauve, sophisticated for this world,
his humor mixed with his mythography,
the light of Mexico in his dark eyes
that loved so many women, knew tragic
hours attending the graves of his children,
observing the burial of the West . . .

I was Cienfuegos, journalist, reading
his novel of the region of transparent air.
I was dying with the revolution,
Artemio Cruz, I was C. Wright Mills
to whom he dedicated his first masterwork.
I was the Spain that ruined Mexico,
escorting its people up the steps made
for small feet, slaying those who would not tell
where the sun ended, rainbow of the gold
of Terra Nostra. I was Ambrose Bierce
getting lost so he would never be found.
I was the man who loved beauty so much
he pursued women as though they were myths,
Diana say. I was Laura Diaz,
whose life comprised the years of Carlos Fuentes.

I was always his son, I the farmboy
who came to the largest city on earth
with nothing but a vault of memory
I filled each day and recorded each night.
I knew no Spanish, barely knew English,
I was closer to death where I was born.

(16 May; posted 24 May 2012)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Trilogy for a Russian Daughter in Mexico City

1. Madre

Nothing is sacred in the age of lies.

Each day the wind blows cold air.
I came here through the drizzle,
he says, searching for my mother.
She died,
the man replies.
He shows Bobby the books,
tours him through the microfiche.
Nothing here’s left to chance.

Cathleen is growing tired of Bobby:
He gets nowhere.
He thinks he’s an avenue Casanova,
she’s not the first or last to say.
The wise know the answers,
Questions they shape sound true.

Henrietta Murphy is on the books
as dead. Bobby doesn’t believe it.

Cathleen is back from San Francisco
for the day that becomes a week.
She’s due in Paris in a week
and leaves . She doesn’t want to.

Bobby returned home to heal a heart
in love again;
this time, he declares, for good.

Katya writes from Mexico City.
She is learning Italian
to go with English, Spanish,
Russian and other Slavic tongues.
Her father has ten languages,
a world-renowned astrophysicist.
She will go back to Russia.

Katya doesn’t write I love you,
Bobby almost does but holds back,
he doesn’t want her to think
he’s a burden, even this far away.
Yet he goes back to his old ways:
Jacqui, for one.
She calls him Diego.
He says you’re too buxom
to be Frida. She says
the meat is sweeter far from the bone.

Jacqui has answers for questions
he doesn’t even ask.
Not Christina. She’s his mother
or wants to be now,
holding on to being his lover.

Christina tells him everything
on her mind. She says she’s too old
to have a baby, but needs
reminding she’s still young.
It’s the every-night hip-high hose
she wears to put butter on her bread,
she says: You have to be young
and stay that way
as long as you need to pay your way.

(13 May–dia de la madre–2012)

 2. At Alki

The day was very sunny.
The sky was also clear,
water audible from here,
where Bobby wrote songs
and read Shakespeare,
Milton, and Auden.
Wystan Hugh walked
up the beach and back
to his home in New York,
having given the key
to his Ischia house
to Roethke and Beatrice
to honeymoon in
back then. So said they
who know about love
poets knew.
Poets were paid in love,
everybody knew:
I love. You love.
They love
to earn their keep.
Each in his or her own way.
The wealthy Tolstoy knew
love was more than money.
Sofia made fair copies
in her own hand
of his novels big as trees.
California redwoods:
you see one,
you’ve seen them all,
the young woman said,
quoting Reagan,
giving Bobby a ride
up California
to Cathleen’s place.
She’d just quit her job
dancing on tables
and would start tomorrow
or maybe take a week off,
then take up street jobs,
she called it
before her time.
he would know more.
was writing letters
again. Now
clouds gathered
like crowds.
He imagined thunder,
saw lightning,
felt a drop of rain:.
When will we three
meet again?
He needed only one.
In Mexico City,
she would be
home in Russia soon.
Yasnaya Polyana?
No: tourists mostly,
. . . like Havana’s

(14 May 2012)

3. Early Rising

Awake two hours, slept four, heart’s on fire, loins . . .
Whadaya say, Bobby? You ask yourself,
how far could it be from here to there?
Why do the words flow through your throat
like music, effortlessly, unlike labor . . .
Don’t men have it good? No couvade necessary,
though what lover would not spare the loved one
the sweet agony her body knows . . .
trouble enough, Bobby, to travel without paying
the fare. Trouble enough to fly through the air
in your mind . . . Can’t call that imagination,
but self-abuse, the masochism of the lover when
the beloved is elsewhere . . . Everybody seems to be
in the know but you. Why not take a stroll . . .
Above the nest, feed with your beak
from her nipples, move below the belly button
to her flare of hair covering her perfumed door
and sing the next song, not Body and Soul

but All of Me and change the Me to You
and walk away to where’s she’s waiting to meet you:

(15 May 2012)

(linked 19 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Young Pilgrim

1. A Child and His Dog

I was walking my dog looking for trucks in time to get out of the way.
Here came one, my dog yanked on its leash (he is not a she, she is not
a he, he is a dog as a cat is no more than a cat after the mother’s spayed,
the father neutered; all are confined behind the window as I write of
what I know–even I am behind the window that draws me into the air).
Where I grew up in the country I walked a mile to and from my school.
My dog bolted through the fields to greet me on the highway shoulder,
a truck was coming, he was running too fast to stop in time, the trucker
stopped and put us both in the truck, drove us home, lay my dog down
on the grass and held my boyhood head in his arms but I did not weep
until he was gone. I dreamed I was walking my dog, he was looking out
for trucks, he was back in my dream, where he is so poised he can stop
as he falls and thrown into the cattails growing above the swampy water
I gather him in my arms and carry him weeping all the way to our home

(11 May 2012)

2. Leaving Childhood

Among the rituals of birth, life, age, and death
there are these bulls brought in to breed cows,
the tongs wielded when needed to extricate new
born calves; hogs fed a year, bullets put through
their brains, their throats cut and guts removed,
then hung from the hay derrick as long as it takes
for the blood to drain; hand swinging the rooster
by his neck until his body alone flops in the yard,
his feathers drenched with boiling water, plucked,
hens clucking in the yard to rouse their champion
to no avail; the cows milked into pails carried up
many short steps without spilling, cream skimmed
and let set for as long as it takes and the milk too
as long as it takes to chill in the icebox my mother
stores everything in that feeds herself, my father,
and the boy I am becoming, leaving my childhood.

I did not know the man whose bulls bred our cows.
The old man who owned the derrick shot himself.
My father’s arm separated the bodies from necks.
I milked the cows mornings and nights, first thing
and last. Then, under the yard light, I hung a tire
over hay bales to hurl a baseball through its center.
I could do nothing to prepare myself for football
save make love and more love with Irene everywhere.
I played clarinet, wishing I could play alto sax.
Very young, I drew faces. They sat in the house.
Later, I drew horses. The girl in the desk in front of me
invited me to ride with her, how I lost my innocence.
Her body was very expert for her years still so few.
I was never in love with her. I loved Irene, who loved
very well, and broke into Spanish when she came
home with me to the only home we would ever have.

(II: 11 May 2012)

3. Before I Go:
1. A Burial

Before I go I dig a house in the pasture,
drag a slab of wood shingled green
to seal the one room entered from side
to side, shovelfuls of sod pitched out
to go brown. I pioneer in my Dakotas.
I hunt crows and fish for carp. I grow.

I do not comprehend My Antonia now,
I love the words but not the story.
It is too sad even for a growing boy,
especially since I am still so very young.
When I grow old I will love her novels.
When I grow old I will sit and write this

once and for all: how all the cats, wild
under the barn’s false floor, caught plague
and died. I did not want my father to know
and one night hauled by the moonlight
their little corpses in our only wheelbarrow,
dragged away the slab to bury them there.

They resembled the war dead heaped high,
there were so many. I did not want to count
my dead. As always, I saved the sod for last.
You remember the way the dirt moved
their bodies gently, how they moved back
and forth until they were gone from sight.

(III: 11 May 2012)
2. Kansas

I’m so little then I can hardly see over
the counter my mother mixing drinks
while my father’s in Wichita working
for Boeing and Roosevelt, versus Japs
and Nazis. I’m too young to say words
I shouldn’t. I know now I imitated life
finding sleep with a pencil in my hand.
Draw me, people said over their drinks.
It was too dark. For Whom the Bell Tolls,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jungle
Jim and Tarzan and Flash Gordon each
Saturday, I held my breath but not long,
I looked through the slits of my fingers
when Quasimodo rescued Esmeralda,
breathed easy when Jordan blew up
the bridge and sacrificed to the cause
his life, the same one I heard in church
asked to be crucified for all humanity
to be free. What a strange way to die,
to be free. Was my father, my mother?
Were the ants? busy in the empty lot
between our houses, Carol’s and mine.
Was she? Her brother kept her busy
telling her what to do. An only child,
I tried to tell her I knew how she felt.
The men brought their sisters home
and their sisters brought them home
when they were all drunk, my mother
ending her shift by picking me up and
taking me home where we slept nights
we were not in Wellington’s only theater
together, waiting for my father’s arrival.

Once my grandma was gone, still where
she lived below where we had once been
in Arkansas before Pearl Harbor, I was
waiting to arrive when the war was over,
she was rocking in front of her window
watching convoys go by as she always did
when all her sons had gone to the theaters
called Europe and Pacific. She wondered
without saying to anyone but me, Will they
be back someday? Yes, grandma, they will.
I look back now. I think she must thought
at least my father and her son who stayed
with her would be here to take the slack
in her heart’s skin and caress back to life
her long widowhood. We were going north
to see the Pacific Ocean, my father said.
My mother was happy with a sigh of relief
she could be a mother and a mother only
now my father would build his homestead
the way he dreamed it in their courtship.

There are so many stories to tell before
I go. I would start before I was born.
I would write one after the other like wind
in the little tree in Wellington I climbed
after Bambi and there! filling the streets
were the people celebrating an end to war
in Europe! I never heard about the bomb.
I did not know the bomb would be forever.

(IV: 11 May 2012)

3. Robert Rufus

                                                      "When grief and shock surpass endurance
                                                there occur phases of exhaustion of anesthesia
                                                in which relatively little is felt and one has the
                                                illusion of recognizing and understanding
                                                a good deal."
                                                                 –James Agee, A Death in the Family

Before I go I will try to tell the story

of my older brother, Robert Rufus,
whose story I should not even know
except for the snakes, the holy rollers
and bright windows he’s said to recall
in heaven where Mama still calls him
Bobby. Even God needs a secretary
like Mark Twain had his amanuensis.
That’s the job Bobby got, so I saw what
once I could only dream. When Bobby
was born in 1936 he could see already
what was coming before his two months
of life elapsed. I could only imagine
what James Agee gave up to compose
A Death in the Family. His daddy died
when Agee was six. It was Rufus whose
daddy took him to all the Charlie Chaplin
that came to their Knoxville movie house.
In the never-finished novel Rufus shows
what happens after your father is killed
on his way home. All of it you never read,
Agee waited too late to start. Mama took
Bobby’s baby clothes in his blue trunk
with her when she left the round earth.
You can end sooner than others begin.
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is what
I will read aloud to my brother Bobby,
Mama insists he still be called. He’ll say,
You’re my brother I didn’t stick around
long enough to meet. I read him poetry
Agee made prose. Three Tenant Families,
1936, the year Bobby also died. Agee was
with Walker Evans in Alabama. How far
from Oklahoma? where our daddy’s youth
went unfulfilled under the hundred-pound
sacks of cotton his bleeding fingers picked.
They harvested their share and the owner’s.
That’s poetry, Bobby says. He should know.
He sees everything from here, even angels
with bent backs, lines in their sweat-filled
hands mixed with the earth’s soil, faces
turned toward a long gaze looking back
from sunup to sundown, a moon’s glow
the eyes of night watching over them
like children, old people, the damned
of this world, who never go anywhere.

(V: 11 May 2012)

4. Irene Castenada: Mi padre, mi madre . . .

My brief football career burned rubber in the parking lot.
Stick shift, pop the clutch, floorboard it to catch speed up
in your arms. She moved close, then closer with every risk:

white boy with brown girl who cared more than any other
what did or did not happen to the one she called mi amor.

I celebrate her in these poems as though they hunted her
through towns, in cities, across mountains, in the hills, south
as far as Mexico, where she said she needed to go to be free.
I did not ask why, I knew from the purple chunks of coal
left in my father’s skin, the scars of sorrow my mother bore.
They both loved her. They are dead now. She stayed here
when I left to live in the city Seattle, where she was once
with me, but then no more. She had long legs, her body lithe,
her breasts small, her hips like her heart warm, welcoming,
on her cheek the mole she called ugly. She was so beautiful
she still is, I pray. She gave me love and we learned together:
there is no greater gift shared between a man and woman
when they are boy and girl, even though they part. Her padre
spoke no English, her madre ill; she restored them with love.

Here, I am shackled by sin. She comes to my cell nightly to be
with me. My dreams are without chains. I think of Goya’s
Prisionero straining against the links of iron around his legs
and arms. Where had he begun? Why was he here? Would
he die here, quedarse con la lucha sin fin . . . She was there,
la maja,  who was no longer his or anyone’s, desnuda o vestida;
en Los Caprichos un viejo, ciego y sordo pero con imaginacion.

Each Friday night, sleek with her love, I ran with great abandon
to fell and wrest the ball from the foe’s hands and hand it off
to my friend, cuerpo como un toro, going the other way, a victoria.

(12 May 2012)

5. My Village

when I was a boy
was no warmer than
my village as a man.
Nor was it cold
like now . . . but why?
Maybe it was Mary
Louise Larson
riding me
after her horse,
and I her
after she
lay back and let me.
It was her that day,
no doubt, but never
a question, only
the answer . . .
Between her
and my first love
there was nothing,
not even a nod
one or either
to the other.

The next day, Irene
Castenada’s . . .
For my father I worked
his vineyards.
For my mother I worked
for neighbors.
For myself I worked,
with Irene: in a chain
warehouse, in a canning
chain, corporations now.
How convenient the link
to the village between
rattlesnakes and horses.
Irene and I rode horses
and loved,
but not like horses,
we loved anywhere
like a woman and a man
growing up
above those hills
to finally see where
each of us would go . . .

(15 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, May 14, 2012


Three stories are happening at once:
the story that believes it’s made up, though it sounds true;
the story of the cities, the tale that was true;
and the one that does not know its name.
The first one is Bobby St. Clair’s,
the second belongs to the one who knew him and his friends,
and the third story is mine.

I am the beast of the field, he who came of age in the dirt
on my knees, on a wobbly ladder below the high-hanging fruit,
young in the canneries and warehouses of the valley
between the Rattlesnake and Horse Heaven Hills,
a rider of horses, companion of young Yakimas,
who spell their name with an "a" now after the "k,"
warriors turned athletes, players of games
teaching me what their fathers teach them: the games of the balls,
the oval one said to be made of pigskin, and the small round, hard one,
the first with its hundred-yard field, the other with its diamond shape.

The young beast goes among los mejicanos. Their gamecocks flutter
in his dreams, beaked knives flashing in sunshine pouring through
the dirty windows of barns where the owners and their sycophants
gamble money to make money when their birds kill the others.
My friend’s father, who raises cocks in his backyard, speaks no English,
I speak no Spanish, the language his son will teach children
until he’s as old as the beast who loves women, as he loves men.

Obama declares all lovers should marry if they wish.
The church and its legion of priests and claques rage with bleak venom..
There may be no peace within the Americas, neither above nor below
the bloody streets in Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nogales,
Nuevo Laredo, border towns of mejico, los campos matarando.

What is to be done with this only story, which is like a three-headed monster?
Will I be too old to go on when Bobby’s body passes through the crematorium
and I only am left alone with Cathleen, his love of half a century
who refuses to allow her scars to mar her Black Irish beauty,
soothing her skin with the waters melted from the ice and snow
where she continues to live far from Mejico, between sun and wind
and there is no warmth, only the cold . . .

There is only one story worth the telling, for Juan at the winter solstice . . .
so said the poet on the island of Majorca. When I was younger than Bobby
I admired the Marquis Alfonso de Portago driving Formula Ones with abandon
around the tracks, through Europe’s streets, refusing to fear death: I would
rather be a dead lion than a live mouse . . . how I learned art is a lion’s game.

(10, 15 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Of Lost Time

                                                                 Paula, 7 May 1969

There is always this day in this life,
and by the grace of some god,
It’s the seventh day
and the beginning.
I love her,
she loves me,
we marry.
Until the fall
we live happily.
are my own responsibility, they coil
slithering away
to the town below our tall house . . .
They are called
the vendors of knowledge,
each one the father and mother
I was told would set me against
I never knew how or why or when,
or what.
There was no
other woman.
No other man.
There was this book. Of Lost Time.
There will never be another
now I take words
to bed, fuck them,
sleep with them,
live like that the rest of my days . . .

(7, 14 May 2002)


Easter 1970
1. Ash Wednesday

It’s time. She says, I hate you. The lights blink and go out.
Who will work their way through the dark?
She asks her sister, Where is there to go?
I ask my brother. He says, Send flowers.
A spray of yellow growing gold. They glow.
2. Maundy Thursday

It is night. I kneel before the altar.
I ask of the crucifix, May I speak. The lights flicker. I leave
With the nun who has forsaken her habit
Of abstinence.
One who left returns. It is all Cain hoped.
My lady like the lamb prances naked!

3. Good Friday

It is good to run my hands through your fleece.
If you hate, it is out of love.
Light flows to us from the sun.
No one was waiting for our friend, the nun, when I took her home.
If I think of her while my body is in yours,
I only pray Abel return.

4. The End of Lent

It is over. It had not yet begun. Shall we divorce or marry?
I detest this poetry
That weeps in the street. Tears don’t mix
With blood. Our friends come,
We have nothing to say. We numb ourselves,
We drive spikes through our sexes.
5. Easter Sunday

Sunday I kiss you. You curse me. I rise. It is still early,
So I sit. Snow falls with rain.
You dress and drive off. I think of Jesus
And his terminal illness.
Outside, I know, soldiers crouch.
O rock of grief, when will you roll away?

(published in kayak magazine, 1971,
in Red Deer, a book of poems, 1982)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sequence for a Russian Daughter in Mexico City

1. Her Glow

Between sets he was brooding over a Black Russian
when she came up with her delightful glow
and he invited her to sit. It was not long.
Sanchez said I need you back now, Bobby.

She was Russian, her blonde hair glowed, so did her smile,
her body was willowy but not like the weeping tree.
Laughter and a love of life brimmed over her voice.
She stretched her legs, arched her neck playfully,
and danced away. He didn’t know her name.

On stage he daydreamed, transfixed, eyes on her,
only her, it was okay, her name was Katya,
he just didn’t know it yet. You could tell
she loved to dance, her eyes glittered, glowing
as he was singing "Dream a Little Dream of Me."
2. Between


My name’s Bobby.
Mine is Katya.
I am charmed,

he replied.
You are Russian.
She is.


Eye struck.
Heart thrum.
Lips dry.

She liked
his voice.

Up there
he was here

She still smiled.
He sang
God Bless the Child

that’s got
its own,
that’s got its own . . .

Left together.
Dined together.
What else to do.
3. Song Spun Out of Body and Soul

He was always thinking about a song.
Now he knew one.
There were no words.
A song without music required a horn.
He took along the clarinet
and kept it in its case,
but now, after her, he took the pieces,
joined them together
and started with Body and Soul,
doing the lower register slowly,
riffing almost all the way up, slowing
again to fill out fully, finally new melody
waltzing off to pirouhette
as in some unknown ballet,
his fingers on the valves moving
slowly as shod feet in the footfalls
on an empty street.
What would he call such a strange song?
Why were there such feelings?
Where did you go to keep them alive?
4. Bobby’s Words to His Song Spun Out of and Into

Quetzal’s Blues

Bird-snake wing coil
tongue in your nostrils
beloved beauty
harmony with sky
spilling fury
into Ixtaccihuatl sleeping
sated with Popo’s
snowy lava,

loves you, no reason
but why he’s back here
with talons and fangs
he’ll never need now
he’s found you
between the flowers
acacia and jacaranda

words to set to last night’s notes
spun out of
Body and Soul
with no reed now, open
your mouth, I will fill
your ears with this
warning or promise,
no one ever says why
it’s easy to fall in love
living in Mexico City

5. One Hand

His first trip here at twenty-six,
the second time at twenty-seven,
now at twenty-eight. My, my, man,
you track down that birthday
on New Year’s Eve very well,
you even know what years
you were in Mexico City!
How very well I played, no,
sang. Well, I could have played
clarinet if DG had stayed home,
thank God he brought Myra
to keep him steady and jazzed . . .
How would I have met her,
the Russian, without a voice?

Manuela let him sleep where
he heard the metal gate rattling.
She talked of the bodies hung
in public and burned, word was.
She showed him the granaderos
in their black raincoats, black
gloves, faces that need no masks.
The woman Hilda with bright red
fingernails warned, Pemex is about
to close everywhere in the city.
He went with Manuela. The line
was long at every station. Tempers
broke open up and down the line.
They sat upstairs. His eyes calm

now she let her dress lift above
her knees, her toes and fingers
and lips never needed paint,
not even then, she said later,
when they were married a year.
Now he slept elsewhere after
the night’s work. You know where,
reader, need I go on? Katya in Cuba,
Katya here, Katya at the university
near Coyoacan, amusing Bobby by
comparing them to Diego, Frida,
and mornings in La Casa Azul
he kissed her and wanted to love
her on the floor. She laughed, No!

Awaiting Roberto’s return, Manuela
went to hear Sanchez y Compania
and met Katya, who had seen her
in Havana, and when Manuela cried,
Companera! they exchanged abrazos,
though they had never met in Cuba.
Bobby joined them between sets.
Manuela: Why have I not met her
already? Bobby: I’m in love with her.
Manuela: So what? I love you both!
Bobby: Uh uh, amiga, your new child
and your son and your two daughters
and Roberto will give you a handful
of fingers to love the rest of your life.

6. Of Katya

He thought he might try again.
The weather and the voices, language
he did not know, and would never know
hers. His feelings were a little seismograph
whose needle etched the ups and downs of love
and words that needed music, she was the sound,
the earth under him split apart upon her soft touch.
He would take her to the mountains, maybe someday,
who could say? The two volcanos out there were happy
with one another, the stories go. Ixtaccihuatl, Popocatepetl,
Sleeping Woman and her fat man old Popo, love spilling over.
More likely, Bobby was leaving, Katya staying, though here were
flowers from the streetcorner vendor, the smile a language of its own.
There were others whose torsos strapped to the skate were pulled along
by their long arms, they seemed long because their legs were in their arms.
Everywhere in this country full of bold people abiding with the bougainvillea
were the clang of rage, soothing lovesounds, was that why she was in Mexico?
He was halfway somewhere. She was the fire and the laughter, bright smile and eyes,
and her pause to absorb what she saw, everywhere there were alamedas to saunter in
and tell him in her English better than the Spanish he corrupted, saying to him his love
was what she awaited, moving between his arms, and what could he say, he was moving
with her, the sun pouring down like rain later in the day, when maybe they’d be inside . . .
7. Last Set

She cleans the shit off his soul, she stokes wary hope in his head.

She plunges through the Black Sea waves, she surfaces in the lake.

How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky

DG does a bar or two, breaks into melody,
nobody sings, nobody knows Bobby could weep
but his throat is frozen, his knees are wobbly,
his heart’s shot through, the bullet lodged deep

DG says that’s how Charlie Parker laid it down.
Tony looks into Laurie’s eyes, Sanchez into Carmen’s,
but what can Bobby do, all around him is empty
of her to whom he sings this slow in a minor key

How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky

She has done what she can, she’s gone home kissing him goodbye.

He goes away tomorrow, he’d love to be with her the day after.

(2-9, 11 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Voice

Took him a few hundred years to get over Rebecca,
when after the burial–her Polish mother’s wish--
each day was a year, each night another.
Bobby’s voice was back but where was his heart?
She possessed an electric touch, the way she fucked
with such passion the birds cried, the sun moved,
or so it seemed . . . and her voice was silent, English
brogue gone with her dancing eyes, her love of danger.

After a century, then, he was back in the bungalow.
Paul insisted, Anna agreed, he would try it a while.
It didn’t work. Nothing worked now but the voice.
Christina rented a house, shared with Bobby the space
required for gathering his body in fetal position.
Once he returned as outpatient to see Bonnington,
and encountered Melindra. She kissed him, took him to lunch
down the street, told him how med school was going better
than expected, and I’m in love again . . .

He cared about nothing but his voice. He would sing or die.
Christina became for him what Laurie was for Tony,
mother protectress. She donned hip-high hose
and flounced with drinks from the bar to tables,
men leering, women trying to convince them they were hip.
They even came onto her, that was hip in those days,
before the powers of America were marshaled against the gay.
Tony loved Lenny Bruce, wanted to go to San Francisco
to catch his act at the Hungry I. Laurie said Let’s go,
adding, Who do you know can sit in on piano?

Maybe Dave would come back, Laurie could stay there with the girls?
Tony nixed the deal, Bobby concurred, Sanchez breathed easy,
Doug didn’t let it faze him, he had Myra, she had him,
let Lenny Bruce come to them . . . Clark clammed up
for the duration of the contretemps.
He wanted to go back to Mexico City.
Bobby wouldn’t mind seeing Manuela Roma.
They wrote letters. She commiserated concerning Rebecca.
Reynolds in Austin was going, Isabel was waiting.
And so Sanchez & Company returned to San Angel.
There Bobby found a voice he never had, this one had him.

(1, 9 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Skeletal Corpus

If nobody died
nobody would care,
there would be no love
to get in the way
of a heart breaking
and would let it break
without incident.

There would be no tears.
The rusty wire strung
between would be gone,
soldiers would not dream
of what was found there.
No evil, no need
for what is called good . . .

Where did the goddam soldiers come from now?
Bobby thought he had unriddled the world.
Where’s Auschwitz, Belsen, Dachau, Treblinka–
keep naming the endless grief, memory’s
Shoah, keep hoping, keep thinking you know,
keep on making bombs, keep starving children
and make the turning earth stop where it is,

then you can quit this
fearing, this dreading,
and no longer care
if there is a world
above or below,
give up your Dante
or follow him down
so far you know what
is simply poem,
for what else is there
but such peaks to reach,
anywhere you go
that is not limbo
is worth fucking grief,

is a song performed a capella then,
mouth fit to blow a horn, let there be sound,
fingers nimble, give voice to instruments
of percussion, set the melody loose
so loveliness falls off the edge of life
and somebody says, Hell, man, this is death,
like Marlowe did: Why, this is Hell,
nor am I out of it . . . something like that,
no matter, the wonder is we are born
and the more we know the more our bodies
decay, the growing season gone off track,
the devil running a race with the god
who knows you will come in out of the rain,
do nothing but make music out of words:

If there’s no body there’s no need for bones.

(30 April, 8 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, May 7, 2012


You know what happens next already.
Or do you?
Are there expectations so great
you believe what seems inevitable?
Why would you?
If Rebecca’s dead, why is Bobby alive?
Or is he?
Who’s that slouching by as DG speaks
with his alto . . .
that grim-faced guy looks more like a kid
than anyone else
on the bandstand, is that what you call it
still with only five?
DG on alto, Tony on the keys,
Sanchez drums, Clark back on bass,
Bobby at the mike more happily now
he can reach
deeper and higher than before, but with
the blues
he knows and prefers to sit out the jams
remembering Rebecca never heard song
from him.
That was marriage. He invented the cliche,
driving across the Golden Gate at sunset
nothing, knowing it was all a mistake
but keeping quiet,
Don’t let her know you know it’s going
That was after the first trip to Mexico,
between vows
and screams and silence as aftermath.
On the verge
of divorce, this. He reached further down
on All of Me
and damned if it didn’t take all of him,
then Nature Boy
took the rest.

(29 April, 8 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In Trance

When he came home, when he came back, when he was once again in These States, as Whitman called them, los estados unidos, the mejicanos said . . . when he was no longer in Mexico the first time, he married Rebecca, entranced by her body and her work though he liked to joke it was only because of her Healey. After their honeymoon in Mexico City on his second trip, Rebecca made friends with a bevy of Seattle artists–photographers, painters, and sculptors–and a lesbian friend of Myra Jacobs took a liking to Rebecca’s sculptures, the Kienholz "installations," as everyone called them except Rebecca. Myra’s friend was Bobbi. Bobby thought that took the cake. Bobbi invited Bobby and Rebecca for dinner–she tended bar at The Madison and lived in the Montlake district, a deft accomplishment, Bobby told Rebecca, who was eager to go when Myra told her Bobbi painted. They went to dinner and they traded dinner dates every week. It grew obvious to Bobby the woman was falling in love with Rebecca. Bobbi got drunk one night and came around the place Rebecca was renting and stalked the perimeter, pounding on the front and back doors. Bobby tried to intercede but Rebecca insisted it was her task, so she called through the door to please go home and rest. That was it for their relationship. Myra apologized to Bobby when Rebecca was off in her studio doing the fat people sitting on chairs populating her windows in her house on Lake Washington, off to the side of one of the serpentine, switchback streets where the twenty-six-year-old Kurt Cobain was found dead in his mansion many years in the future.

One day it stormed and Bobby fought with Rebecca over money, as usual. She was unhappy with him because he lived on a scholarship, still, and the rakeoff from his work with Sanchez was too little for him to pay his way with her. Rain was falling in torrents at midday. Lightning cracked the surface of the sky hovering over Puget Sound. The waters of Lake Washington roiled. They were backing out the driveway too fast–rather, Rebecca was–when the car went out of control and plunged into the water, sinking rapidly, Bobby struggling to free Rebecca from the steering wheel against her chest, and failing, his breath going quickly, he had to leave her there and propel his body upward, reaching the surface in time, but just barely. He lay on the beach gasping, the rain drenching him, thunder and lightning seeming to surround him, until he regained his feet and stumbled to a house where a man phoned for help, but once the winches brought the Healey to the surface she was dead, as he knew she would be, and he wept with an agony he had never known and would never know again. He quit playing or singing, stayed in Rebecca’s studio, feeling he was being consoled by the papier-mache figures on their sagging chairs. That and the black-and-white Locomotive series of jagged lines inspired by an engine’s axles propelling the train along the tracks, black blur frozen on white canvas . . . or, as he’d insisted, the motion of two bodies in heat pursuing their own less predictable, churning trajectory. He sat on the floor and when he could not sleep he stared for two days and two nights and the following day, then called the Black and Tan and the bartender said Sure, I’ll pick you up and take you into town; and did. The guy seemed to respect the wishes of the bereaved Bobby, saying nothing. His rattletrap Chevy made it to the New Congress in time to sit in on the first set, but Bobby declined, just sat at a table where Christina joined him, then insisted he come with her to her place. She fed him bacon and eggs and toast and mixed drinks for him he couldn’t identify. The night was quiet, the rain long gone, and she cradled his head in her arms all night. He even slept.

That happened before the third and last trip to Mexico City. He was in a spell for weeks, until they boarded the plane. He was in a trance, but when he took the stage to sing–it was suddenly all he wanted to do–he followed the music where he’d never been before, and went where it led him, he didn’t care why or how . . . In Coyoacan, after going each afternoon to sit in La Casa Azul he picked up on all the oldtime blues he dearly loved, from Make Me a Pallet on the Floor to St. James Infirmary to the one he wrote for Rose, which Tony played to the letter as Dave had done in bringing it to life before Bobby added words. Bobby was singing better than ever and knew it. Manuela Roma, alone now and pregnant with the baby spawned by her new man, who was in the Bronx settling his affairs and looking forward to his upcoming adventures in Latin America, invited him to sleep on her couch. At midmorning her house filled with the dissident youth. Manifestaciones occurred daily. The Olympiad was coming, and the young, the campesinos, and the workers were insisting that the government’s dinero be reserved for the poor and hungry, that finally Vallejo be freed–the Siqueiros of his day save that he was more the Mandela of Mexico–and that the future be given the attention the president, Gustavo Diaz-Ordaz, was devoting to building, or salvaging, his international reputation and decimating those not only protesting peaceably in the streets but ready to give their lives to the cause, which they would do once the thugs and army had their way.

(28 April, 7 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, May 5, 2012


                                                                          again for his daughter, Nicole

Dredge up all the goddam gossip about his quarrel
with Manuela Roma’s brother
when she was married to me,
but he was, as Cathleen says, my kindred spirit.
He was riding the MBTA when he saw the news
about Manuela and me getting hitched.
As far as Boston, you could see we were an item.
Albuquerque took photos of the two of us,
wrote her up. The INS taped us, mainly her.
When we split, she lived in the foothills
in soft arms, the love of another, love’s honey.
Cathleen lived in the South Valley.
Then we lived where Gus came to say goodbye.
We returned one year he was very much alive,
very happy with Elizabeth. A marriage, finally.
We sat on the upper deck of Los Italianos,
he told me how our pal Geoff Young was faring,
and Cathleen listened. Little curlicues of time
unraveled. Ira and he were on the outs
momentarily. Kurosawa had just died.
In the years that followed we wrote letters,
he and Ira reconciled. Ira e-mailed his death
in that all-of-a-sudden way life has of happening.
Especially when it turns into death, that fuck.
They played tapes of the Stones and Dylan–
Sympathy for the Devil, Knocking on Heaven’s Door
at what he would have preferred be called
his wake. Into the furnace went his Pachuco hand
with the rest of him, the high forehead, the eyes
that couldn’t stop dancing to the music
of his mimicry, the way he criticized all fools.
Elizabeth took his ashes to South Carolina,
buried them with a cross that read
Here lies some kind of cat or was it
one hell of a cat . . . Geoff must talk to her
by phone. Gus called him every week.
Gus called me when I moved to the Yukon,
I liked to say, northern Minnesota, where he knew
a scholar of Hemingway and a scholar
of Emily Dickinson he likened to Cathleen
and me. They taught in Bemidji, he said,
no one here had ever heard of them, it must have been
a brief affair. Not us. We wore our flesh too proudly
to be sane. We gave up the game, a small town
can’t handle people like Cathleen and me.
I became a Catholic, under Ernesto Cardenal’s influence.
Manuela and I were married by him
on paper. There is a poem . . .
Still, it’s a hell of a place to die. In winter. They keep
the body on ice here until spring thaw.
No wonder I and all kindred spirits choose the fire.
Not only is it faster, but it’s cheaper,
the kind of end poets choose and scholars like Gus
who said "I scribble" . . . about Matisse, for one,
Icarus say, what Cathleen talked about this morning
over the space between us and the floor, amazed
our friend was still out there somewhere
circling time on its wheel, it might take centuries,
Gus’s only been gone a dozen or so goddam years.

(26 April, cinco de mayo 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, May 4, 2012

Origin & Destination

I like to go back to Origin
to slum, it seems like, I’m so civilized and all
now I’ve paid out so much life in Destination,
Nowhere, a state paltry even barren in spirit,
petty with its flesh always wrapping itself
in its kimona like a mummy,
scolding the air because it likes to be wind,
murdering the language by watching its words,
doing no one up here any damned good.
That’s why I’m back in Origin.
Destination is for fools with no past or future,
invisible, inaudible, touching nothing but itself
and then only when the priest nods,
you know the Nowhere I mean.

(27 April, cinco de mayo 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mexico City: 2

The second time Bobby was in Mexico City the entire Sanchez y Compania came along. At first, they boarded in the convent, that vacant hacienda without land or horses in San Angel. Manuela Roma and the father of her daughters had just returned from a month in Cuba, and she was unwilling to talk of anything else. Bobby was with his new wife, Rebecca–he was no longer in thrall to Melindra and for now had given up on Cathleen, who was too far away; Earlene, back in New Orleans and recently remarried; Connie, still married and waiting tables at the all-night hash house–in brief, as he was wont to say, he married Rebecca because she came with the black convertible Austin-Healey 3000-Mark II and its six cylinders and five speeds; that and her never-ending energy, her Franz Kline paintings and Ed Kienholz papier-mache sculptures . . .

Manuela and her man, and Tim and Isabel, took Bobby and Rebecca to the Cuban embassy; and that’s why later, in the Ibero, Rebecca lay in bed naked, after they’d made love, and asked Bobby if he knew what he was doing. Meanwhile, Doug and Myra were in the Londres and Sanchez was staying a block away, on Buenavista, with his new squeeze, Carmen, while Tony had taken a room with Laurie in the Ibero and Clark could not get enough of Mexico City, walking and dancing in the Zona Rosa and being the flaneur on Reforma and Insurgentes, where inevitably he was solicited and invariably accepted an all-nighter–they called them in the States if the lady had a place to sleep–money no object because hell, they were all working . . .

Manuela tried to explain why cars turned off their headlights when they were idling at a stoplight, then the father of her daughters tried to unriddle the puzzle, and finally Rebecca told Bobby she thought it must be a way to save the lights; by that time they were at the Ibero again, where Rebecca loved to use the bidet after "screwing," she liked to say. They were fascinated by the culture, of course. Reynolds told them they should see the Museum of Anthropology, so they did, and Bobby was astonished by Coatlicue. Then they rented a car, a dicey situation here because they knew if they were in an accident they would be at fault, under the Napoleonic Code, and wind up in the Tombs until they could pay their way out . . . At Tenochtitlan they climbed the Pyramid of the Sun, and Bobby was transfixed by Tlaloc. So he constructed a little mythology out of his travels: Coatlicue, with her skirt of snakes, the patroness of women dying in childbirth and the mother of creation as well as the world created, and mother of Huitzilopochtli, the god of sun and war . . . and Tlaloc, papa thunder, lightning, rain, hail, and fertility and with his bugged-out eyes and fangs perfect for consuming the children sacrificed, though his water drenched the womb in which they were nourished and traveled the birth canal to begin the fate Coatlicue knew awaited them and she could do nothing about it, the fierce Tlaloc hiding in caves, among mountains, when Coatlicue came for him . . .

That was how he remembered Che when he died in Bolivia . . . as Tlaloc. His lover, Coatlicue, was the woman known as Tania, who died shortly before him, wading a river holding her rifle above her head, where she took the bullet. Tlaloc missed Coatlicue so very much he left too many tracks, the peasants were eager for the money paid to betray him, and finally the militia trained by the CIA caught up with him and ambushed the guerrillas, took Che alive and locked him, wounded, in a shed transformed into a makeshift jail, until the general pronounced his death sentence while puffing on a cigar to get it lit by his aide-de-camp. So one story went . . .

By that time Rebecca was having trouble staying in love with Bobby. He was too indigent for her taste. Besides, Seattle was not her natural habitat. The rain was okay but she missed her daughter, who was living on the other side of the mountains, with her father in Yakima; and anyway, Bobby didn’t care about anything but words and music. Then she began demanding he pull out of her before he orgasm’d, she didn’t need another child, she had her art the way he had his, and eventually, before the third trip to Mexico City, the big one, Sanchez called it, the marriage was in trouble, with Bobby wondering what it was all for, this thing called marriage . . .

(25 April 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Gates of Fire

You don’t come back whole
from Mexico.
No more than from Venice.
Beware, Gus
Once you cross the border
where underwater
the signs point down,
take a big breath
to accrue the days
left before the wreath
follows you into fire.
At Tijuana, Nogales, Juarez,
the sun is mostly fire.
Only I am free
when Cathleen does to me
what women do
in Mexico
to wean a lover
from pulque,
to save the worm
at the bottom
of the bottle . . .
She motions, Come.
she was pimped in her youth.
What they teach first
and last:
you work on your knees
more than on your back . . .
and coming back
you pray you know the truth.
Out here
the border
is a gate closing
where it once opened.

(24 April, 3 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


She knew Bobby in high school, tracked him down,
drove her Austin-Healey 3000 Mark II to his door.
The roar woke the neighborhood. She was a sight:
her red hair over and under, her freckled pale skin,
her long legs, her angular body, her Prussian voice.
She always wore sandals with rose-painted toenails.
She always wore dresses with nothing underneath,
snow never fell in Seattle and she would walk naked,
she said, if the gendarmes would let her parade
in her slim flesh and bones that always turned on boys
like Bobby. He was writing about Venice, nobody
was doing anything there but dying. It was a story
in the usual strange form, as though two people
were using the same page. Gus was the man’s name,
Elizabeth his wife. She was taking a summer off
from lawyering. He taught in an auditorium
in a university in the American Southwest.
His biggest course he called Amplifications of Horror,
films dealing with Rousseau and the political nature
of civilization after the invention of the social contract.
They were in Venice a week in a very different way
than Bobby and Sanchez were in Mexico City.
There were no Manuela Romas, Isabel Fraires,
the father of Manuela’s daughter and Tim Reynolds
were either on the roof writing or in a café writing.
But not in Venice. Gus and Elizabeth had a fine time.
Bobby got in gondolas and heard the water whisper,
and it was not as dark in Venice as he anticipated.
Gus and Elizabeth were very happy, after a week
they flew into LaGuardia to attend a wedding,
Gus’s friend from Stanford marrying, finally.
Gus no longer drank, told many stories of yore.
His friend was happy having Gus be his Best Man.
In Albuquerque Gus prepared his courses.
One he wanted to call Political Horror.
When the time came he taught the same course
with different films, all as close to high art
as cinema could get, Ingmar Bergman, even
Antonioni. There was this scene without words
ending L’Avventura that always gripped him,
and Sawdust and Tinsel was wholly torturous,
to the viewer of course. Gus was too much in love
to take Swedish horror seriously. One night
leaving his car and walking toward the street
to cross to where he taught beyond the grove
of sycamores this side of the College of Fine Arts,
. . . he fell dead of his heart on his right side,
where an attack could not help but kill you.
In his briefcase were notes for the night’s lecture
on Page of Madness, the Japanese classic
he preferred to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
any day. Elizabeth said they happened to see
Kinugasa’s silent film without intertitles
in Venice, and commented it was Venetian
more than Japanese, insane asylums more apt
to be found in the watery dark than on an island.
That was how Gus summed it up but loved it
just the same. The film was lost, mind you.
Yvor Winters had seen it in his youth
and had a copy he offered to send to Gus,
and it too was in his briefcase when he fell . . .
Rebecca knew neither Gus nor Elizabeth–
Bobby’s story, after all, was pure fiction–
and she had never been in Albuquerque.
She knew a painter who lived in Venice,
with whom she lived a year or two.
Bobby had known Gus from meeting him
once and corresponding until his death.
He was talking about Western films
without their Winning of the West claptrap.
There was a new director named Sam Peckinpah,
a film called Ride the High Country, that was
his subject that night at Seattle Public Library.
Joel McCrea dies in Randolph Scott’s arms
saying, I just want to enter my house justified.
Gus compared it to the ballyhoo'd High Noon:
Gary Cooper didn’t have to worry. Grace Kelly,
he quipped, would keep house or hire a maid.
The year he died, 1971, Gus wrote to Bobby
saying he’d just viewed Visconti’s great film
of Mann’s great novella and finally understood
what it might feel like to meet your maker
in Venice: Maybe it was Dante’s portal to Hell.
Then Gus added, Death in Venice was too easy;
being there it was obvious love was the reaper.

(23 April, 2 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Not Only Fear, But Need

Exceptions always. Not only fear, but need. They get around
by car, Manuela’s. Her son and/or two daughters go along
if there’s room. The girls’ father is on the roof, in the writing
quarters. If he were not here now, Bobby would not know
there will be no way to take back your house if it’s occupied
by the private militia of Gustavo Diaz-Ordaz. But give time
room: does life get better, then worse? what freedom’s sold?
the unlimited power to exploit and kill for profit, the North
sending its imprimatur south, Kissinger’s zeros looming ahead,
Allende’s death, Jara’s dismemberment, Neruda’s broken heart,
Parra’s silence after all that had happened to his sister Violeta.
And the thousands, literally, whose names were little known
then and completely missing from the Book of Chile now,
all slain, disappeared. But all that’s for the future. After
this year, the next two, then seven years. Now her generosity,
her deep chuckle, her twinkling eyes, the flood of her words . . .
You want a gig in Mexico City, ask here . . . go there . . .

One day Tim Reynolds is in her house. Bobby’s seen his name,
his book Ryoanji. Isabel Fraire is living with him in the Londres.
She’s compared here to Emily Dickinson. Her estranged husband
has custody of her sons. Some poets sacrifice everything for love.
That too lies further down the line. Tim is here for the summer,
learning espanol talking to barkeeps, cab drivers, prostitutes.
He learned Russian in the army; why not Spanish being here?
Like French when he was there? After the Greek and Latin
he learned in school. He’s translating Aristophanes’ Peace
in the closet of a room he shares with Isabel, a bed to love in . . .

Come next year, the Cuban embassy on Calle Hamburgo,
then the massacre in Tlatelolco the third year and the last:
Reynolds arrested, tossed in a cell, tortured in Lecumberi.
You can go half your life and suddenly time seems endless.
They deport him to Austin, Isabel goes with him to London.
Manuela and the father of her daughters are invited to Cuba.
The cultural attache asks Bobby the second summer, When
are you coming to Cuba? I can do nothing you need done.
You can write, can’t you? By then Bobby’s married to Rebecca,
who lies next to him in the Ibero and asks if he’s going wrong.
Why go to Cuba, Bobby? What do you know about Cuba?

(22 April, 1 May 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander