Too many black clouds that summer,
too far to go to catch a break
from that turbulent year's weather,
Thus I drove south to have a look.
Woman tending bar in Berkeley's
Mandrake said, Here’s a mandrake root
but you gotta go to L. A.
for the soil that’s good to grow it.
I was between jobs. Between wives.
First wife left, I soon quit. Rice for
food, slivered almonds, orange juice
for a new start–yes, another.
The work, the woman, both my choice.
Now I wanted a change of scene
if only for two to three weeks,
or less if I found a woman.
So I drove to Los Angeles
and there met Pamela Courson–
you’d never know she used needles–
on the arm of James Morrison.
We were standing in The Phone Booth,
where girls danced in nothing but skin.
We must live on the Moon, not Earth,
Pam quipped. Jim watched the red-haired one.
They lived on La Cienega:
she was meant for him, he for her.
We dined at Barney’s Beanery,
toasting Ho Chi Minh with a roar.
The mandrake root? I planted it,
sledging a hole by a freeway,
dredging deep to shelter the roots,
re-covering it for safety.
They’d said, Come see us tomorrow,
Room 32. He said, I’ll teach
you how to sing of what you know.
I replied, I don’t know that much..
They showed me where he used to play,
Whiskey a-Go-Go, when The Doors
were brand new and Pam was happy.
Jim worked hard, stayed home from the war.
This guy painted his skin and showed
up at the induction center
on time. He might be a coward,
but he was tired of Canada.
So I began my song of woe.
Pam said it sounded like Strange Days.
Compose some music, sell it to . . .
Jim cracked, Country Joe and the Fish.
I snapped, I may play clarinet,
I don’t compose. Pam said I should
let myself go, listen for notes
I knew lay inside a woodwind.
I met a blonde with a pucker
in Long Beach, we smoked her good dope,
she kissed well, was a cocksucker
deluxe, slept all night in my lap.
A year later I loved Paula
and drove her south from Seattle
to Laurel Canyon. Pamela
said she’d wait for us. Jim was . . . well,
he’d felt better. He was playing
tonight. Come down, Jim would love
to meet her too. He wants to sing
his new one he calls L. A. Rose.
Paula had had her abortion
that afternoon. She had to go,
and Pam went with her, to the john.
Jim couldn’t sing, his voice too low
from days with another woman
who liked to have fucked him to death,
all night waking him with one swoon,
then another, until he retched
fresh blood out and came home to Pam.
She always takes me back, I may
fuck her over, she loves ol’ Jim,
we know the score, the only way
anybody stays alive here
is when there’s still love in the house
and nothing left you need to fear.
O, he said, look here: L. A. Rose . . .
(22 February 2013)
copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander