Tenderness and resolution!
What is our life without a sudden pillow,
What is death without a ditch?*
Forty-fifth ran parallel to the District,
between there and Bobby’s hotel.
I drove Vicki over the mountain
and brought her back.
We slept together on the floor.
The apartment came without a bed.
She had to love me
to put up with that!
One week I read Hart Crane,
the works, one by one, over and over,
and Philip Horton’s biography,
all because Roethke dissembled,
“I don’t want to read that queer!”
Vicki had blue veins
through her breasts.
She was a small girl.
We made love first and last thing.
She was unhappy with me
when I stayed awake too late
with the painters, sculptors, poets,
and pimps and whores and thieves.
One night I found her after she had left,
she asked me to take her over
the mountain. It was our last night,
in a ski lodge empty of everyone
because we were there out of season.
Like all beautiful small women I knew,
she wanted children, and had chosen
one more dependable than me,
for years later I saw her again,
married with the younger brother
of a friend, and not long after
I learned she had died.
Died still young,
and I found
her grave and recited Reliquary
over a patch of grassy earth
after a night of rain that called to mind
the sad bastard’s last long swim
and his disappearance in time
to give up boys for Peggy, the woman
he made it with but couldn’t stay,
he had all those shipwrecks
to visit. No more pickups, sailors’
cocks in his mouth until both came.
No more phonographs hurled
through the Tates’ second-story
window when Bolero ended,
and what was worse, Vicki said,
no more poems, no more epics, no more
loving or being loved, no desire or need,
she would interrupt me to say
as though it were the refrain
to orality, or my tongue
in her vagina, her mouth around me,
our lives on hold,
about to go the way of all flesh
one by one.
* The Collected Poems of Hart Crane, ed. Waldo Frank (Liveright, 1933)
copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander