Thursday, January 31, 2013


If fucking’s all that matters to Bobby,
Marge could stay. But La Puta is his own
warm womb. She sleeps there the rest of that night.
She attends to him, they talk, and she goes.
They will not see each other until time
to meet without warning and die small deaths.
She is waiting for Jim to get paroled.
He got her started, pimped her, she’s his whore.
Her red hair is tangled, needs to be washed.
She drops by Rose’s place for a long bath.
In time she may move in with Rose, should Dave
abandon Rose. For now, he sleeps over.
Marge’s regulars each have their schedule.
Meanwhile, Bobby works until time comes
to play. Sometimes he folds what he’s written,
Xeroxed of course, and seals the envelope,
writes Henrietta Murphy, La Jolla,
and sends it south. She answers when she can.

(31 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

look in the mirror:


(30 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Sky is white as snow when I look, I dream
nothing someone, you, have already dreamed.
All this is a language I never learned.
I meant you dreamed what I saw was white sky,
but if I never ask how could you know
the sky was full of snow and not a dream.

Cristina smells Marge on me. I explain
nothing. I go to La Iglesia
where Marge has stayed to sleep without vermin.
Snow never falls in this city, but now
the rain has frozen and blankets the floor
of this place. I let her sleep. I go out.

I call on Myra, who I know sleeps less
of the night, but home, not in theaters
showing third-run movies no one watches.
Bodies entangled or too hot to look
for what the damned call love, they masturbate,
they need nothing now but their own small death.

Myra buzzes me up. She’s with Paula.
They pass a joint and I drink the water
after I’m full to bursting with reefer.
As they talk I go to sleep in the chair.
I dream I am where no one’s ever been.
Shangri-la maybe, where snow always falls.

In the morning I tell Myra the dream,
someone else’s before my own, they are
the same dream but how could she know
the way I tell what happens there on tracks
running parallel and therefore nowhere
I am, she is, we were, in white weather.

(29 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, January 28, 2013

Coming and Going

Nobody’s coming who’s not going, you can bet your paradigms and raise the stakes with Derrida, but it won’t come out Foucault, and you’ll be lucky if it’s not a priori and is what Kant calls ding an sich, reminding me of Husserl and his student Edith Stein’s einfuhlung and meaning something like things in themselves, which translates for me into each so-called thing being complete in itself and only what comes before is nothing to be thought about–earth, sky, sea etcetera (take that up with Genesis and spin your thread, Ariadne, all the way to Revelations, this St. John’s nonsense vision no one can believe who isn’t a priori her/himself.

Nobody–nothing–is coming that will not go, presumably traveling the way it came, this it that you and I are, whether God created us or we were merely the spawn of sperm and ovum–so if you’re born you start dying with the first breath.

I don’t read Barthes, I believe I’m the so-called author of the nonsense you may or may not have read to this point (no one’s going to read it to you–I stutter, I have stuttered, I will stutter, that must have been the way I was born, that stuttering gene already plaguing my stint in this world. I don’t know if Derrida’s Plato has it down, I don’t even remember what this it is: if writing came before speech, what mattered to me was the syllogism I cannot speak, therefore I write. So, for me, Foucault’s institutions–madhouse, prison, inter alia–make sense. I was in the former, Wall had been and is now in the latter.

Jimmy Wall’s Marge is running her own show again. She has no habit she needs to feed except sex. And obviously she needs the money. She doesn’t trust men other than those she knows beyond the bedroom, and so she insists on complete independence, meaning she’s a crime, that’s how the city turns its corners and enslaves you to follow . . .

Marge shows up one night I’m out for a walk, an unusual event, mind you, I’m either in bed with Cristina or at the Congress with the combo, so when I happen to meet Marge on the street I insist on taking her for coffee and giving her the hundred she charges for fellatio and fuck, two hundred for rear entry and orgasm there. She’s out for a stroll, she says. You’re walking the streets now? I ask. No, she says, I live off regulars, I’m home all the time. Come see me, she finishes her coffee and says before I begin walking her home.

She lives in a hotel that was once called fleabag, now it’s more like cockroach. She has traps set everywhere. Once you see her in the buff you know why she has regulars who don’t mind the vermin so much they would even think of staying away from such a body and, I like to add (because it’s my own signature), soul.

She proceeds to insist I stay, and knowing her from the days when she did me for free, I do, only to realize I can go up the back stairs to La Iglesia de La Puta, take off my clothes and  remove hers and suck and fuck and come all night, though Marge will have to go before Cristina gets off work at two.

Afterward, she listens to me rap about Kant, phenomenology, Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault, and does her usual ritual of keeping me going, happily, a guest in my own church, the one that’s truly named after her and . . . I catch her up on the life I’m leading. She says, You’re doing well. Jimmy can’t stay out of prison, I can’t get my daughter back, you know, not after doing time myself. I tell her about Cristina’s desire to have a child with me. She says I’m crazy if I think my responsibility ends not only with conception or birth, but ever . . .

So maybe I have it all wrong. What’s coming will not go as long as two are involved in the making of a life, and Freud, I must finally admit, there may be four people in the bedroom but two will go eventually and the newborn third either learns to talk or off she/he goes, to, say, a foster home, which is damned well one institution Foucault never named in his archaeological reports before he died in his abattoir of pleasure performed by fellows in leather hoods and wielding whips, the dominants who give you what you ask for in becoming subordinate and leaning on the underground to keep you going above the ground. Foucault was there to prove, no matter what his genius, he was the flesh and bone he was born, the kind, no matter what you call it, dies, whose only hope is coming back, coming home.

(28 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Money and Love

Bobby goes back upstairs, working days, partial though they are
these hours are his. Nights he’s with Cristina, to make a baby,
she no longer says, she wants him to want the baby too.
By noon he’s dreaming in La Iglesia de La Puta.
At six he meets Cristina before her shift begins. They dine
for an hour before she leaves to don her working uniform.
He stays for a cup of coffee. Paula arrives, kisses
his brow. Not his lips now. She cannot stop to talk,
Tony’s already here, playing intros to Lady Be Good,
Ain’t Nobody’s Business, and her signature, Angel Eyes.
Cristina says late one night, I see you’re friends with your wife.
She’s not my wife, he replies, we work the crowd together now,
and smiles feeling like Humpty Dumpty having taken a fall.
Or so he imagines Alice’s Egg Man would feel, if feel he could.

Thus Bobby rose, attending Cristina’s needs of their moment.
If you were looking through their third-story walk-up window,
you might wonder why he said a word with such pulchritude
filling the space he could not fill himself. Wonder on, but you
didn’t have to be here to see who Bobby loves. Or did you?
Did nobody care about love with so much money in America?
What of music? Words? Images? Who could say, clinging to walls
that would collapse with merely a shift of tectonic plates . . .
You climb down, you who thought love’s everywhere
America is. That’s why men and women do what they do.
Don’t tell me there’s no money in love, Bobby likes to muse.
I loved two who loved for money. Maybe that makes me a whore.
Cristina is not one. Nor was . . . he ticks off all the names
of those he knew who loved for money. They are not many.

He should worry if loving two makes him a pimp? He knows
by noon he will be on the job, in La Puta, dreaming.

(27 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, January 26, 2013

In O'Neill's, First Ave.

Bobby met Paula for a beer in a dive off First Avenue.
It was O’Neill’s, named for the great Eugene,
which made tourists think it was a classy literary joint
that served hootch and sands, though it fed the hungry
free rather than let them disappear into oblivion
or go into the life, the only one that paid immediately.

Paula had come from visiting Myra down the street.
Myra was playing Dexter Gordon’s Body and Soul
on the stereo Doug had used as his textbook, his pony,
his gutcheck machine. Myra damn well knew Bobby
cherished the piece and would lead Paula to the story
of what Myra needed to know to keep a man alive.

The story was anything but a primer to resurrect
a love affair. Paula told Bobby she didn’t sugar over
a thing. He listened intently. He liked her neck’s arch
and the way it seemed to curve over her ample breasts
when she leaned into her rap. It’s your almond eyes,
he said. It’s your horny cock, she smiled, you devil.

He sat quietly taking her in through the portals of 
both eyes. She looked at him as she went on telling
about visiting Myra, who was translating Montale,
whom Bobby thought he would never unriddle,
the poet a pure soul with all but ordinary desires.
He thought of floycealexander loving Pavese, and why.

floycealexander came from a farming community
over the mountains. He had that in common with
Pavese’s Piedmont, and the city girls he saw twice
he began to love, or so he said. floycealexander
was the last romantic, not a Byron but a Shelley
whose Ozymandias lay in a desert inside a valley.

Paula asked Bobby if he’d like to go for a stroll
down to the pier, see what was on sale at the market
and have a taste of the oysters of the day at Ivar’s.
She loved to see the totem poles. She loved them all,
the Y at Third and Yesler, the downbeat cabarets
where she and Bobby had danced after closing time.

(26 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, January 25, 2013


Myra Jacobs stayed in the apartment where she was married with Doug Harper when he overdosed and died. She tutored Italian on the university campus and lived on First Avenue, among the junkies, whores, and other hustlers. They were her people, after all. She also kept playing Doug’s Dexter Gordon albums and wishing there were recordings of his own work as DG, especially his stint with Sanchez & Company.

She was a small woman with light skin, a fast walker. Her paying gig with the Romance Languages department lay half an hour’s bus ride away. It kept her eating, clothed, a roof over her head, and for kicks going downtown to see Rose and Dave at the Penthouse now, when there was no Getz, Gillespie, or Davis coming to Seattle for a limited stay. Or Myra would go uptown to hear Paula sing with Sanchez’s combo.

One night Paula told her, between sets, of her life as a junkie, turning tricks to feed her habit, ending up living with a man who left her alone too much and that’s how she met Bobby. That’s where, that night, Paula’s story ended. Myra saw she was still delightful: smart, street wise, an intellectual. Paula liked to read Homer and Sappho and those she called “the big three,” Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

Myra knew she identified with Electra and Antigone, but could never read Euripides, yet after listening to Paula she determined to read his Dionysian play, whose bacchantes and maenads, she said with surprise in her voice,  most likely influenced Orpheus and Eurydice, and wondering aloud, she settled for saying nothing more while Paula treated her surmise as hypothesis for another reading of The Bacchae

(25 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, January 24, 2013



The skiing is good here. I would like to learn cross-country.
I have a grand day moving among the people who know
money and enjoy schmoozing about what our chances are.
We know what must be done. We must reach unanimity.
After the speeches, the intimate exchanges during lunch,
what can we expect if not the worst becoming better for us?

Austerity, then. Call girls keep their money to make more.
Francine takes hers in euros, Belinda prefers German marks.
I try to pay with dollars. They ask, Do you know Obama?
I ask them if they know why I’m here. They show me why.
Otherwise, I hide in my hotel, dreaming of knowing how
to have what I need to survive between here and Manhattan.

(24 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, January 23, 2013



Since literature is more than news, the words fill both receptacles, though which comes first
remains in abeyance, the sirens keep alternating a blare with a bloop one long, one short,
as though faits divers arrive any time of day or night whereas cronicas take waking hours
to do, though I thought my hand was in when the prose poem came of age in America, lace
panties of poetry waiting to be pulled delicately down and the wooing begin with ecstatic
intent, so I said to myself, leaving the house one day I decided not to come back, or did I?

Melville on his ships, Hawthorne in his shadows, I grow too old for Emerson’s dispatches
to the future, Thoreau’s vast country he would save, future or past, it’s all in the story
shaped and sent where you are, you beauty, wanting to touch skin that falters here,
what else can the old do or desire, we are sad facts for the laughter surrounding us,
then say not us but me, I’ll never know your feel, the Typee of tin roof blues, Young
Goodman Brown’s freeway exit deep in the witch-crazed woods where I no longer loiter.

(23 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

(to be continued)


The car was going south when the driver realized he needed to be driving north
and turned suddenly smashing the car on his left which had been following,
not either even with his or far behind carrying a Latino family through Northampton
where he never knew or asked, he was too drunk and needed to fuck with the girl
beside him and wanted to get back to his house before she asked to go to hers,
therefore went to jail for the night, to become more than sober, positively defeated.

She said of all the men she had known and even married some of them, she said,
You are the only man who never bores me. She knew she could say this any time
and he would accept it as the reason she loved him, and he her, and with that love
became a moot subject even though the world of the intellect and stupidity’s truth
remained to be discussed though certainly already viewed with suitable disgust,
and so the remainder of their lives was devoted to his insistence he become a boor.

22 January 2013 (to be continued)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Brave

In the caverns of the billionaires, their space filled with money
not body with two arms two legs one face one nose two ears
with too little to hold in two hands for they are the absent ones

May there be always God on the side of the man with eloquence
the woman with gusto and pride and the so-called Other, whose
fate is decided by another in a way the atmosphere is body’s soul

The man or woman with creases in their palms, the lines of dirt
come from toil and sweat crusting the flesh as far as its flow,
their children given what they did not have the chance to have

The streets and doorways, those everywhere the poor have slept
and sleep as the heart carries its charge of blood through and out
where one breath comes before and follows another and flows on

May there be food, clothing, and shelter for those, the homeless
they are called when the tongue shrivels in the stomach’d mouths
outside looking in and seeing nothing they want, all we desire,

they say, is a floor and ceiling and window and roof like the sky
is nothing more than the body needs to grow old and die happily
for here is to be found the threads that form the American fabric

and here is the man who died before the other man and his brother
and the man who was a slave’s progeny with his memory alive
today is King’s day, this is Obama’s day, all for different reasons.

(21 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, January 20, 2013

In the Music Room

Tony likes to run the keys
before he finds the chords.
He says he can’t help what he does.
Something tells him how to do
what he has never done.
Who put the music there?

Where she comes in,
begins Paula’s Song:
I had a wild hair, honey,
you could never satisfy.
No wonder you’re not here
where I never cry wet tears.

Bobby assembled his clarinet,
changed the reed, put it aside.
He closed his eyes for a moment
and listened, then opened and saw
her sway to reenter the song . . .
I got no water to wet my tears . . .

My wild hair won’t ever be tame.

You left me alone in your house.
What was I to do, I let this guy
curl me around his finger, stay
for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
He took me where I was a sinner.

Bobby thought, You can make your own
brown rice, stir in your slivered almonds.
She kept on: No water will cool these tears.
Never, never, never . . . come home,
I’m gone now, baby, rest easy.
You can be alone now, baby.

She slowed to go on in a long slow moan.
She looked nobody ever in the eye.
She was busy watching Tony’s fingers
go right of middle C, then left.
She ended with the second baby,
starting over with wild hair, honey.

(20 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Two Women

It was her long black hair, her chiseled nose and lips, her “shell ears,” as she said her father called them because the tops of them seemed to fold. At work her legs looked longer in the hose revealing their shape, her breasts uplifted in her uniform’s top, so that Bobby was by far not the only man undressing her mentally, though he was the only one now, he thought, who knew what she looked like without her body in her bar duds. During her cigarette break, she sat with him at a table near the door, in the corner shadow where someone entering would not see them first thing if they sat at the bar or at a table closer to the middle of the room. She smoked one cigarette and depending on the conversation, its content, its tone, its direction, she lit one from the other as long as they kept talking and nothing was resolved. She had lived with the bartender, the one whose name he could never remember but knew occupied the distinction of being the hotel’s co-owner. But it did not take long for his father to find her and take her away and become a bigamist in Reno when she promised she would look after his son, who was thirteen and she twenty-one. Now he was twenty-one and she twenty-nine and his father was dead, ten years after the train crash that had cost his mother her life. Or so they said. Cristina had known him intimately from the first, as street kids frequently learn about making love from their slightly older elders. Now he knew some rubber lips who had known his father and her together once, and her wearing the ring his father had won last thing one night before the game folded, might charge her and the son with incest, which would only betray their own unmitigated ignorance. Unmitigated, that was no word for a poet to use, much less think, better to say unrelieved, like Faulkner would, or maybe Hemingway would stretch it out to a phrase, but what phrase? And what would Fitzgerald say? Cristina sat with him a little longer than usual, ordering him black coffee, cup after cup until he had to go to the john, whereupon she kissed him lightly on one cheek and hustled back to work.

Bobby was still drinking coffee and Cristina filling his cup when Paula arrived and sat with him asking how he was and he told her he was in mourning and asked her if she remembered that film she saw with her friends one night he decided to stay home and wrote the poem for Miguel Hernandez, that Spanish Loyalist who died in a Franco prison, followed by the visit from those people from New Orleans he’d met here one night he sang . . . She didn’t. She said, You were mourning a poet who fought Franco and died in one of his prisons? No, he replied, softly, I was thinking about Chicago, which happened when I was in Mexico City the time before I knew you, when I was in love with a Russian woman who later went to Cuba before returning home. He was thinking, I don’t know if I got the chronology right but the facts were all there regardless of their sequence, and what does it matter, I never talked about any of this when we were married . . . She reached over and took one hand in hers, saying, Don’t be sad. That was all: Don’t be sad. He changed the subject and asked her about herself and she told him about the songs she was writing and the music Tony was making to go with her words, and how patient Laurie was, taking the time to listen and give them her take on how it sounded, as well as inviting her to dinner every night she could stay. How’s Clark? he asked and she told him what he already knew: They were through. Then she said, It’s not good to be lovers with a co-worker, and smiled with her almond-shaped eyes, with her top lip folding a little over the bottom one as she spoke. He replied with the predictable, You’ll find the man of your dreams, be patient, and she said nothing, squeezed him on one arm, and excused herself. Tony was here, she had to go. They had a new song they wanted to go through before Clark and Sanchez arrived. Come listen, she turned to say before going through the door to what she liked to call the music room. Pretty soon, he replied, as Cristina brought him a refill for his half-empty cup.

(19 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, January 18, 2013

Assassination Day

Once Kennedy lay dead, murdered in Dallas, half his head shot away, and Johnson took the oath on the plane before returning to the air, and long before the next decade, when the president’s sexual follies surfaced and still the country did not reject him, but before such tawdry exposé , Malcolm X murdered in Harlem, shot on a stage like those he stood upon elsewhere, Martin Luther King murdered in Memphis, shot on a motel balcony where he was simply taking a breath of the air we all breathe, and Bobby Kennedy murdered, shot in the basement of the hotel where he was celebrating victory in the California primary–and “now on to Chicago!,” his speech ended and none followed . . . once all that was gone, there was still the war in Vietnam and then the parade of tyrannical follies, from Vietnam to now, when Bobby St. Clair sits in the restaurant getting drunk on a Saturday, feeling fucked up and sour on the world and wanting to lose this consciousness of walking through a pretty little passage of humanity leading to what he preferred to call Hell on Earth, even though he knew history too well to accept as holy writ the words that secular saints wish to make sancrosanct.

In the movie Medium Cool, the protagonist, a Chicago TV reporter covering the 1968 Democratic convention, is watching tapes of King's and the Kennedys’ funeral processions (but never Malcolm’s) and says to his lover, a young woman with a son come to the city from Appalachia: “It’s National Drainoff Day all the time now. We mourn their deaths and next thing you know, after we think we’re okay, it happens again”–or some such words, Bobby doesn’t remember but he knows that was the gist of the remark--while outside her walk-up, down on the street that ends at the park where cops are bashing the skulls of protesters and following them into the street where the blood continues to flow, a new chapter of whatever-day-it-is-by-now cuts (not in the film but in memory) to Judge Hoffman’s order to tape shut Bobby Seale’s mouth, bind him with chains, and carry him from the courtroom where Seale’s white brothers, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Dave Dellinger, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and company, continue to be tried for helping to begin this demonstration against the war in Indochina and the American political parties’ machinery spewing out Miami’s coronation of Nixon, followed now on the conveyor belt by the roughshod ride over Minnesota’s McCarthy and the enshrinement of Minnesota’s Humphrey who loses to Nixon, and from there on assassination and persecution of the movement devolves into Reagan and his sorry legacy that continues to strip the American people of their rights, take their lives, and perpetuate a mockery of their history. In his first inaugural speech the actor Reagan mouths the “city on a hill” remark John Winthrop issued aboard the ship Arabella on its way across the Atlantic in the year 1630 to plant hoary Puritanism in this newfound and once more disgraced land, initiated by the attempted extermination of its original inhabitants by whatever means declared necessary..

Bobby drinks in the Congress bar and Cristina begins her shift. He’s got to keep something in reserve for tonight, not only for his clarinet but for her sweet cunt afterward. He would rather skip the gig tonight but shit, he’d just be hornier than hell waiting for her to get off work, keep drinking, wind up too drunk to fuck. She’s something like eight years older than him. She is one of his father’s two widows. Now that he’s found his mother in San Diego and with his own marriages over he may as well love Cristina the best he can and maybe give her what she wants. He can’t help it his late father married her while his birth mother was still living, though no one who knew it was not Henrietta Murphy in the car destroyed by the train had ever said a word until this guy here gave Bobby the tip he followed south . . . and now back in Seattle, he feels nearly sick to death of this that he knows is his only life.

(18 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, January 17, 2013

After a Brief Time Together on Lake Union

Bobby St. Clair was twenty-one when he voted for Kennedy.
Cathleen was eighteen. She had lived with her mother
the summer after she left the houseboat, working in a bakery
whose owner took her to bed with his socks on. She laughed
telling Bobby when she saw him next in Seattle. He didn’t.
When he went into Ward Seven he was still twenty-one.

Cathleen went back to doing what she did best, dancing,
partying, staying up all night studying, the dormitory
quiet, finally. She wondered if her Black Irish heritage
lay back of it all, the men courting her, more than one
at a time, her willingness to give them what they wanted,
her stubborn will: the straight A’s, her Phi Beta Kappa key.

Bobby met Melindra in the hospital, and Bonnington too.
He lived in Paul and Anna’s bungalow in their backyard
once he was an out-patient. He started slowly coming back
to life. Bonnington healed him, Melindra gave him the rest.
Cathleen was long gone by then, making a name in fashion
in San Francisco, then Paris; then London, which she hated.

She was Black Irish and loathed Limeys, as she called them.
She saw Bobby when she returned to Seattle for one reason
or another, none of which, he knew, involved seeing him . . .
He was living with Melindra and most likely he was happy
sleeping with her, walking in the park, writing in her home.
When he looked up and there was Cathleen, it was all over.

They stayed in her room for the rest of the time she was free.
Two days, three nights. She flew from there to Athens, Greece.
He returned to the backyard bungalow without saying a word
to Melindra. In the New Congress he played clarinet and sang
with Sanchez & Company. He was twenty-two years old now.
Among the other girls in their hip-high hose, he knew Cristina.

(17 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Twenty-first Century

The old man can’t see like he could,
why go to the movies?
He can hardly stay awake watching DVDs,
he totters and he nods
and slumps head first.
He wants to keep his mind awake, not lost.

She doesn’t want to sit in a dark theatre
waiting for vigilantes,
that guy, this one, the one over there,
she sizes each one up and worries
she can’t keep them both alive.
They are each what they mean by love.

He’s not an old man in his passions.
They are too active perhaps.
He should be doddering when he walks
instead of waiting out the cold for the sun,
careful to keep his surgical leg
from transformation into a peg leg.

He should have been a pirate
or at the very least a trail blazer.
One leg or both? That’s like a lover
asking too much. Too late
to seize ships or lead expeditions,
he’s happy when he’s not in pain.

The mother asked her baby boy’s
casket be open, half his head shot away,
riddled by round after round, a spray
of bullets in first and second grades,
where once the war was in the world,
and even a child’s joy was bold. 

(16 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Renegade Heart

What do renegades do?
Nothing you would approve.
Why do they turn out the way they do?
Who knows?
Even ghosts cast shadows
where renegades go to love and be loved.

I know, she said.
I had given one his reward
before it was earned.
She said he only went off to save her
who did not know he preyed on sisters.

Where do they go to get new hearts?
How would such men know so little?
Talking to one sometimes you learn to kill,
mostly though he fishes these parts.
What can you say
to salvage your last day?

Then he went to the store
and found a spare
whose head would not lie
between shoulders
but who cares . . .

She was his longest and only love
now he thirsted in the desert.
She told him he would never have
a stronger heart. 
No use. He left.
Looking for what such men crave.

(15 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, January 14, 2013


Tamara Bunke, ambushed before Ernesto Guevara in Bolivia . . .
When the heiress Patty Hearst called herself Tania on videotape
armed with an assault rifle trained on customers during a bank robbery,
having succumbed to the Stockholm Syndrome,
kept in a dark closet until taking up with the SLA’s Willie Wolfe,
her gentlest lover, she later declared before trial,
this may have led North America to believe Tania and Che were lovers.
Cinque took Patty from the closet and raped her, though only
because he was the Symbionese Liberation Army headman,
an escapee from Soledad where George Jackson was murdered
in the prison yard wearing a gun his lawyer smuggled into his Afro,
but no gun was found. . . . I was living, if you can call it that, in San Diego.

Back in San Rafael, driving by its abandoned courthouse or to Marin Center,
I stopped at Cathleen’s house in the countryside
and later at the trailer court where she moved after leaving her husband,
twelve years following one January Seattle night we first came together.

In Amherst, Cathleen drove off and I flew to Spokane to drive her back
via San Francisco. One winter later, she moved to where she taught
Russian culture and literature in a Springfield Catholic school.
A nun got drunk one night and told her about her lesbian experience
and when she sobered up worked successfully to get Cathleen fired.
I lived alone, though part-time with Tricia. I don’t know why I identified
Tricia with Tania, but I did, I wanted her to stay with me . . . didn’t I?
If so, why then did I walk away with Cathleen from the swans’ pond?

I wrote a poem called Tea Party set in Boston. In Bemidji we saw Amistad,
a movie. Cinque freed the slave ship in 1839, not the same Cinque mind you
but the eponymous one now, defended in court by John Quincy Adams.
In my poem I was a renegade freeing the heiress Tricia, whom I learned to love.

I stop believing I will become a poet if I keep trying day after day.
I stop going to the movies. Cathleen and I live our lives out near the Yukon.

(14 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sweet Blonde Sugar,

I called you. We nibbled pickled
herring after fucking. I found
words to embody what happened:
your long legs with blonde hair between,
nipples toes and fingers you painted pink,
lips so supple they kissed me all over.

You said, “I promised myself I would not
be here lying naked with you
inside me.” I was writing this poem.
You had to teach your kids in the morning.
You were home when your bus arrived.
I recorded what happened and would come. 

I met you through a friend who said I should.
He said your name. I went over
and kissed you. “You are a dangerous man,”
you said, “I knew another bear
whose winter with me would come to nothing.”
Our friend left and you left with me.

You read my book you called “your bottomless
dream,” as though two covers could hold
more than its pages would become,
I was still so young. In winter,
the fire blazed. We slept on one sheet
stained with love’s glorious juices.

We met at the Quicksilver Bar in town,
drank and ate, then hurried back to my bed.
With roads icy, Cathleen lived in Springfield.
One night in Northampton you sat with me,
wet lips on my neck, whispering soft words
in one ear, nudging me, “Let’s go.”

We left. I wrecked the car and went to jail,
next day pleading nolo contendere,
the judge footnoting, “Agnew’s plea.”
I hitched out of town, called you from Boston.
Your father the president of Springfield
College, I feared I would marry a job.

That was our affair, all of it.
I was going nowhere with Cathleen here
or there, or anywhere we were alive
now, or ever. The swans folded their wings.
I took the hand whose legendary voice,
Leda’s–my Cathleen’s–whispered, “That was sad.”

(13 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Trisha, in Cathleen's Shadow

We met on the lawn by the swans’ pond.
They lifted their wings in unison, poised,
awaiting her approach, her legs like wings
that had given me her life to lie
between. And her blonde body was light
on the water. She was going to Los Angeles
alone, to meet a lawyer who loved her nude
on their nude beach, made with her a child
so she might live forever after with his vow
to give her what she was accustomed to.
Nights we could not resist, days of absence!
I so loved my world I gave her away.

Cathleen waiting, to whom I was betrothed.
She did not pace, my love, she did not look.

(12 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Of a Sudden

Startled arrangement,
one nest repeating another
as though two eagles
required the eyes proximity
atop two telephone poles,
come the warm weather

(12 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, January 11, 2013

Amity Street

She came back. I went away. She came to get me.
She found me in the batter’s box. She said, Come home,
I have dinner ready. I said, Wait till this game
is over. I don’t recall what comes next.
Maybe all-night cafés in town–there must be one
on Amity. Or on Main, where Emily lived.
I remember it was called The Homestead.

I see only plurality. Times I was where
she bought me breakfast so I’d stop drinking,
come home and go to sleep. Sucking my cock
to drain the poison. Like alcoholics
turning pockets inside out to get blown
in the alley. Au contraire, she never swallowed.
I was too drunk to hit the ball. How I struck out.

When I went to sleep, she said she went off
to get laid, but the man was busy tending bar.
She drove back home to build a fire so she could sleep.
Awake, she lay on the front-room couch smoking dope
with me in the chair beside her, in front of snow
falling against the window, dissolving,
her negligee inching above her thighs.

After that I drove her to the country
dressed for New England winter. I don’t know
what we were looking for. The firewood kept burning,
the wood she’d used. I must have known I dreamed
we needed more, and what do I say now
we’ve moved so far west, but the Pacific
remains half a continent away. Keep going.

(11 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, January 10, 2013

North Amherst

Across from Pete’s Package Store and its endless supply of Rolling Rock,
winter ended, ice melting slowly down the street curving to unpaved road
freeing itself day by warmer day from the waterfall to strip and bathe in
come summer, your return from Springfield to our mattress on the floor,
and the table outside where I played Prokofiev’s Aleksandr Nevsky score
for Eisenstein the year I was born, knowing Hart Crane danced Ravel’s
Bolero while writing. That way I might come to learn the limits required
to work such earth still left to be tilled even after old Hart and Whitman;
Roethke and Lowell, two of my fathers; my only sister Emily Dickinson
presaging my mother whose life was too short to catch sight of the tree
felled by a hurricane here the year I was born where the plumb line fell
south on America’s map. Here Mill River ran freely below the sycamore
and I was warm once more, I turned the volume as loud as it would go
but not as far as town. I was warm, my Smith-Corona portable worked
without fail, writing Tchoupitoulas, never finished, it’s too long, I’m told,
but I know it was merely voices on a page, ghosts hoping only to be heard
where my father’s childhood ended and he found love on a southern road
never paved until I was gone from where I would not have been so blessed
but I may have known eventually, made native to my mind, the language
that would have honored me if I had listened longer at 131 Summer Street,
a walk away from where Emily saw beyond the sky and deep into the earth.
Should I have waited patiently there, or gone where my plumb bob reached?

(10 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


                        for Brian Richards

Howard visited Albuquerque on his way to Jornado del Muerto.
We had not seen each other since Bowling Green, Ohio.
Socorro in Spanish means succor, where the Spaniards found it
at the end of that long journey through death before the end
of life is ready to roll around and bite you in the ass,
though I don’t remember if it was Coronado or not. Time takes
its toll. The gate opens and you’re back on the Oklahoma
Turnpike. Toss money in a basket on New York State Thruway.
Howard and his rock-climbing amigo sat on the front porch
at 1502 Silver Ave. SE and he told me he knew you, Brian.
I was his student once. So were Dara Wier, Carolyn Forche:
the latter wrote a poem dedicated to the former, “White Wings
They Never Grow Weary.” Forche I met not wearing my teeth.
She said I couldn’t be who I said I was. My brother Bill assured
her I was. She sashayed away. I saw her next day with my teeth
all in. I met you, Brian, before her. Taking roads by tobacco fields,
talking of poetry, having a drink in town before you walked home.
Long before I heard the names of the beautiful poets. We were
scrappy, sassy, and I so stupid Karenlee could not keep me sane:
Amherst, Mass., ’72 to ’74. In ’89 now, drunks slept on our porch
on the couch where I read and wrote, and she dozed after work.
They got up when I opened the door and fled and never turned
so I could see their faces much less be sure they could hear me
apologize, adding maybe I had been one of them and still alive.

(9 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Vietnam Era

I had already gone away.
Melindra asked me to go.
Cristina said I could stay
in Iglesia de La Puta
working upstairs
until her work was over.

I asked Sanchez if I’d play
clarinet, sing, or what,
if he still wanted me
back with the Company.
Paula insisted she’d do
songs she and Tony wrote.

Tony was suddenly cool,
I knew I was a fool.
Paula had every reason
to want things her own
way now I’d be on stage
reminding her she’d aged.

I started working all day
in La Puta, playing nights,
sleeping with Cristina.
I didn’t blame Paula
keeping me on clarinet
and out of her hair.

What goes through minds
once love is a wound
between them
resembles a misdemeanor
during that time
we call the Vietnam era.

(8 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, January 7, 2013

In the Present Day


In the present day the roads all cave,
the bridges flower down to water,
let’s all have a remarkable time
at your expense, clochard! fulana!
He said I should sell what I sat on.
You’re nobody talking I can hear,
I replied. I went back into the rain.

In the present day nobody eats
but behind the Piggly Wiggly
(if they still exist in Fairfax, CA).
Nobody drives just like always,
thumb up and out, the same as stars
falling, or are they meteors?
All the same, they fall.


I can’t get started. I keep playing the Bunny Berigan version.
It does not rhyme with this century.
Cautionary dovetails nicely.
I thought I’d pick up my horn and put it together.
I didn’t know if I should, but I started with But Not for Me,
or was it Devil in the Deep Blue Sea?

She came on with her usual beauty.
She walked like she was going somewhere
better. I’m a deep sea diver,
I gassed. She turned around and I could see
the sky in her eyes,
I named her newly Soul of My Body.

I wish I could walk up to you and say,
How good you look! and
How many days has it been?
All our nights are dark, she said, like some other century.

(7 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, January 6, 2013

His Body, Her Soul

  Whatever lies still uncarried from the abyss within
me as I die dies with me.
     –Frank Bidart
     “Homo Faber”


When she came back sick with seven years of sexual knowledge, she said, Sin
is not the quarrel between you and me, Bobby, but what a body does to spare
the soul. I trust God may be too busy to up the ante on prostitution,
a power men wield over women. I needed more money than my job paid,
I was in love and wanted to marry him. He wanted me to join his stable.
Nights there are measured by the dollar’s current market value bed by bed.

Pedro la Ponce brought in his brothers to help her learn to work a man’s sex
until it fountains. He pimped her in exchange for love: her pussy, their money.
In time she cried, Enough! I need my health, I need to think. You turned me out
to turn me over to teach me how to open the door where my shit comes out,
one more way to earn top dollar to go with hand jobs and giving head
to Evelyn and the other girls so men can see women give women pleasure.

When she sent Pedro packing, she stayed home, went to work, and returned
to fucking neighbor boys for free. Pedro came when called to tell her of moves
new to the trade. He hoped she would grow bored and come back to work,
but their pact was ended. Cathleen was gone, but Pedro kept Evelyn in tow.
Evelyn needed him, her day job was political, taking sides with brothers,
spending weekends on her back with Pedro mounting, sliding his body into hers.

Bobby understood. He permitted everything. He loved her. And she observed
her marriage vows ever after her shrink talked them into amicable divorce.
Bobby stayed with his demons and sheaves of white paper in his soon-to-be
obsolete typewriter, refusing to budge from his lair, working there to reach
a region reserved for soul, his body’s mental struggle confronting ignorance,
trying to make what’s repressed be seen. And she left her L’amour fou citadel.


He kept photographs of her from that time. How jealous he was she made love
with men she did not know, sharing them with women she did not know, too shy
to give cunt equal time with cock in choosing between fucking or licking  pussy–
her with her Afro, her with her burnished nails, her with her open eyes closed  
and arching her hips to catch the last remaining drops of sperm with no ovum
to worry about now she was barren and had learned how to get paid for sex.

She made money posing nude for art classes, the lads gave her what they drew.
Bobby had those too. He read her journal of the agreement, she was so in love
with him she would do anything he asked, and would never open her door
until he called ahead from the hotel bar telling her who it was would knock.
She had a bottle and glass ready, her negligee on, her face made up, her head
filled with Pedro, eager to finish but hoping, even so, this guy would leave a tip.

She drove across town to the other bed she shared after her night hours, before
she rose to begin her day job. He fucked her before she slept and upon waking.
He taught her new ways to love and get paid sixty percent for her, forty for him.
She slowly grew weary of him saying, You are mine, her face between his hands.
She decided she would never forget Bobby. She took him to their bed for free.
He told her one lovely had asked why he still loved her after all she’d done to him.

When it was finished, her apprenticeship, she could not let it all go, she kept on
rubbing her clit with Bobby inside her, as though she were happily masturbating.
He felt the toll her education had taken. There would be no more menage a trois.
Cathleen always chose men. Evelyn brought her dope to El Patio and was paid.
Bobby lived under wraps, rent paid to answer his phone, open tenants’ doors,
relight gas heaters. Having been hired with him, she came by often to be seen.


He had wanted nothing to blur his desire or dull the sacrifice his art required.
One woman promised she’d be careful going in and out, she’d stay out of sight.
He said, Jeannie, it’s not that I don’t want to give you a place to live, I loved you
once with kisses, embraces, and cock caressed, gentled, and lovingly swallowed
by your sweet pussy, I remember the guy you took up with after Christine left
him for me, but I’m waiting now for what I need to bring back my long lost love.

He lived alone until she arrived, off balance from a war that shifted her dreams
to nightmares. She came up from Managua after Havana, and after Mexico City
where they met, friends for years yet always with others when they were together,
never lovers until now she had returned to These States, as Whitman called them.
Bobby’s lost love wore rouge and lipstick with the Afro to attend Manuela Roma’s
homecoming, believing Bobby would there too, not waiting at home by the phone.

One day Bobby read in Manuela’s journal of calling her new lover from Alaska.
Weeks later, they talked until dark, and he did not confess he knew she was
about to cross over. They drove all day one Sunday to tell each other what love
they had known when alone. She told him of a Cuban night a woman raped her,
how she stopped resisting to give herself to the feeling flooding through her body.
He would stay, she would go to the mountain with her new lover strong as a man.

He drove to the South Valley. She let me in, served them tea. In the next room,
on the mattress on the floor, they loved until spent. His body felt like living now.
She laughed when he was telling her of his outlaw misadventures one more time.
They drank more tea and talked at length of their young friend dying in his car
going too fast in the icy rain and sliding into a truck on the dark Miami freeway.
She asked, Should we try again? He said, We must find a way out of this abyss.

(6 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, January 5, 2013

. . . but for the void

“. . . air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky”–Pavese

The dream was of the mind finding the words in the world around you and putting them together.
No reason to show your hand.
The words dwell in the fingertips,
at their ends, in whorls.
I have a dream I am dreaming again. The air is crisp, sleep full of rain, the sea somewhere
near the sky’s edge.
I am dreaming again. You are the only part of any dream that ever comes true when I need
to breathe, slide into your skin and come out with sleep covering the sound of the sea off Mazatlan,
dreaming like a burro or a lost dog. There was an end to what had to be carried, a corner to rest.
Maybe this is a dream of death. Or it may be the mule my father saw himself as
when he recalled childhood
was tied to the dog’s tail. How would you know, so accustomed to the void . . .
tongueless, mindless, loveless, astonished by the simplest dreams and startled by touch:

I go back to seeing. The dwelling down the path is so small a dog could hardly live, but does,
where the impoverished man and woman live with their unfortunate child who may never care
where origins are, it is the scene two eyes take in that make the garbage heap
outside Mexico City
seem to glow
when you must live where
there is no other

(5 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, January 4, 2013

After Work . . . I'll Drop By

After work she comes up where I’m working.
She takes off her clothes and lies down and I
leave what I’m doing and follow, stripping
down to birthday suit. You know the story,
happiness occurs even if I’m limp
to end another unsuccessful romp.
I tell her I’m no good in this one room,
I may shoot but I shoot blanks, as they say,
the good-time Charlies with their two-bit jokes
around the table with Texas hold ‘em
–don’t tell me, I think I know why you loved
a gambler, you thought he would pay your way
out of this day-after-day, hip-high-hose job,
set you up with your mutually spawned child
–who knows? maybe he’d even find a job
of his own, but you never know when death
rounds the corner to come straight for your ass,
and thus sons inherit their father’s sins,
if you can count bedding down with this beauty
named Christina an affront against God . . .

I am too fortunate for my own good.
I have no scruples. I do what I want.
If I were not his son, I’d change my ways.
I’d go work at a newspaper eight hours
or longer depending on the story,
I’d leave Melindra and come live with you
if I were man enough, which is to say
if I were serious about being
my father’s son, your child’s father,
but what about bad luck, you can’t have one,
or I can’t, no need to speak of money . . .
I get up and dress after she does what
it takes to make me happy, draining love’s
leftover psychic stall in the body’s
always beloved, but never discussed
engine stalling in its two-car garage
before the door opens, seed and ovum
combine the luck to meet with the trip home
forestalled, Melindra goes back to smoking,
she’s right, our love’s used up, what good am I?

I asked Cristina to leave with me down
the fire escape but she refused and used
the door after I crawled through the window
and did what I have to do to get down
to the alley where no one can see me
unless I’m unlucky and they ask why
I left this way. Are you up to something
you shouldn’t do, and yes, I plead guilty
and now I don’t know whether to stay here
or go south to La Jolla to live where
I don’t have to depend on the windows
that once gave Henrietta’s face on glass
gathering gravity’s speed, was I on
something? I wasn’t even drinking then . . .
And so I go from the alley downtown.
I walk around and meet Clark coming out
the door of his favorite café--shoot
pool, booze, hustle just to keep your hand in--
and Clark says Sanchez wonders why I don’t
stay put long enough for him to see me.

I ask Clark why Sanchez wants to see me.
He says the Company–that’s what he calls
the combo, or group, piano, Paula
singing, bass and drums–we need your reed now,
DG’s ax is sorely missed, you would help
if you were willing to break bread five ways,
considering Tony and Paula get
their share which is greater, you know, Bobby,
now they are composing original
music. Working days, with Laurie giving
feedback. Paula left me, I don’t see her
anywhere but the Congress. You know me,
I can’t stop hanging nights with the ladies,
not when I was in Mexico City,
before we got together, and not now
when this girl offered me herself for free,
said she loves me, which Paula never said.
Paula said she left after you left her.
He loves to sing, she said, but not with me.
Body and soul, I tell Clark, I’ll be by.

(4 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fucking Her

I first said I’d write a poem for her if she’d . . .
No, she said she’d buy me a drink if I . . .
It seemed to take years, she had to have an in,
you know, like an operator in the game,
call it what you will, the con, the grift, the . . .
She said, Your daddy wanted more than love
for me to be your mama, even though I
was old enough to be your older sister . . .
That’s what she said shortly after he died
with a knife in his belly playing poker
as was his life spent going after the dollar,
and said she’d buy me a drink if I’d take her
home with me, so I did, and we didn’t sleep,
no, you don’t sleep, as you well know, when
you are making love, not with a new lady
whose only reason for being there is you,
or so you need to think, you have such need
to be all that’s there inside capable of being
where she is and wanting to celebrate her,
knowing she’s doing the same for you,
your heart’s on fire, I used to say before
I got wise to the lingo you sell yourself love
in the most delicate, dangerously so, 
moments before you read that and write this.

As you know, I went home with her.
She came to want a baby, she said.
That’s why I’ve come back to be
with her, though I don’t love her
but know my body has a purpose in 
giving her what she wants of this world . . .

(3 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Nixon's Second Inaugural

Catullus in a wheelchair at the Nixon inaugural . . .
Lesbia’s along with her fulsome breasts’ nipples
erect against his bare neck, his skin prickling,
the poet’s pen working like a pickaxe on the ice
of the Arctic crust of a misbegotten government,
feeling Lesbia lean into his ear, kissing Catullus.

Bobby’s going to go back to sharpening his cock
in Cristina’s womb chamber, she wants so much
to bear his baby . . . He will make Melindra wait,
she knows how undependable is his behavior,
she should, she’s waited so long for him to arouse
her well of love and empty what is there, waiting.

Bonnington likes to see him when Bobby arrives,
or says he does, who knows what a shrink is up to?
The sky may be blue outside but shadowy inside.
If rain falls on schedule in Seattle, it’s a daily tip
to stay in Cristina’s room and work making a baby,
or so he tells himself in La Iglesia de La Puta.

He imagines Catullus in Caesar’s Rome, Nixon’s
emetic taking hold, the supplicants of the throne
letting go what’s in them so as to devour more,
Lesbia preferring to lie between his greyhounds,
his legs, her mouth encircling the root of love’s
origins . . . Ah, if love were so simple, he’d starve.

Melindra asks him if he’s going to be there when
she returns. Bobby says nothing. He’s too young
to be so old, why fight betrothal before the banns?
She strides off, a handsome woman in her youth
even with, perhaps because her womb’s removed,
her silver hair gleaming in the light of the morning

(2 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Someone to Watch over Me"

for Karen Lee Clarke and Dawn Kilgallin

Two Irish lassies in trouble with the law
the Church lays down like a dirty carpet.
Two ladies who love two men who listen.
Beauties with a need to take life straight
now they’ve reached, seventy and sixty-eight,
the beginning of yet one more new life.

Two Irish belles who drove men wild,
who still love to romp and grow wild in bed
with these men they chose from the crowd,
one writing this, the other working to save
humanity’s planet–so far. Neither man
can live without their brush with beauty.

When Senora Clarke dyed her hair blonde,
her students confused her with Marilyn,
not Senora Kilgallin blonde from birth,
who shapes, bakes in the kiln, her riverware–
while my wife reads what I write and cooks
our food, makes love, and watches over me.

(1 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

More Left to Read, and Re-read, than Already Read

Behind the Beautiful Forevers:
Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo

Fire in the Belly:
The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz
by Cynthia Carr

Country Girl: A Memoir
by Edna O’Brien


NW: A Novel
by Zadie Smith

Canada: A Novel
by Richard Ford

The Testament of Mary
by Colm Toibin

Astray: Stories
by Emma Donoghue

This Is How You Lose Her: Stories
by Junot Diaz


Poems 1962-2012
by Louise Gluck

New Poems and Translations
by David Ferry

Among these ten books, all published in 2012, I confess that I’ve not completed a reading of any of the books on the list above. They’re here because of one reason or another–which I touch upon in what follows–and I want to complete or read them in 2013. And maybe I can sway one or two of you to follow suit.
  I’ve read enough Edna O’Brien, and loved every page of novels like Wild December and In the Forest, as well as her biography of James Joyce, that I’ve jotted down her memoir as a must-read now. Perhaps it will spur me to tackle finally her Country Girls trilogy. There’s also the temptation of her recent book of stories, Saints and Sinners, as well as other novels, especially House of Splendid Isolation, Down by the River, and The Light of Evening.. And there is her “true” novel, A Pagan Place, published ten years after her first novel and dealing with her repressive childhood, which included parents who abhorred literature as well as six years of tutelage by the Sisters of Mercy. From what I know of the price she’s paid to write the truth while in Ireland–her books denounced by the church and censored, even burned--I doubt there’s any stronger reason to read her, at least for me, than her brush with a nation’s Fount of Dogma that vexed Joyce into exile long before her departure for London, where she still lives.
  Some years ago I read with relish David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives, published before he died from AIDS at age thirty-seven; his life is now recorded by Cynthia Carr, and certainly the conditions under which he pursued his art need to be known during our time, our most recent era of sanctimony. I’ve also read Junot Diaz’s Drown, and the further adventures of his alter ego Yunior turns up in his latest book, which promises to be even better than his first collection of stories  or, possibly, his only novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the Pultizer Prize a few years ago and whose conclusion I've not yet reached. I know two of Zadie Smith’s first three novels, White Teeth and Of Beauty, as well as her collection of essays, Changing My Mind; and now that I’m deep into this, her fourth novel, I may read next The Autograph Man, her second novel, before deciding that yes, she is near to being the finest young novelist writing in English.
  I know well the work of Richard Ford, whose every book I’ve read and whose new novel’s reviews remind me of his brilliant book of stories Rock Springs and of his short novel Wildlife, both dealing with eponymous, troubled lives much like those I recall from my youth in the western portion of the continent. The work of Louise Gluck has been mostly a continuing pleasure since her first book of poems, Firstborn, and her eleven books are collected here, perhaps most worthy for the last seven, whose lyric sequences are regarded by some as evoking poetry’s kinship with the novel. The other poet, David Ferry, is more familiar to me as the translator of Gilgamesh and the Odes and Epistles of Horace, a trio of books I treasure; his new book won the National Book Award–as did a first book, a work of nonfiction by Katherine Boo, an apparently remarkable journalist whose book is said to read like a novel. (See the  New York Times review of the book, which I shared here fairly recently.)
  I have held off until now in reading Colm Toibin–though I’ve been tempted by his novels The Master and Brooklyn–but the subject of his novella and what would seem to be his very unique take on it claim my attention these days. Nor have I yet read Emma Donoghue, whose stories may finally lead me back to her first novel Slammerkin, whose subject has long been one of my touchstones, among them the Mexican poet Homero Aridjis’s lyric novel Persephone (1967, revised 1986).
  So there you have it. I find I read more slowly now than I did last year. I frequently recall my emergence from a dissertation, on Stanley Kubrick, to devour Jayne Anne Phillips’s Black Tickets and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, which remain two of my favorites. In addition to re-reading them–and others by the likes of Hawthorne and Melville, for example–I find it curious that I continue to try to read so many new books when there are so many others I’ve yet to finish or to be finished with.

(29 and 31 December 2012, and 1 January 2013)