Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Usual Birthday Poem

is about the central fact, your birth, to be considered in any story
of who you think you are or the closest you’ve ever been to fiction.
You can see snow piling up simultaneously with sun coldly shining.
There are limits, though: places you lived, and she you shared with.
Is it normal to want to be as many round characters who aren’t obese
as it is to lose weight and run again, no matter where or with whom
you are? I’d as soon be here and alive as anywhere; especially alive.
Seventy-five years ain’t nothing on Methuselah. Another twenty-five
and I’ll likely be gone, surely. If not, with the aches and pains of age,
why would I not be intent upon engineering levees for the next flood?

(31 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 28, 2013


I am happy, I tell her, and I say
what I mean.
In the hours I am alone,
reading Catullus or Blake, or Shelley,
I know what I feel and what I believe
and must not say so.
If John were my name
I’d take Blake’s imprimatur for Milton
to be Floyce Milton’s: The reason Milton
wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels
& God, and at liberty when of Devils
& Hell, is because he was a true Poet
and of the Devil’s party without
knowing it. Hence the need to seek a truth
or two.
(1) The priests whose names are Adam
refuse to include humanity among animals,
and we who are blessed to know the difference
follow Hamnet into Hell where Hamlet lives;
or (2) Will and Anne knew their son was cursed
to die with such a name and Hamnet did,
leaving Will to imagine what his name foretold.
Only the shades applaud Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Adam named the animals. He named himself.
Eve danced with the serpent and bore two sons
after whom men are all named Abel and Cain,
and who named Eve and older sister Lilith?
Why does it matter I am happy and say so?
If I were Shelley I would know the poor
are rich but not in God’s way. They inherit
nothing, this world is their kingdom of misery,
though among them are angels with tongues
for weapons and a just God would send them
into battle, but no . . . and that is why
I weep in the dark and strike deep the walls
with words I carve, that read What must I do?
Nothing that I was born to do in daylight . . .

(28 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 27, 2013

Second Babyhood

Only days and he turns seventy-five
now that he’s resigned himself to an art
so dependent on the genie his wand
coveted. Kurosawa told Bergman,
Live to be eighty, begin your second
                   Esperanza takes the love
from him, and as seed builds high he fucks her
slowly with love’s deliberate fury.
Words pour out of the imagination.
Does she give him new life? Five years to go.

(27 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Moon Shine

In sepia they gather.
Love showers around.
Open the doors,
raise the windows,
this is not twilight
but illuminated dark.
If I could speak thunder
I’d talk it into rain.
The light zig-zags
when water falls.

If I had been there
the familiar tragedy
of a dying family
might have spoken
for itself, one at a time.
And I would hear
what words they used
and trace them
on rice paper
with calligraphic pen.

(26 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Grito for a Southern September Sunday, 1963

                                      Coltrane's Alabama

Listening to King’s eulogy for the four little girls murdered in the Birmingham church

Coltrane plays the cadence of King’s speech, rednecks hanging out there taunting, the law 
don’t dare make a scene, good ol' boys going as far back as Bull Connor’s dogs and hoses. 
How bring the dead back to life so nobody hurts? That’s how it’s said where a history of
eternity unfolds, en ingles y otras palabras, Un amor supremo . . . what’s left of this world?

(25 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

There’s nothing to do but listen
so you know where the sound begins.
Not the same anywhere but in your head,
where lights crawl off to pick up their shadows.
The Gospel according to Matthew is
gliding across the screen this Christmas Eve.

What if Pasolini rose from his grave?
Would he confess, I am a heretic,
or more likely, upbraid clergy for sloth . . .
I remember the first time I saw it
the film refused to go on long enough
to lose its tempo, Odetta singing
Motherless Child, Prokofiev’s Nevsky
orchestrated for Sergei Eisenstein.
Who believed this Jesus Christ was Marxist
would discover no prophet lived alone
when freeing the poor was heroic work.

Among the defeated, the abandoned, 
came one bent on poetry, cinema,
mythology’s reality stripping 
history’s shame down to mourning’s absence.
He was mauled, murdered by his young lovers.
For Pasolini no resurrection.
His boys did not trouble to bury him.

(24 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Brightly Shining

Here’s where the work gets done. Nothing stands between words and love but money.
I was listening to Jimmy Jive give me a rundown on the orphanage he came here from.
We were parked feet first on Avalanche and Merci, where cars flow by like electric eels.

I can’t see staying here, he mumbled, friends all over been inviting me to visit, adding,
If only I had the money to stay out of trouble and be free from all the curses my life holds.
He says, Bobby, give me a smoke and I’ll lay a J on you you can have later with your girl.
He walked off with the the cigarette, swallowing smoke. Sure, I said, glad I had the money.

I don’t think about money now, I just wait to be surprised. It’s my girl who needs money
and earns all there is, one way or another, on the books or off, or tells me when I get some.
Here’s a surprise, she says, her white skin and red hair brightly shining as she hands it over.

Where am I going and what will I do to survive when she gets fed up with me and cuts out
for the Islands, Hawai’ian or Virgin, or maybe go to the city she only reluctantly came from.
She likes to show off her antic eyes, moving them the way she frolics when getting me up.
I look around as she goes out. It’s still in pencil. I go to the typewriter: Make some money.

(23 December 2013)

Copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Poet in Thrall

I caught her looking beautiful in Venice,
then at the helm of a sailboat somewhere.
I miss seeing her, I am a despairing lover
too hung up to recover sanity at any price.

I never get to see her now, it’s like I’m blind.
Why can’t the masters of reality let us live
our years the way we need to learn to be kind.
Such a life includes the body and eye of love.

I was always where she was. Here winter
always lasts longer than by the Outer Banks.
I want to find her in the skin of the deer
she became. I am so old I must give thanks

to the magicians of distance that is timeless,
whose genie always comes around to me
to say she’s out there frolicking but chaste,
waiting for me to find reality’s lock and key.

Thus I despair. I give up. I gnaw the bones
of my body. She is surely too far away
for love’s sentiments to travel, its moans
rising out of the moon’s sleep with the sea.

(22 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 21, 2013

From Black Mountain

  North Carolina

Forgive me before I go.
You said I would leave you
like all the others left you.
I have learned nothing
your lips were sealed to say
because you hoped for rain
to cool the Southern earth
and keep your skin soft
as ice floating the Atlantic.

Mary Shelley’s monster walks
the Arctic in her horror story
composed the night the doctor
awards her his prize,
and she reads Frankenstein
to all the castle’s shadows:
Polidori, desirous Claire,
Byron, and her husband
not long before he drowned.

I climb Black Mountain
where silence is poetry
living now on the other side.
Here’s only the poet and you,
two bodies plucked
from graves on separate nights:
his aging skin, your proud heart.
You were two bodies sewed
together to make one.

(21 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Ladder

So she stayed home as long as she could without screaming,
Let me go! You two-faced trinity! Stop exterminating kids
and all who come to attempt to end the folly of nations,
now the edges between good and evil are as blurry as ever.
So I went to see her. She was combing out her long red hair.
Barefoot, she scoffed, You got a foot fetish, lover? I said sure,
I got a breast and a hips fetish, the sound of your voice fetish.
You are my fetish, I told her, as she hunkered in for the night.

In those days I did not want to see any woman but Esperanza.
I gave her the name because her given name translated well.
I walked out there with her, though she had to walk slower
than she would have with a younger man. You think I’m old,
I was damn near dead when I met her. She’s the only reason
the cuckoo still comes out of the clock when the hour changes.
Her white, creamy English skin shines in the full moon light.
She is my home now. She dwells where hearts are harvested.

What’s the ladder reaching to the second-storey window for?
It’s for me at the end of nights when I’ve been drinking shots
instead of merely imbibing. She said she'd never climbed up,
only down. I loved her so, I once told her I ruined my life
by drinking all the time I was waiting for my ship to dock.
She said, You’ve been reading Melville again. Yes, Redburn,
I replied, teaches you how to be a sailor nearly all the way
to shadowy Liverpool, cruelty that only the young may see.

(20 December 2013 )

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 16, 2013


Do you wish you’d learned to kill, or at least fight like a marine? my friend Tony asks.
I say no, there've been enough fights for one life, and before that, murders in my family.
Tony is in the marine reserves, boot camp, when this kid comes up to him and starts talking
about what a fuckup he is. Tony listens a while, he says, I didn’t know how to help the kid
so I tell him I’m a priest. You are? the kid stammers. Give me your confession, my son.
Sign of the Cross. The kid says he wants to go AWOL so he can see his girl before she  
marries somebody else. I'd die, he says, before I give her up . . . which is what he’s doing,
she wrote him all that, all he’s talking about, he wants to run away and steal her for his own . . . How romantic can you get? Tony mutters to himself so low the kid can’t hear. 
He traces the Sign on the kid’s forehead. Go in peace, my son. Thank you, Father,
I feel much better.

(16 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 15, 2013

To My Longest and Now Late Friend Tony Lehman (1942-2013)

  for Laurie

Remember that class in Greek tragedians you took because you’d already read Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and wanted credit for having to listen to the prof’s opinion.
Then you quit school and drove your Morgan through the University District after hours.
I earned a B.A. for both of us. You wrote a treatment for the first chapter of a screenplay, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” for Andrew Sarris at Columbia. Then lived in Paris.

San Francisco, Berkeley: you never left the City again until now. I will miss your hip talk
about Lenny Bruce, whom we almost caught at the Hungry I on one of his last nights,
but climbed the stairs to Cochran’s Room instead, watching the hustlers working, pool
cues dusty with chalk, a hum of sang-froid that never abated even when the loser lost.

Then we drove to Los Angeles, the freeways emptied out, the fires in Watts flaming,
we drove through and returned to where we had entered, needing gas, the black attendant
pointing at the palm trees declaring he was getting out of town once he got off work . . .
Another summer we went to the park to hear Preservation Hall play, taking Mason jars
full of Jack Daniels and a couple extra fifths to see us through the night of inspired talk.

When I was in love again with my old flame, you talked her into giving up her secure job
teaching to run off with me to the wild-ass Vietnam valleys of New England and New York.
Near the end of my Massachusetts madness, you sent a clipping concerning James Jones
returning to the States after many years in Paris, scribbling on it: You too can come home.

You called from California Street, I was staying in Berkeley. Come to dinner, you said.
Laurie and I met for the first time. The phone rang incessantly. No message machine.
Simply two American Express travel agents determined not to be available evenings.

Then you moved to Berkeley. The years pass. Now Laurie calls to say you had a stroke
and died. I had been trying for a month–well, actually years–to send you a long letter 
once your heart threw you down, time elapsed, that same heart sizzled, sputtering out.
I felt a short circuit fill my throat with fire, disgust, tears: each future invariably brief. 

(15 December 2013)

revised 17 December 2013

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 13, 2013


for Esperanza, who said,
I saw you moving among the moors, your manor, and my heart.

Not Wolfman Jack, the L.A. DJ,
or Lon Chaney Jr.’s original,
but Anthony Hopkins, Shakespearean
Welshman. The tyrant in Titus.

Old man with your frozen life,
remember when she ran
with you the moors, roamed
the manor, gave her heart
license to entwine with yours.

I would read her, then engrave
the countryside with my mark,
do my atavistic dance with her
. . . into her future.

The moon, the opium, the live TV,
friends back in the world, 
telling the Seventh Calvary
to go get fucked up and fill the hole
with George Armstrong Custer,
1969 swallowing the tail of 1876.

Paula, who loved me then, was there.
When she left that house to go north
I followed, south. Forty years passed
learning regret, the wages of old love.

Esperanza, take my heart for yours.
Esperanza, you know what your name
means to me in these ebbing years.
Esperanza, shield me from full moons.

(13 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


Thursday, December 12, 2013


I am backing out of my life like a car in reverse.
I don’t need to watch it happening,
no one plans on seeing the unexpected.
The brakes are gone, lost fluid puddled among
the broken clouds welling up with black eyes.
Let me drive, I say, thinking, Settle down, relax.


Today I went to see the doctor. I was a doctor too.
He had not read much Freud. I have, I said, but
I learned nothing children hell bent on seeing
the universe through dark glasses could not know.
The doctor leaned back listening to my story.
He asked me what I meant calling myself “wild.”


I lived once among the grasses that drank rain,
I let myself soak in the falling drops that splashed
between the roots, where the blades lifted slowly
while I dreaded this loss of such propinquity
to sky and mountains shouldering it with care
that the earth resolved by melting most of the stars.


I tell myself to go home, I am of no help here
where the wine-colored skin of lascivious women
want anything but to be alone, unspoken of
or for, the shadows of the only street perplexed
in their sun-laced cane breaks. If I take her home
she will want what I had and will not live to give.


I know nothing. I will not agree to love myself.
How can you tell the truth and remain upright?
Of all the skunks and porcupines in my yard
on moonless summer nights, none are so feared
as the black bear chasing deer down the streets
to be seen on the front page of tomorrow’s paper.

(12 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

April Twenty-eight, Nineteen Hundred Sixty-three

Here love unravels out of sight,
your mischievous stare a bushel of bright humor.
If I should die at seventy-five
when you’re still fifty (be my widow),
toss my bones and ashes to the west wind
from the second storey of your white house
where I would stand six inches over you.

The heart stands high where you outlive the dead.
On Summer River Road the door is locked
when you leave. My ghost waits for the car to arrive,
the door to open, your body step out,
your bare feet carry your beauty
to the door . . . In back of the house
we would walk where you hear only water.

At the turn of the year and west of you,
I pass the house on Conley Road
named for the people who reared my mother
and where I first lived,
a house built of the original logs
that were invisible by the time I arrived.

This year I’ve lived a quarter century,
you are being born, Martin Luther King Jr.
midway through the speech no one may read now
save in the national archives.
Who are they who could lift the copyright,
allow us to read what once we had heard?

It is April 28, 1963.
Seven months until Kennedy’s cut down,
five years before King’s murder in Memphis;
a month later the president’s brother
after his victory speech in L.A.

The dead dwell underground or in the air.
I was in Fort Smith, you were in Norfolk:
your heart was broken with the placenta,
I lay in the hollow place of my dead brother,
Robert Rufus, who was always Bobby.

Each year corporate America
replays the death of JFK. Not so
for Malcolm X, for whom chickens
also came home to roost: He might have saved
too many black lives. No such folderol
for King or Robert Kennedy,
whose murders brought life to a stop
if, that is, you had a TV set.

Right now I’m going back to my birth year,
to Hitler’s blitzkrieg of Poland,
the beginning of World War Two,
four of my five uncles in Europe,
the Pacific, their mother in the house
down the field from mine
rocking before the big window,
taking snuff above her silver spittoon,
watching convoys pass,
pondering the fate of her sons.

You loved your grandma as much as I loved
my own. They lived closer than you and me.
I’m too far away to visit the town
of Huntington–or is she buried in
Mansfield?–a thousand miles from me.
Five hundred more, I could even touch you
and pay homage to the one who loved you.
I no longer visit my family down there.
My ashes mix with bones that would grow wings. 

(2-3, 9, 11 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Woke in the Night

Hope is the bird sleeping in the attic.
Wings flare and take hold of the air.
She was looking up and now looks down
from the zone of flight beneath the ceiling.
I hope she knows she is my love waiting
. . . for what I do not, nor will ever, know.

She can’t sleep through the night but wakes in dark
absence, moon shadows lighting brightly
dreams of the one who could not give her children,
the other who could but prostituted her instead.
Then this one, the married man, whose poetry
might lead her to think, We are eternal . . .

She likes to read sheet music as she listens
to her fingers writing her interpretation
of Franz Liszt in this concert hall or that.
He wonders if she’d found her man in time
what art their child would make, what to call it
to wait patiently for the piano-playing poet . . .

Esperanza, melt me down with your fiery fingers,
soothe my wand with your lips and let me find
your jinni’s bottle to fill near to bursting
with love that coalesces between us, your spawn
of mine own Ulster pride, your sweet London
where I want to go, though here my orange turns green.

Belfast is a smoky place from the fires of sod
we gather in the dawn and carry sunrise home.
I do not know how to tell you the truth I feel,
nor do I wish to weigh on your heart with sorrow
so hard earned I know there’s no god forgives
the stutter in my step, the caul that swaddled us.

(5, 11 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Esperanza, Cathleen


He called to hear her voice. Her phone rang and rang again, then the message machine clicked on. Esperanza’s voice sounded like he imagined, a slight Southern curvature to the educated edge: self-educated.

He left no message: he wanted her to hear his voice, but not this way. He called again and this time got a busy signal. The third time he asked himself, Why did I think it was OK to call her at all, especially now? He was afraid to feel the stirring in his aging loins, but here she was, breathing happily to hear from him while he felt what he had feared he would feel. If he were still imbibing–her word, not his (he preferred throwing down shots with beer back)–he wouldn’t bother fearing what his loins felt; it was her loins he hungered for and wanted to be with his. Her voice was as he had imagined it, he thought; yet he needed to see her, even if only a photograph, but her photographs were gone now, and he remembered them as he listened to her sparkling Southern timbre–again, her word.  

All I care about is you, he could have said, but there was Cathleen taking care of him to the point of self-denial, a lovely love he’d known all but twenty-one years of his life and to whom he was married, again. A quarter century passed and here he was, thinking he was in love again and with a different woman now, when it had always been Cathleen during those interims between love affairs, two and then three of them becoming what the society called marriages. Esperanza had told him she’d fallen twice, so being twenty-five years older he owed her one.


He was living alone now. Or so he liked to think. Cathleen was with him weekends she had free from her pimp. He wrote to Esperanza about Cathleen, but he didn’t use her name when it came to her night work. She could have been a Sunday school teacher, but she dug behavior and thought B. F. Skinner had something she could learn from, so she taught Walden Two in the college course that she moonlighted during the week days. Then she saw her lover at high school, where he was football coach hired from the Miami beaches, where he’d learned to sell his body as a kid. She was keeping the wild boys and girls from going batshit, which they refrained from only because they liked her, one and all. One of the big Chicano boys told her out loud in class one day–a non sequitur–he’d like to get her alone some time. She didn’t even blush (or so he said later). 

He was living in an apartment he got free with his managerial job, opening doors for tenants without keys (but with IDs), also checking them in and checking them out, and–the worst part of his duties–lighting gas furnaces. Cathleen had been hired with him, and because she said she loved him and didn’t want him to live on the streets, she drank with him and screwed him and blew him and asked him if he wanted to do her in the ass, to which he replied, No, something’s got to be left to the imagination; besides, I’m not paying. She didn’t know he knew her new lover, the football coach, was pimping her until one night in the Radisson Hotel bar he saw the black man sitting at the bar talking to fellow customers like he was a waiter, not a customer. He sidled up to the coach to tell him he’d seen a game or two and because he had been a high school star once, turning down a free ride at a California junior college because he’d only played one year and was more interested in art.

You a painter? Will asked. Poet, Bobby replied, adding, the kind of artist who works for free and sometimes takes the early way out. You mean suicide, Will asked sans questionmark. Yeah, Bobby said. Will then asked him if he’d like to meet a woman friend of his. Bobby said, Sure, knowing she would take the money. Will called ahead and then gave Bobby the girl’s apartment number. That’s how Bobby found out Cathleen was selling herself. She said it was her alternative to a mixed-race marriage, and: Besides, she made a special effort to add, I’ve always loved you, I’m just getting the experience.

(4, 10 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


You must be luckier than lucky
if you gamble your life as I have,
pari-mutuel windows for horses,
smoke-choked rooms and shots
with beer back debating to fold
or raise, and running the table,
while boys and girls bet on love
to their detriment, tears, despair.

And so you place yourself in peril
by writing lines that say nothing
when all you wish to conjure
is what the words may convey
only through their deepest sounds, 
the sudden emblems of ecstasy.

(1, 10 December 2013: II)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

To The Angel of Sorrowful Marriage

Some days I wonder if it’s worth staying alive,
she goes through such hell with me.
I would give her back this earth
we once trod together so happily
once we devoted our selves to ourselves.
Angel, I do not want to die. Please stay alive.

(1, 10 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 9, 2013

Old Times

The scrapbook was drenched by the broken pipe.
Pretty Boy Floyd’s demise on the front page–
you get sent up you might as well take a bullet to the heart.
John Dillinger in Chicago (city some may never know),
his body cross-hatched from the machine gun.

And so the thirties left my father and mother’s memory.
I appeared somehow in the world of The Wizard of Oz,
the books not the movie (every Christmas I was given one
of that series from the pen of a fascist, I know now).

Then I went back to comics, Crime and Punishment,
when I’d not even heard the name Dostoevsky spoken
(and never would as long as I was a child living home;
then found the novel in a college library).

I sat on the roof of the neighbor guy’s tree house
reading Charles Biro’s update of Raskolnikov,
of John Dillinger gunned down leaving the movies,
Pretty Boy Floyd getting his in Oklahoma.

All that in the soaked scrapbook was thrown out
long after L. Frank Baum; before the great Russians.
In Siberia my holy whore raises me from the dead.

(30 November, 9 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

The Poor

All day there is no heat. For two days the water was frozen.
I had asked the sky for a gentle rain in a bleak winter.
No answer. So this is how homeless pilgrims run out of luck.
They stump on if canes keep them upright. I imagine the days
that are nothing but night, when not even the moon appears.
I know no other way but to hobble on; even crawling
is a boon to the thirsty, hungry one I have become.
I have come to the last day of the penultimate month
of my bliss turned into the haggard cry of a tongueless death.

All woe to him then. He knows nothing of the world’s last gasp.
He waits for thunder. He is poised for lightning to strike near.
The trees, gnarled and burnt, silhouettes against the dying sky,
the birds turned upside down in the wind smothering their wings–
they are part of the body’s map stripped and blown to the poles.

(29-30 November, 9 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Twenty-first-century Dark Ages

She left town giving me her numbers, yes,
Write when you want, she said, I’d love to hear
your voice if you can find a way to call,
then bowing out she vowed her own body
would be where she found the one that wore me.
Electricity out, the phone lines down,
post offices closed from here to the South.
Who could have seen what would be forthcoming?

No, I who did nothing but sleep and wake
to see the world incoming through TV,
its sweeping panoramas, the spot-on
reports from the front that’s found everywhere . . .
Prevented to love every way I turned, 
I snuffed the flame touching you in the dark.

(28 November, 9 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Don't Try

to save me let alone love me,
roll your dice, baby, our bodies know
the rules, love me forever
above the river run, remember
rain falling on what we have lost
and who knows when we’ll find it again?

If what we were was a pair of lovers
we tried to live up to the word love.
Comes a time betrayal festers, grows.
She thinks you’ll go back to loving her
if she tells you who she’ll be loving next.
Put your life on ice.

You no longer waste your time  where you slept
alone or together. You go get lost.
She comes around. She asks the doors
that open where I am . . . then the windows.
Nobody knows. Your death crawled off;
alive you were like the weather:

too cold up north you had to go home
where your body got so warm, you glowed.

                              para Siempre

(27 November-6 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

To the Gods of Marriage

Anna Karenina came after Emma Bovary.
Thank the gods of marriage,
for whom Anna carried through her suicide
with a certain elan
Emma could not equal–under a train
or via poison, what’s your pleasure?
If you’re Flaubert you won’t live long enough
to learn how a Levin and his family
could dispel the boredom of the doctor
and his bored wife.

Instead, you lay in bed listening to the river
as your mistress Louise Colet
told you the facts of marriage
you evaded all your life with whores.

(26 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Gods

The gods find us funny
and cackle and whoop
and slap their thighs
and roll on wet grass
across the croquet lawn
next to the private pool.

(25 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Bear in Winter

No visitors, we make do.
The snow piles high.
The cats sleep.
I think I’m thinking,
but I’m only writing
words as they occur,
boring, as usual.
(I said “banal” once
only recently,
too soon to be so
formal again.)
Each winter I grow
until I break skin,
cold creeping under
my nails, my tongue.
I start telling everyone
I should go south,
where I was born.
No one takes me up on it.
I guess
there will never be
enough money
to travel.
I think I would get lost
riding freights,
hitching rides,
sleeping in ditches,
hungry as ever,
dissolute, reproachful
I started off this way
with only a destination
and no dinero.
The jails are warm
along the way, at least.
And somehow I endure
six months of each year
here mimicking a bear
nourished only by sleep.

(24 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Drive, man! It’s Round Midnight, Thelonius
in the beginning and now in the end, 
man. I think–no, I feel . . . play! do it for us,
stroke one key against another, do right
the way you first heard it, before you knew
taking it out and into the clubs changed
the flats and sharps, do you still call them that?

I take the wheel. Guide me through Manhattan.
I turn up the other side of Harlem,
among them, the people who look like me,
I love to hear what I can do they can’t.
Mind you now, they see more than I can play.
I don’t know where to find rats on the keys.
Who knows why a body stays far from home?

Only Mama knows how you get up here.
The South’s a good country to be born in,
maybe, but don’t let anyone tell you
it gets better the more time you let pass.
There’s only one reason a man goes there
without her voice getting tangled in yours,
you can’t wait for the heat down there to rise.

(23 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, November 22, 2013

Poultry Science

A Friday, I’d just begun the job;
college most of my life so far,
and womanless now
Irene Castenada had vanished.
Love stripped like paint
from my youth.

I tried to read Flaubert.
It took me years,
L’Education sentimentale
and his letters
my only writing school,
albeit in translation.

I could speak Spanish
where I had to,
in orchards and fields,
but not when asked
for translation in the city
by those pointing at words.

So it was 
that when I was working
in the halls of Poultry Science,
among roosters and mostly hens
as we awaited a new building
where we’d all have offices,

I heard the news
JFK was shot and killed
in Dallas this Friday
in the Year of Our Lord 1963.
Then the long weekend,
the Mafia’s Ruby slaying Oswald.

When my teacher had died
five months before,
the radio obituary said he worked
in a pickle factory
before writing Pulitzer Prize
poetry. He got me the job.

Thanksgiving, the country
went on as before the murder.
I was on my way to Mexico
to look for Irene Castenada,
finding those who knew her
and hear she never appeared.

America always remembers
the young president mourned
by those who loathe
Nixon. Reagan.
The Bush family.
I too revere John Kennedy . . .

who thought on his feet
and loved all the women
who wished to love him.
He had a bad back, better
after the orgasm, superb
if she too was  happy.

I wrote in a Kennedy rocker
before the picture window
above the highway into town,
meditating on the grain elevator.
My luck, not my back, was bad:
saying Betty, sleeping with Paula.

Years later the scholars exposed
his need for women not his wife.
The nation was hungry to hear
what never required thought.
And those who took degrees
were anointed as intellectuals.

Fifty years and the intelligentsia
weary with conspiracy theory:
the single bullet, a second shot,
the inexplicable demise of those
on the Grassy Knoll . . . Believe
nothing under the spell of time.

(22 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, November 21, 2013


What is where? You know when you arrive.
In the beginning here was nowhere.
Time’s corners turn faster as you age.
The elements gold, silver, and bronze prove
nothing. Is that why time’s short?
Why not live as though death waits
for breath to stop in the pall of night,
and still alive be caught up eagerly
in the throb of life? Behind the mask
you breathe fresh air. Alchemists swear
a rainbow can swallow sunlight
and clouds eat the moon. The metal
urges, Teach me to melt you so you know
ecstasy’s feel, blood flowing together.

Went into the rain. Both of us barefoot
walking lightly across the grass soaking
the seed growing throughout the night.
We knew everything at birth, forgotten
when we knew too much, the soil soggy . . .
Took you, you took me deep into the dark.

(21 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where Are You Going

There are places to go you’ve never been to,
they'll still be there when the planet catches fire

I wasn't very happy being nowhere,
I’m packing to ride a freight train out of here

Don’t think you can run away from your old home
or you may find the other one in ashes

You always find cardboard and pointed objects
under the moon you can make shapes and words with

Scraps hurled out of supermarkets to dumpsters
are gathered mornings before spoilage sets in

If you were in Hawaii you would eat Spam
before going to drink to not be alone

I have nothing, but I bring with me ample
memory of more difficult times than these

There was always another freighter leaving,
let's go stowaway so we can ship out now

(20 November 2013: II)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Late Dark

Wind threads a needle through my skin.
Or is it your lips I kiss in a dream?
The day went too slow, the night came quickly.
There were piles of leaves: leftover autumn.
Why did I believe you were my lost love?
I wanted only you to melt my snow.

(20 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


long walks are afoot, two feet,
crawl if you must,
coyotes do,
nothing to it
but grief’s

Oklahoma City
servers wear valentines
in November,
short shorts
the gawkers
would espy
what’s concealed.

Awake then,
he greets the cockroach
with a blow of the news
this world gives
its poor, its weak, its lost.
I wish
my love would wake in time
to love.

Des Moines, where
she carried him to sleep
before and now.
Come Minneapolis 
threading traffic
she makes him

(19 November 2013: II)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


A certainty cuffs me, a hand guiding me behind my back.
Do not speak. Let them go. Words are nothing to me now. I close
this imitation of verse by sealing it shut with such prose
as will cushion the night and brighten the day with its soft knock.

(19 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, November 18, 2013

Up North

“Now I want you to tell me just one thing more. Why do you hate the South?”
–Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

From the car I could see everything that saw me:
unsullied patches of snow through Connecticut;
driving freeways north from New York City
looking for my cousin’s husband’s pig farm
outside Portland, Maine, where she did desk work

for the insurance office I just got a letter from,
announcing her death, bequeathing to me 
a photo of Uncle Clyde on her vacation.
I would gather my love in Northampton.
I always got lost looking for the farm.

She used to take our only living uncle, who’s dead now,
to Branson, Missouri, every summer.
Clyde recognized his roots in the slovenly speech,
the tacky outfits, the Bob Wills music.
Clyde sure did like to love up those honeys.

I hate the very thought of Branson, Missouri.
That’s why I got lost looking for Chloe’s farm.
Now she’s planted beside her husband’s bones.
This summer I drive to Fayetteville, down
the switch-back Ozarks highway in the rain.

Hate the South? This ain’t even south. Shreveport,
same as Quentin’s friend’s name without the port,
is not the resting place of my friend James Harris,
for in Cross Cemetery, Greenwood, Arkansas,
his stone does not declare he died of AIDS.

And no, Quentin doesn’t hate the South, not
"in the iron New England dark."
I don’t hate it! I don't hate it!
Clyde telephoned to say he couldn’t understand

Clyde rides in the back seat of his car to Excelsior,
to the country compound-like residence
of Katy Freeman. No relation to
Vol Freeman, who killed Clyde’s daddy in Sallisaw.
Clyde dons his breathing apparatus with its tank.

Katy’s family, who lives around her,
visits. They come here to meet Clyde’s nephew
and his Black Irish gypsy wife.
The daughter who loves Loretta Lynn
talks matter-of-factly of her black son.

In Fort Smith, after Magazine Mountain
and Cross Cemetery, where Clyde said
he put up a new tombstone
for Bobby, my brother born and died
before me, but I can’t find it among the thorns,

I notice in Denny’s a white boy and a black girl
on one side of the table,
a black man and a white woman on the other.
Cathleen wants to see The Row,
where whores found a place to make a living.

The Row has been gone one full century.
The river arcs around through Van Buren,
where Ruby Campbell and Clyde made a son
he kept a secret until now.
It don’t matter, I say, we’ll all be dead someday.

We cross into Moffett, Oklahoma,
park and point down to the dirt earth’s
silvery glint of pull-tabs in the dark.
The bar was the town last time I came here.
Tonight full moon, headlights up bright, down south.

(18 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Some Music

There are songs that so sweetly hold us by the neck
to wring our eyes for their watery waste,
going nowhere new and returning home
with vibrato strings, anger in each stroke of sound.
Home is a pillaged field, the killdeer dead
when they did not heed the signs revealed first:
bob-white! vanished, its morning cry lifting the gloom
silenced, wings folded, sun high and no tracks
in the sky. What is there never appears,
skin stripped from the heart, mind gone, touch numb many years. 

I thought I might go look death in the eye,

let the wind carry traces of a past away.
I raised my voice. How long such sound roamed there
I did not know a minor key climbed scales of air.

(17 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, November 16, 2013

In the Warm Country

The old wizards know more than the new ones,
of whom there are none.

The young man in his dotage strokes an owl’s
feathers in its tree.

At dawn the moon turns into the first light
of her sleek body.

You’re never too old to be done with love,
says the aging sage.

No man can fly unless he begins where
her legs lift him off.

There are no owls beyond her bay windows
until she’s alone.

Sun melts the snow. You can hear the river
but you can’t see it.

(16 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day and Night

I was seeing in my mind’s eye
the Marquis Alfonso de Portago
in better days, before the crash
–the kind no one, however angelic,
survives. He would rather die
like a lion than live like a mouse.

Naturally I thought of The Saloon
and of meeting its owner, Ray Fox,
who dined with us after hours
and a cabbie drove him home
where he lived with his widowed
mother, like a true Southern son.

Days watching the Mille Miglia.
Nights with Betty on Bourbon.

(14 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, November 14, 2013


My brother hugs close to the edge of life.
Bobby and I were born and Bobby died
and my only living brother calls me now
to tell me his prostate must be removed
or his body will live on the kidney
dialysis machine . . . or he may die.
I am ten years older than my brother.
Bobby was born and died two years before
I was born. World War Two was over then.
My brother, not me, was in Vietnam.
I did what I could to stop the war there;
worked full time in a university,
had a football knee that spared me the draft,
went South to immerse myself in the hell
anyone would suffer if he or she
were black, their home a little east of mine.
That way I followed the lead of fighters
whose tongues were loaded with endless supply
of talk or silence depending on death’s
proximity, helping each other through
and beyond to Berkeley, Columbia,
Kent State, Jackson State, following the turns
down the highway leading to the devil
frozen in the ice of the river Styx.
Keep a coin handy for the ferryman,
brother. One for each eye, so you don’t see
where you are going until you get there.

(14 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Two Brief Poems of Two Different Years

Today the long shadows
stretched out to sleep
on the narrow road
between here & there

(24 October 2007)

In the fields by the woods, deer go hungry.
Hunters call killing harvesting, for deer
are everywhere eating more than their share.
What do we say to the fish in the sea?

(12 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, November 11, 2013

May Cold and Heat Coexist? A Sonnet

Would you try to do what you cannot know? 
Open the door and close it the same way?
Is inside for you the same as outside?
Look out the window: Do you see the snow?
Don’t you wish it were the humidity
or even the heat that would stay outside?
Inside would be okay when I could sleep
with you. Rain falls, the child within me sleeps.
Would I be where you are if I'm not here?
Would I need to be sure I am nowhere?
There is a beauty beyond forbidding
the body to break into song.
Rain falls there, snow drifts here. Who is too cold
or warm where weather's neither good nor bad?

(11 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bobby's Troubles

She put me inside, milked me until I was dry.
She stayed with me months, we slept on the floor.
We made love first on waking, last before we slept.
She left one weekend all I did was read Hart Crane.
On Monday Roethke wanted to jump to Auden.
A shilling life will give you all the facts,
How father beat him, how he ran away,
I learned to say, aborting the line that followed:
how he became the greatest figure of his time,
taking all of Tuesday, much of Wednesday to learn
What were the struggles of his youth, what acts
Made him the greatest figure of his day . . . ,
you have to hear how the rest reads to know why
when I recited “Who’s Who,” Vicki left to stay.
I would have followed Irene, Carole, Beverly,
Anna, Cathleen, as I did the first and last named,
but not Vicki. I was twenty-two, I could live
alone and did, wrote poems Roethke said were “good;
another year in school to learn forms, read Bogan
to see what she made of such knowledge, I’d write well” . . .
and maybe someday make him proud, he did not add.
And while the others left and stayed away, Cathleen
would not let me forget her though she traveled far,
gave herself to men for love or even money,
married three times. I married twice, then thrice
and she kept my father’s name after we divorced.
Our surname’s the same on the document
that followed my fourth marriage and divorce,
indicating we had married a second time, 
mutually assuring that if I would follow
her tracks we might realize our love was lifelong.
Then I, Robert Henry St. Clair, resumed reading
Nelson Algren, you know, the guy who wrote
The Man with the Golden Arm. I knew he had tips
concerning his Chicago home I might apply
to Seattle. Algren obeyed “three laws”
he learned from “a nice little old Negro lady”:
Never play cards with any man named ‘Doc.’
Never eat at any place called ‘Mom’s.’ And
never, ever, no matter what else you do in
your whole life, never sleep with anyone
whose troubles are worse than your own.
Quotations from “Who’s Who” are from The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (New York: Random House, 1945), p. 17. Algren is quoted from H. E. F. Donohue and Nelson Algren, Conversations with Nelson Algren (1964; Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2001), pp. viii, ix.

(10 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Going Home

They hit him with a pool cue so he came at them with a gun.
They killed him with a knife driven into his skull.
Mick Jagger is watching it on tape as the speedway empties
and he must remember seeing it happening as well as here,
where  slow motion follows the knife descending,
the rewind puts the dead man back at the beginning
of his slant through the crowd toward the Hells Angels
the Stones hired to control the crowd. The girl in her trailer
said she wanted to go, I got dressed and she gave me a beer,
I thought about it and knew I was going to say no, and did.
His name was Meredith Hunter, a young black dude
with–what the word is now but was not then–attitude.
The girl twirled her blonde hair and fed her cat, I left
and never saw her again. When the year ended I left town
for San Francisco, traveled to New Mexico, then San Diego,
where the story was that Mike, the local chapter’s president
danced on the face of a young woman who said to his face
he was not a man but a beast with no brains, leave her alone
: so he made his mark on her face and bruised her body,
the lady who calls herself the Tabu she loves to smell
says, I didn’t see it but I know the girl, I’ll take you there.
She’s bandaged well, her voice is strong, her name’s Judy.
She says she was just drunk enough to tell Mike her mind
and look what happened to me and he gets to run around
free. I leave. I stay six weeks. I stash my bedroll behind
the bar and shoot pool with the band that leaves its bikes
outside, where I go when I’ve had enough and sleep
in the bag on the grass of the nearby park the cops
arrive at sunrise to prod me awake with their night sticks,
announcing I can’t sleep there. I beg to be forgiven.
Next night I’m back. Next morning I’m told once more
what they said before. I carry a knife. I am nowhere here.
I have a tooth rotting in my head, I go to the Free Clinic
on Labor Day, the Angels’ holiday: all to themselves,
they like to think. In the alley beyond the door I go through
they are drinking, and seeing me I am told by one that if
I want to fuck with people he will fuck with me. I say no
and walk away, the crowd howls, I still wake at night,
I’m far from San Diego, I see the guy take out his teeth
and hand them to another. He’s ready. I keep saying no
and walking away and there is the freeway, the convertible
full of no-goods like me, When the music’s over blaring
off the sunlight on the Pacific, going north, going home.

(9 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, November 8, 2013


She came here to have a life
and who should she meet
but me. 
Her eyes sparkle, she talks
like me,
another westerner
like Robert Frost,
untimely ripped
from San Francisco
(in her case, Los Angeles)
and come to dine
at Lord Jeffrey Amherst Inn
long ago.
Before Vietnam. 
After the Lord’s smallpox
blankets divvied up
two per person,
take what you need
to keep warm, he said.
She married and moved
to Boston, I returned
to Seattle. 
What happened to Jim
and his heroin habit
in L.A., I’d never know.
She seemed surprised
I was still alive. I said,
So am I.

(8 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Man Revolted

I went out last night to kill myself
and as usual got drunk instead.
The men and women in the bars
across the river were drunk
enough to conduct conversations
on subjects New Englanders avoid
when sober.
I figured I was drunk enough to die.
For months I had read Camus,
L’homme revolte,*
alone in the large house downstairs
while Cathleen lived in Springfield
on R & R from her war with me,
her impossible task
of returning me to sanity,
but she had the luck others didn’t.
Or did she . . . Was it luck?
On my birthday, New Year’s Eve,
to celebrate my sobriety,
she invited friends for a party
and I stoked the fireplace,
adding wood along the way
across the river
after Rainbow drove Adam home
and Dave and Chris were kind
as always, and I’ve forgotten
who else was there, though I knew
who was at the door
when it opened.
Now it closed and Cathleen may
have gone looking for me,
checking all the bars in Amherst,
but I was in Northampton
at the bar where the mirror is
Bob Dylan dug, holding court
on the poet’s life,
like now. Dark falls.
I get off the stool. I remember
everything. It’s all banal.
* Acute accents appear over the two “e”s in “revolte.” The poem’s title is my translation.

(7 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I go to town to find it still there, the wide lake overflowing the boulevards in the long rain.
You walk ahead of me so I can size you up fifty-three, nearing fifty-four years later:
your close-cropped black hair, your olive skin that my fingertips bow with a smooth rosin.
The Ojibwe woman says in the wind it’s brisk. Rain doesn’t worry her so much as wind,
she confides now because I meet her in the winter sun when snow stops falling and the rain
returns and winter begins to end. She comes around the corner and says hello like women
do with men who seem friendly once the lake water recedes, spring's orange smile yawns.
Say I'm happy; why then's my long love's chin cradling Should I stay or should I go?

(6 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Future of the Soul

I enter the cage and free the one I came for, who looks askance and leaves, eyes holding
all that’s visible within a body’s orbs.

I know I am dying. I cannot walk without thinking, who once ran through the back country,
danced in a city’s cabarets; dying,

and only this one can save me. Alma! I cry and the moon replies. The one I freed says
nothing at first, holding out both arms.

Now the days are growing more precious, nights so quiet the stones may think, the river
churns and ripples and no one arrives

but Alma. I ask, Why do you stay? 
This is my home, she smiles, built to house your heart with mine, there is no other way.

I am what is left of the man I was.
Alma leaves to hunt and to gather, and deer follow the tracks Alma leaves behind, two feet

I unshod and kiss, and I am kissed
completely, so I may rest and work when the words occur, with ample time to say them.

Alma loves me, saying when I die her soul will go with mine through the corridors of Limbo.
She is my Alma, I am now hers.

(5 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Love's Bomb

He stroked the mane between her legs
until it grew wet, bathing his penis
entering, penetrating to her core.
They had already fucked in lone daydreams
under the spell of one hand or the other.
Now together, they hope to share
what lovers wish for from such frenzy.
They hurry to mesh precisely,
caught up in their slowly mounting fury
accelerating until both are one
delicate tempo building to power
seeking its apogee in orgasm,
one body igniting the other,
love’s bomb exploding within one dream.

(2 November 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Home from the War

My memory stops at certain points, she said,
and picks up again when I’m no longer sad.
I took her into my bed to love her warm body
and to sleep, two hearts filling the night sky
with little stars we called drums, we thought
we could hear them seeing black turn to white.
That was how I dreamed. I listened when I woke
wondering where we came from to be so sick
of this world, or was any world only a planet
so many stars are, places to spend the night.
She was fine as long as I stayed home. She loved
me making memories with her but not a child.
When she was wild I dreamed I could tame her.
The longer she loved me the more there was to fear.

(31 October 2013: III)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

The Finish Line

I like to run in a loincloth, feeling
hard between my legs, younger than I am,
looking out for bear and hoping for deer,
turning at the end of the fence keeping
safe the vegetation experiment
of the global sanctuary a world
like ours requires to keep big money safe,
old money, new money, no one’s money,
so much money it peels like a ripe peach
one bill off the next until the world ends,
like Eliot, or was it Mistah Kurtz, said,
“not with a bang but with a whimper,” rot
around green edges soiled by fingerprint
tattoos: lurch of the heart, tangle of legs.

(31 October 2013: II)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


So thought, bridge falls you try to cross

I love you very much, waited all day

lightning sparking back of the woods

she said a river’s hidden no one sees

I could’ve loved nobody, what happens

the bridge does fall, she goes quiet all day,

back home to see you’re through with me

thunder, wind, twilight, rain, winter

(31 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

To His Departed


no great shakes in bed
but has a bright mind.


Sullied flesh fills the callused paws
the tom treasures his pussy with 
in all weather and in silent alleys
of musk poured forth in the ominous South.


His childhood grins back when he arrives, spent
with the agonies of desire,
driving with one hand finger-fucking her
before she moans; owls torch the night.

(30 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Page for Gus

I found a page I copied for strangers. For myself, first. It’s the only page I’ve read I might never read again, since I read by drawing a straight line in dark pencil down the left hand of the book’s page, and then copied it flawlessly, because I felt attentive, and here other people could read it and wonder who wrote it since I did not write in French, nor will I ever. The place of publication in Paris and the translator’s name, as well as the dates of the original and the translation should have been hint enough, I thought, but only one of three had read it before me, and she knew much more than I what “The Renegade” was, what it meant, where it led, why Cioran had come to such conclusions in his first book, the one he repudiated afterward for being–what? taxing, obfuscatory, cynical, too much what he deemed “doubt about doubt itself”? My friend Gus, dead ten years, would know it like the lines in the palm of his living hand. Like the man on his way home after a decade away, searching for his dead brother of the wars and finding him in the place of no return, where incidentally no fires burn, they might be extinguished if the block of ice in which the Caretaker lived should melt . . . Gus would know by now what it was to be isolated among those who had no reason to even try to comprehend his actions and had abandoned any attempt to understand the banked fires of his mind long soon after the right side of his heart felled him in the alley behind the restaurant where he read and talked, but never wrote what he saved for the silence, the pour of hush around him broken only by his fingers clacking the keys. But I was still living, mind you; Gus would ask why, and what could I say? I had no alibi. I was a thousand miles away and how much farther I had to go even I did not know. Nor did I care as long as I lived within all my being.

(27 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pasquale; or, Let Sleep, Let Swim

He had to have his way,
Especially when she said no.
He went out of his way
to make her know
the meaning of no
was the way he thrust love
inside her as she slept
and waking cried, No!
you’re hurting me!
To which he replied,
Not me, my love, but this
life burning between my legs
that your legs bring to life
but not let sleep.

He was asked back to Venice
because she wanted that.
In Rome she could fuck
who she wanted
and when
and how
and sleep until she was awake
and ready to leave
this house he occupied
when she was gone
knowing nothing of when
she would open the door
locked only with her key.
In Venice he was let swim.

(24 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fascicle [20]


We are dying to live, who know nothing
or too little of love
or its contingent frequencies,
jealousy, betrayal, and cruelty . . .

La Tertulia
chile rellenos y sopapillas y cerveza,
Pacifico si, Tecate no,
in the see-through-to the garden patio,

going back to where he would be
if he were where he was born,
where so many growl and spit:
Come home, Orphee, Persephone loves you.

(23 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Murder Annales

for Esperanza

If I get up out of this chair and go
I won’t be coming back,
I’ll learn to be with no chair

but not these hands, this body, your lips,
your warmth, your birth
in the middle of his I have a dream

. . . his whole speech complete
with news nothing has changed
45 yrs since King, 50 after JFK
(22 October 2013: II)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Fascicle [19]


But not for you . . . sky keeps changing,
blue now but grey yesterday,
But not for you I would lie in my grave

The old need no less than the young.
Like the young, the old want more
before the penurious ovens

(22 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fascicle [18]


I may never know if twilight
was always
her time.
I know only what she says,
and then
I know only two men ravaged her heart
so that she may never speak of it
to me.
I who never knew her and may never,
I would lie with her by the bay window
telling time between seeing and feeling
clouds open.
First the man who could not give her a child.
Then the man who refused,
took her to the country
to camp.
He may as well have hired an auctioneer.
Who would know his ignorant, cruel folly
without beginning
The Mayor of Casterbridge . . .

(20 October 2013: II)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Fascicle [17]


This century devolves before the birth of Christ.
Tread the very ground buried under us.
We root and flower like belladonna.
The plates shift and clash and oceans erupt.
No man, not even God’s son, could save us.
Ice melts, waters rise, Earth’s great cities drown.

(20 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fascicle [16]


Then the plane lands without delay.
Sirens fill the head, what is called the mind.
Authority boards, concealing weapons,
checking passports. Soon this will be over.
Exiting, I keep my shoes on and schlep.
Seattle’s become my destination,
not Albuquerque; Paris behind me
with Rome, Odessa, and Glasgow, Belfast,
what do I know? who pack bombs, ignite them,
die with the rest of white America.
What you see is what you get: WYSIWYG.
Who am I? Nada is what nada does.
Skies overcast in the Carolinas;
like here, rain threatens. Where will snow fall?

(19 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, October 18, 2013


Ah, they are better than mamas!
They have more patience than death.
They believe we are their children.

One teaches you to read,
mine insists that I listen
(she can’t write, she can barely read).

They know more if unwidowed.
They know less when a child’s inside.
They know, they knew, they have

known more, so much they need
a grandchild for a touchstone,
maybe to love, maybe to love.

We’ve each loved only one.
Yours said, Read to me. And mine
rocked, chewed, spit, even told stories.

Ah, there is no other grandmother!
Her doppelganger casts no shadow.
It is the dreamscape she articulates.

And yours? how could I know her?
I would have to find her in you . . .
your eyes, fingers, or secret places.

                              para Esperanza

(18 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, October 17, 2013

At a Grave

She lived and died and now I pray for grace
for one remembered here by stone and grass.

I came here with no need to be with her.
Her daughter, my mother, wanted me here

with her. I am. I look into the sun.
I want to walk away and be alone 

with one who sips nectar from my flower,
carries me to his hive, ignites the fire

warming us through the night, and all day long
while I work I am becoming his song.

(17 October 2013)

Copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Last Wish

A man holds his friend’s head off the cracked earth
to hear him say he just wants to enter
his house justified. And he can die now
so the movie will end. Remember words
like that. They compensate for the absence
of rain. This winter in the high country
risks the hooves of horses sliding on rocks
descending like stair steps to the valley.
Ice breaks up and melts into the river.
Nothing more need happen now it's over,
a year of salting away provisions
to live in town and climb the flight of stairs
to caress her and enjoy her caress,
and let weather pass by in slow motion.

(15 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, October 13, 2013

To Akhmatova's Shroud (revised)

“A poet is someone from whom nothing must be taken
and to whom nothing must be given,” you claimed,
taunted as “half-nun, half-harlot.”

With no desire to go to heaven, having lived here in hell,
up there the “secret of secrets” left you
to qualify you for sainthood.

Who’s not a saint in what this world’s become? Down here,
where slaughter continues, our sins absolved by those who are
divided: half-priest, half-pimp.

(13 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Four Lines for Elaine Susan's Fifty-ninth Birthday

"Write me a poem for my birthday."--Elaine Susan

The smell of your hair closes your eyes
and passes a hush through the gold beads of air
. . . so sleep is a way to count the mustangs
and more akin to wild, wet love than rain.

28-29 September 2013

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

To Akhmatova's Shroud

Who knows, Anna, what you meant:
“A poet is someone from whom nothing must be taken
and to whom nothing must be given,”
taunted as “half-nun, half-harlot.”

Who knows what to do,
considering what happened to you
up there? They cut out “the secret of secrets” *
to qualify you for sainthood.

Take nothing from me if you give me nothing;
who’s a saint in what this world’s become?
Who knows what poetry down here is?
Half-priest, half-whore
* from Jane Kenyon's translation:
" . . . I can't tell
if the day is ending, or the world,
or if the secret of secrets is within me again."

(12 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, October 11, 2013

A la bella Virginia

No one I have known would confuse you with the night.
I walked among too few brave enough to love you.
Embracing only perennials, they were cowed.
You would have merged with seed, starting over,
your belly’s mound blossoming between us.

The stars were like the sun where we were born
to walk paths that meet but have disappeared.
Now the moon is a desert, perpetual day.
Age has brought us too little to live on.
There is more to life than being lovers.

Yet there is ample future left to fight.
Who once counted himself among the brave goes wild
now like then, though his name is not the child’s
whose memory's presence is embodied by light.

(11 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Virginia Dare

She goes where the dark is quiet,
inside the circle of crickets,
in her house she watches storms from.
The music she plays fills the room.
Rain falls. She is dancing alone
. . . there could never be such a scene.

When I believed I could see her,
she knew better: I’m not there now.
I imagined her. Who could know
her? she who spoke in metaphors
only her fathers understood,
each of whom called himself husband.

In a dream there dwells the same ship
without the shadow of her shape.

(10 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Infallible

Our thinking triggers alarms.
It’s in her head, his fingers.
If we are doomed, why go on?
No one’s been through before!
Why not continue? Go where?
There. No, that way! Stay here.
(The infallible wait at Sion.*
Swiss banks still open,
coffers overflowing. Makers
destroy the male and female
we carefully renamed takers,
say the swaggerers, truly
pigs at the trough, infallibly.)
Everything must be for sale.
* not Mount Sion or Zion,
but the Swiss capital of Valais, 
bordering on France and Italy

(9 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, October 7, 2013

Manna for the Lost

Unaware, one step goes in before the other pulls the body out of a hole
in the earth deeper than a grave. The upright ones go quietly around;
the obedient clamor for a crust and sip. They tend the dark that smells
of rain. I have been nowhere and you are here. It is the luck of the lost.

You were all I could have ever wanted. A green life, a willowy soul.
So many do not even know how it is to desire what eventually arrives.
They go everywhere, but settle nowhere. There is an enormous sound
in their hearts hollow with need. It is the manna we sent for to save us.

(7 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Nothing is new that was not here before,
land coveting sounds with light as in dark.
Parchment wrinkles. Sun slurs the smell of fire
beyond the clearing that bears its charred mark.
I have gone nowhere I did not stay late,
or longer. Memory may hold such weight.

Who is I? Old man who was never young,
or you, who wear your body like a kiss
and fuel love in the distance between us.
Passion carries fury to endure long
after. What comes before will never leave.
We have felt many loves threading our lives.

I walk alone at sundown through these hills.
Wind stirs. Clouds slice the moon. When do you sail?

(6 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Where Virginia Is

The ship leaves and returning finds no one.
Of cars and trains nothing is known.
Imagine now: No money in the house
for flight. Forget the future, take the coach.
Go south, then east, through enemy country
looking everywhere she might be.
You are stubborn, Sir, you brook no reproach.
Knuckles sore, walk and beg, holding close watch
over the pooling blood that keeps a heart
seeking her through the Southern heat.

(5 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, October 4, 2013


for Virginia Dare

I sat, I thought, I stood, I passed. I stray:
Why, such a long ride to the Outer Banks!
Yet not so far. Those without wings have time.

She waits not for song but for its body.
Who drowns in no Atlantic found in books?
Inland, her breath gathers song with wet love.

(4 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fascicle [15]


No time for the backwater sludge to clear.
Spanish moss. Crocs skid down. Who loves in mud
loves deep. Hate, indifference, roar of crowds:
whirlpool, tangle, mesh. You must remember
where moons dissolve, or seem to, sun comes up.
Four legs, not two, a slide of flesh to slip
the noose of absence. Who are the just born?
Oaths uttered, baptism, consummation . . .

(1 October 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Seattle Could Be Paris

D. G. is dead, he fucked with the needle one time too many.
Myra birthed, their child stillborn, light in Doug's eyes went out.
Doug used the signature D. G., he worshiped Dexter Gordon.
If he’d lived Doug could’ve seen his idol in that French movie
Round Midnight. Doug loved Thelonius Monk, but no piano
where he lived, the lowest street but one above the waterfront.

Bobby’s Embouchure

You want to rap about God, go ahead. He’s no clarinet,
certainly not mine. Back in estados unidos, death is a time clock.
Punch in, pick up your gun and magazine, go kill all the sinners
who show themselves. God is everywhere. Wait until you hear
the little crack that sounds no more lethal than a firecracker.
Live through that day or night, fear the end as the beginning.

(26 September 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fascicle [14] Revised


The monk gave you his Congo creche,
talked of New Guinea where no one’s white.
Could the babe be spared for sacrifice
once his destiny was conjured,
fish hook caught in skin over the heart,
love jury rigged, the flesh savored . . .
Enemy is best to eat, his power
fills you with a taste strong as you will be
(white man upsets stomach, corrodes liver).
Black ivory that shrivels the sun’s eye,
shriek of bats grazing the monk’s cowl.
The raconteur poles upriver
to find the hollow man’s father.
Go to Papua. Kill to live. Eat well.

(22-24 September 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fascicle [14]


He gave you the Congo creche,

told me a story of New Guinea.
Could the babe be saved again,
grow to be a sacrifice, conjure
a destiny, the fish hook caught
in the skin over the heart, love
jury rigged, the flesh savored.
White man upsets the stomach.
Enemy is best to eat, his power
fills you up, his taste as strong
as I will be, you wait and see.
The raconteur goes downriver
to find some heart of darkness;
I’ll go to Papua and eat well.

(22 September 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fascicle [13]


This’s a young man’s game, like dominos
is for the father, like chess for his mate,
her chiseled nose and lips, the morning glow
in her eyes, who loves to walk through the night
naked in her youth but not now, not when
her mind is on her work, staying alive.

Last chance hegira . . . Esperanza says:
I think of the Santa Fe street corner
in that painting you said you remember
well. Ever since the moment you said that
I imagined remembering I was
visible there in the painting with you.

There is no way to get to her from here.
Rivers overflow, wind tears down a sky
lovers need, earth opens. You will believe
others know what they mean when branding you
a madman. The one waiting calls their bluff:
They brand you what they know themselves to be.

She gathers her skin with her fluid hands,
gives me food and drink, opening her legs,
and the past is past, this is the future’s
future. Who would not follow your fire here?
I doubt I will go back, it is too late
once she moves her flesh in waves over me.

(20 September 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, September 16, 2013


It’s bigger now. The anthro-apologists, as Bobby called them the first time, have made hay here. The cows are the turistas. Busses full of them, like cattle in a truck pulled by a semi. There’s one now. Blonde with the proverbial camera around her neck, lovely but parsimonious like most of us, scrutinizing the ways of the pagan. 
          What am I doing here with another night of work ahead of me? What do I care? I’m here. Maybe I’ll stay this time. Look up the doctor in the jungle, if he’s still there. Or the Senora, who served me two meals a day and listened to my halting efforts at speaking Spanish. If she’s still here. 
          I have come alone, leaving Puebla at dawn. The rental car is due back tonight. Maybe I’ll leave it here and go out there and hit up Vallejo for a stay at his place. He’s the magician, the doctor, he knows how to make things appear and disappear. Maybe his brother will be there, or did he die in prison? for the great sin of organizing railway workers in Mexico City . . .
          I do find the Senora’s place, the same place it was before: nothing’s changed, she says she doesn’t need turista dinero. She knows the doctor. He’s still out there. He hates the incursion. And no, his brother is not with him, he stayed in D.F., organizing again because the work is more important than his freedom from incarceration.
          I find the same path somehow. I go to the doctor’s house. It’s even more hidden in what I once called Liana Land. He lives there with his woman, the one Manuela Roma talked about, the puta who retired with him here. I have never met her. She is gentle, with a look of fierceness in her eyes, no rare quality in Mexican women. Neither gentleness nor fierceness.
          The doctor has aged. He is losing his hair. He sports playfully in front of her whose love keeps him alive, he says, making a gesture toward his lower parts. He likes to say, There is where we all are, below–the poor eat nothing while the rich devour everything, men starve and women starve, they have no strength left to make babies, not even to make each other happy. His parrot, the same one, cries, “Fuck, you mortals, fuck!”
          We sit at the table and he tells me the story of what has happened to Cuetzalan. Nada is the name of the story, he says. They bring nothing here but their self-importance, gringos and gringas who have too much at stake in what they may turn up under the earth–cities of gold, civilizations no one knows–and they employ the poor to dig deep until they find treasure.
          I do not believe, the doctor declares, there has been any change since Cortes . . . only His name.

(16 September 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander