November 1, 1972.
The day Pound dies she drives away.
I take a comely lass to bed.
She finds a man in Wyoming.
I stretch her full-length nude poster
photographed by her last lover
in the woods behind her house in Marin.
It spans the length of the dining-room wall,
behind the table where I drink
and wind sifts through the prefab cracks.
Friends come to read their work aloud
and listen. When I run out of money,
the guy who shoots heroin splits the rent
to have a place for friends to fix, nod out–
come back to life, he does not add.
I walk to town to eat and write
to find out what I’ve learned. I kick him out.
I sate my hunger with willing women.
Those I might love, who might love me,
go away. I drink. I rail against ghosts.
I wonder, Do they know? I ride
with O’Hara north of Montpelier.
In his friend’s house in midwinter,
snow banked outside to keep heat in,
we drink and shoot pool. Christmas approaching,
I call to hear her voice across the continent.
She declares she wants to come back.
Her widowed mother is being her self,
she says, what she grew up with;
she’s designing clothes downtown
but her boss won’t let her alone;
one night drunk in the city’s best hotel
was enough. I tell her I’ll come
and drive her back. Home, I say.
First I fly out of Bradley Field
and as the plane reaches the clouds
the pilot reports a near collision.
I order a stronger drink.
In Chicago I miss the next flight out,
leaving in the bar my poem called Death,
for Miguel Hernandez. I never remembered
what I wrote in my testament to his courage
while mourning his death in Franco’s prison.
Last summer, on the road to Bolinas,
I asked a hitchhiker just home from Spain
why Spaniards let Franco stay in power.
They don’t want more blood, he said,
to seep into and leach the Spanish soil.
Now I make the next flight out,
going the slower way to the Northwest.
In the air, on the way to Minneapolis,
I am reading Neftali Reyes,
drinking from a pint of Cutty Sark,
when this young guy and his girl
engage me in conversation.
The Heights of Macchu Picchu I declare
the centerpiece of Pablo Neruda’s
Residence on Earth, his greatest poem
in Spanish, even in English
if you’re lucky. They take me to their home
and give me their couch and phone. I call her
to let her know I missed the direct flight
and will not arrive until tomorrow.
They drive me to the airport early,
I’m on the plane, drinking, writing poems,
angry with myself
for losing the last poem.
O’Hare is back there
and I’ll not return.
I land in her city, her hometown.
The brother of Vine DeLoria
sits at the bar. We talk. She arrives,
black hair, dark skin, face aglow,
voluptuous, my lifelong lover.
She drives me up the south hill
and beds me and makes love the way
I have grown to know love now.
What more could I want or need?
In San Francisco, New Year’s Eve,
my birthday adds another year.
Our longtime friend Betsy visits,
it turns out to be the last time we meet.
Preparing to drive across the desert,
I order take-out from Solomon’s
on Geary, twenty-five hot pastramis
on rye, and we drive to Albuquerque,
then north, back into New England winter,
in a new year, our first full year.
(22 March 2013)
copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander