Tuesday, July 30, 2013


We bring ourselves out at dawn. We have work.
Why did none of us think of this before . . .
The birds are making their curlicues with butterflies
between their restless, insatiable wings.
We are here to do what needs to be done.
Sun rises: augur and pick bore and chip
and open a hole in the earth we hope leads us 
where we need to go. When the fires of noon
have climbed and pause above us, we take rest.
Soon the work will be rekindled. We do not know
who we are. Maybe we will find identity
at the bottom, once we have reached the site,
even if we die getting there. Or we may open the door,
more alive than before and nothing left to do, as now.

(30-31 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


The priest filling in for God is telling his flock
they may come to Mass for the wrong reasons.
I hold up one hand and ask, Why are you here?
I love God, he says.
How do you know you love God for the right reasons?

He then orders me expelled from the parish.
Ushers hustle down the aisle to take me out.
I thank them for letting me take the sun,
adding, It beats hell out of that crypt filled with cattle.
I let the bright day furnish my home with a dream.

The excommunication process begins.
I am asked why I asked the priest why he was at the Mass.
Ask God, I reply. You know the answers,
I say: He’s more a scold than a priest.

(28 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


In his usual state of sexual arousal
the septuagenarian alone remembers
the women who loved with him, one by one,
before Cathleen said yes a second time.

The day yawns and the sun rises.
The quiet’s what he’s not used to.
Twenty-some years here and he cannot run
in the forest naked along his private path.

The legs walk against water and that way
he hopes to heal. The woman who helps him
could be his daughter. He loathes what age does
to a randy old man who trades masturbation

for sublimation. Juices withheld from the air
form little clouds of images and thoughts
he remembers from Mandrake the Magician.
Reading comics in his youth prepared him

for what? Making the only movie he tried,
recalling the colors, black and white included,
what he later learned words could make him see
more clearly, so much so he is a monk

in his own castle on a Greek island,
who rises at dawn, yes, in gratitude
to the maker for one more day to love
as he would love a woman who’s still here.

(25 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

. . . or Already Here

Storms happen inside the heart. Gasp for air.
The body is attacked by the weather.
Now to the past tense. Who is this speaking?
I can’t see anybody listening.
I want to grow fins. Be with her in the sea.
I think she must be waiting there for me.

(22, 24 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Look What's Coming

If eyes can’t see what’s coming, look inside. 
Not all is rave. But it will be savage.
The sky under the skull will fold and wind
rule, heat be met by cold and the earth torn
into little shreds, a thousand islands
with nobody left to swim between them.

(22 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


(Summer 2013)

Welcome to Conservative America
ripping and shredding the Constitution.
Stand Your Ground is a law in twenty-two states,
whereas the Constitution of the United States is mute
on Stand Your Ground . . . or is it a rider
originally attached to the Second Amendment?

A man with a car on neighborhood watch
inside a place with gates opening into walls
pursues a black teenager walking home
with iced tea and candy to watch the All-Star game.
The telephone dispatcher orders the man not to follow,
but he does, he gets his gun ready, opens the car door.
His defense states the dead boy bashed defendant’s head
on concrete. The photo of his bloody face bears no date.
The jury finds him Not Guilty. He gets his gun back.

Jump-cut to two cars side by side in fast-food
drive-through lanes, a man and woman waiting
beside boys who rock with the rap on their radio.
The man tells them to turn their music down.
They don’t. The man kills one with his shotgun.
Later the woman confesses they’d been drinking
at some event where you drink only to signal
camraderie. She says she told him off
once they were home. This may be how the law will go:
The last one walked, throw the book at the next. 

If we claim the Bible says that wives
are their husbands’ chattel, we are its clarion,
not the Bible’s race of Ham, 
Jehovah’s wrath, Solomon’s sword . . .
Let’s go get us a . . . Fill it in . . . 
A husband is dead set on raping his wife.
She gets a gun and fires anywhere
away from him. She gets twenty years.
Her husband is black like her. The white man
he idolizes is the atavistic one,
he of the master race. 
A woman has the right to abort what a man
saddles her with. Why must she
pay for his uninvited, unbridled desire?

(22-23, 24 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

The Names

Two young black men in Florida lie slain,
Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis,
their names joining Emmett Till’s
in Mississippi and the many thousands gone
before, all sacrificed to the gods of power,
those who murder calmly to see them die:
“You work all your life for me, then die.
We brought you here from Africa.
We made our own dream come true,
why don’t you? We used whips then:
we herded you out to do the labor.
We use guns now: we need your progeny
dead. We will always stand our ground.
And soon we’ll have our country back!”


“Give me children or I die. There’s more than one meaning to it.”
--The Handmaid’s Tale

I pick up where I left the 1985 novel
by Margaret Atwood of Ontario
imagining how women may be forced to live
the future if fiction becomes the truth . . .
should the bastards have their way.
The State’s babies will belladonna from
the wombs of women enslaved by men.
Nolite te bastardos carborundorum. *

This Year Like Others

Men stand in line with women seeking jobs,
Far too many have no shelter, clothing, food.
The rich have taken everything.
Nixon, Reagan, Daddy Bush and Junior
have led them to their promised land.
The gods put us closer to Canada than Florida.

Annie Henry lives here, sometimes in Jacksonville.
Annie’s folks were black Georgia sharecroppers.
Annie’s here much of the year. Her river Jordan
runs through Bemidji. We sing together:
I, Wayfaring Stranger; and she, Jacob’s Ladder.
My love plays piano. Our blonde daughter
(or so we like to pretend) was born poor
but sings like an angel her song As a Deer . . .
I am blessed to be loved by women,
I who have not yet turned my hand against a man.

* Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

(20-21, 24 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Eyes of Desire

Dying, she wants to preserve her beauty
in photographs. On this best of all possible
planets, beauty is expendable, like Long Island,
where she lives, where God brings down the wrath
we remember as Hurricane Sandy.

Those who lack mercy gaze on this young woman
whose beauty is not all you see. Above all is her desire
to love and feel and believe love returned.
She looks through her eyes, as though to say,
Citizens of planet Earth, please look through your own.

Beautiful women may lose hope knowing
beauty is admired only in digital images.
The most beautiful woman I loved and lost
was hooked on love in its synthetic form.
Her husband died, he was all she had . . .

The stupidity of the human beast
prevails. So far. Yet I have nothing but hope.
I like to smile and laugh. I may be a man but I cry,
and also weep. I don’t know why we hate.
In Florida, say, whites kill blacks and are celebrated.

(18-19, 24 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Of Rape and Murder

Sperm abducting ovum, living bodies falling down dead: 
If a rapist's cock or murderer's bullet dive,
there may surface no woman, no manchild.

(16-17, 24 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, July 15, 2013

Places Remembered

Now I dwell in a small room above a sawmill.
I occupy the same chair in the same café,
where all I do is think, What did I learn from war?

Or I go over the high mountains like a boy
again in a country of clouds the sun shines through.
Again I am thinking, Is this the promised peace?

(15 January 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

After Her First Marriage

Years after she had learned horror firsthand
from the man who turned away from the spell
of beauty he believed would fade with age,
he insisted then she glow through her tears.
Only she and her man know, though I,
for one, wish the glow to be always hers,
that she have the luck to be companioned
by a lover who gentles her wisdom,
and know the horror’s over, her body
cushioned by his sleep, her arms laced with his. 
No man truly tender can abide this
cruelty, neither in his own strange stars
nor in that husband’s rage whose blows straight off
delivered her. Silence fear, young woman
with so much untimely learned. You know what
you not only want but need. Live once more.

She is older now than I am inside,
than I will ever be, but this planet
on life support will thrive with blood and joy
until its confused end, if the mind wakes
in time . . . And so may you, my brief treasure,
see birds fly, fish leap, deer make perfect arcs
turtles measuring the weight of their shells
on feet too old for this world and too young
for yours. I am too old to father you.
I will study your soul’s shape and draw it
like a silhouette I made as a child,
sculptor of paper, painter whose brush lay
drying by a river in the sun. Hers
is the shape of sadness renewed by her
glad heart reaching out and coming back in,
both ways at once, surely the flint that strikes
the spark of her life’s fire . . . without terror. 

(10, 11, 12 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Of Blake's Wife

She does all he asks,
yet not even he can see 
centuries very far away.
She tries but fails to read him
the way he insists he be read.
Katherine keeps Will warm.
He dreams his prophecies for her.
It is their bodies that marry.
In cities they find privacy.
What else is there in this life
of charnel houses and poverty
to save his furious poetic soul?

(8-9 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


her mother casting her shadow again . . .
and the scansion of her shapely body:

why do her daughter’s men know so little
they seem poised on the verge of nothing,
animals jostling for her rare favors . . .

where is the lover’s trunk of happiness,
how will he know to father her children,
and where to take her to be alone there . . .

come round to the many celebrations
drowning in confetti and stale vino,
her mother’s delightful portions of flesh
she reserves for folly should that comes true

what mother or daughter need I do not . . .
my crux, my cap, my pearled sword, a kiss,
the bed sagging under ghostly bodies,
sound like a tick-tocking in a long dream . . .

(6-7 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


Before I met her I did not know tragedy
arrived inside words I would never know
from the other side of the world,
as razor sharp as the blade of a scythe.
I loved to read the Englishing these words
revealed of shifts of story’s poetry:

Pushkin’s duel to see the living die
in a tale whose poet is the hero,
mulatto scapegrace dying for women . . .
Doom in the lines of the palm of Chichikov’s hand
whipping horses to speed the devil across steppes
where Gogol throws his book into a fire . . .

Reprieved by miracle, Dostoevsky
lives underground with murderer Raskolnikov,
saintly fool Myshkin, the Demons and the Brothers.
The books Tolstoy writes and rewrites his wife copies
as he paints Levin scything wheat with serfs
and Anna, unfaithful and star crossed, suicides.

The serf’s son Chekhov becomes a doctor to purge
his slave’s blood and have time to write stories
and plays for his actress wife Olga, and then dies.
The joke Stalin murders Mandelstam for
breaks stone with tristia, the noise of time
is hope against hope, then hope abandoned.

For his pleasure fucking women, Babel
of Odessa, tied to his writing hand, 
died somewhere convicted by his stories.
Pasternak composed Zhivago, who knew
the revolution backwards and could write,
Life is no walk across a field. 

Consider Marina whose poetry
came to her lips from so far down
she could barely rise to gather the rope.
Akhmatova saw and never forgot
the verses she memorized word for word
until her hand broke free to write them down.

War brings full circle savagery of years
when no one could see or touch or taste love,
though I dream she’s with me through days and nights
we save from suffering and rejoice in the lift
of passion that opens into a realm
I enter when I call her by the name I know.

(3, 4, 5 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Winter's Entry in a Marooned Ship's Log

There is no mercy.
God loves only the waters of the seas.

Wind lashes against all that stands
above earth, quivering then falling, snapped
to lay tracks for those lost in snow,

moon chill as fear against the poles
quivering then freezing like ghost prints
the blessed follow to their final home.

1-2 July 2013.

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


a hora he llegado a saber que el amor no es, sino lo que se oculta en el amor
now I have come to find that love is nothing other than what is hidden in love

Aniversario de un vision (1960 / Anniversary of a Vision (2002),
in Immanent Visitor: Selected Poems of Jaime Saenz,
translated by Kent Johnson and Forrest Gander (University of California Press, 2002)


I started talking about you, Irene,
in one sentence,
“we made our love on New Years Eve”
in the small town our love never left,
though I did and you did,
then I went farther
and you deeper.
If you can see the city
from here
name it “Irene.” You were so much more
than the town,
you were my first lover,
we were children still, “teenagers,”
a word we never said then.
We called ourselves “lovers.”

I can’t say who loved whom or how,
that’s like Billie sang,
“ain’t nobody’s business if I do,”
I set out here to celebrate
the face of first love. There are city
limits, population signs, its year
of discovery as Riverbend,
or so the sign says.
They never played Ms. Holiday
or any other woman with a song
measuring how far down
you go before you stop dying.
Your dark brown skin, your dark eyes,
your way of making your caress
endure long after the first night.

You taught me nothing but love,
how to make love as long as we loved.
No one knows more, even now.
Especially now.
We were lost in our own dark wood.
Among trees by the brown river
thick with carp.
We walked there, hands meshed.
Say it like this, “mi amor,”
you said, That means ‘my love.’”
I asked why your father’s name
was Castenada,
and where in Spain was the origin
of your beauty’s birthmark,
“the mole on your cheek onyx black”


oscuro, muy oscuro debera de ser el tono, si se quiere hacer desencadenar lo que el amor oculta
dark, very dark the tone must be, if what is hidden in love is to be unleashed

Irene, I can’t remember everything,
help me say
the night was blacker than the sin of our coupling,
with every day
waiting for dark to fall on the wide bowl
of the Rattlesnake Hills.
You said to your father in Spanish, who spoke no ingles,
we were going to Sunnyside
to the movies, and he told your mother, 
who always smiled at me and said nothing.
We drove to the jackrabbit paths, chose one, removed the mattress
rolled up to serve as a back seat
if anyone asked.
Then we undressed slowly, or one removed
the garments of the other, to embrace
in the close air wafting with a cool breeze and sometimes with rain
falling slowly at first, then pelting down
as we hurried to return the mattress
and fell over the front seat to keep on
laughing and kissing and blending our limbs . . .

Who can say how love happens one long day
before night comes to bring the magic back . . .
Sunday then, your church, I had none, and our hands would not stop
discovering who the boy was with the dark girl
whose touch turned his skin darker, love’s secret
so there would be no need to wait for night.
When Mass ended and they passed the priest by the door,
they drove to the top of the hill
and parked and stayed in the car, and they loved
who would never marry in or out of the church
but love as long as their bodies were together to love.
They could see the church from where they were now.
His father would be buried near this town,
Irene’s father in the town where the school was where they met,
his mother’s ashes beside his father’s coffin,
but where her mother’s body was
he never knew . . . He was in the city
by then. She came to be with him one time.
She loved to press against him in the crowded streets.
Where no one stared at them, she felt at home.

So there is no darkness until the end presents itself
off stage and soon walks on to no applause,
not even jeers, but in silence, the crowd
expecting them to continue the race,
his race never hers, and the priest arrives
in the nightmare of the fall from heaven
into hell, telling her of Lucifer
whose wings are weighted with the rain clouds
and fall when the rain falls, though he is passing through
on his way south, not as far as China
but who knows where Pandemonium is,
it’s in the dream as it’s in the poem
her lover is reading to her the way
his teacher fills the small classroom with his deep voice,
and she feels she is falling too,
and she’s hoping it’s his hand holding hers
but she can’t know until they rise
to the surface after plummeting to the floor
of the lake, whose waters are cold not warm
when she wakes, rain falling in Seattle.


A la vista del rio, que lava de males a los habitantes y los mantiene despiertos,
y que socava la delgada corteza que sostiene a la ciudad debajo de la cual se oculta un gran abismo
In sight of the river, which cleanses the inhabitants of their morbidity and keeps them alert,
and which erodes the thin cortex suspending the city, beneath which a great abyss is hidden

To keep from drowning in their love, they part.
The rain is about to fill the lake, the ocean
to overflowing, flooding the lowlands
where Bobby St. Clair comes from. Floyce Alexander
drives Irene Castenada over the mountains,
takes her home. She wants to stay but marry.
It’s not the city, she says, I love how I feel
here, I’m just chicana, mi amor, forgive me
forgive me if I must honor my father and mother
and marry you so I can live with you.

They go to the river. They love in mud.
They wade out to bathe their bodies.
He lifts her and cradles her in his arms.
He will never love again like this, he is done
with convention, which does nothing but kill
the will to live. But he will live and so will she
until the moon sends its tidal currents
back to where the sun remembers they were
when the city appeared under the hands
of the conqueror, who poses as God.


--en las calles y en los arboles,
la lluvia refleja la callada ternura de tu vision.
–in the streets and in the trees,
the rain reflects the quiet tenderness of your vision.

In the city I see you everywhere,
your face in the glass, your lips an O on the glass
and your eyes two caresses that have ten fingers,
and your lithe body hugging up against my own
and we are fully clothed, the sun shines down
flooding the full streets, and warming the green trees

You said you would be where I first found you
and my heart took the witness chair
my words were trapped between my brain and teeth,
I who always feared consonants but not vowels
–who was God but the Devil in disguise
why did I love this city when you were not here

Mostly I miss your touch, your tenderness:
your skin on mine, even if it is your fingers
tracing a lifeline’s whorls in my cupped palm,
this hollow day missing your absent night,
the rocking an empty chair continues,
your voice filling your childhood’s house

echoing where there are traces of you
in dreams we fill together with no past
but what I never knew was the future
and where I am now you are not
and will never be, what can a man do
who is still a child or never was

ah love the sky is our house and this earth
its floor, the sun and moon our bright windows
opening to the fire and to the stars,

ah love I love you: you know all the words
I say will never carry the meaning
of our silence, your radiant presence


estoy en tu memoria, hazme saber si tus manos me acarician
y si por ellas el follaje respira
I am in your memory; make me know if your hands caress me
and if through them the foliage is breathing

You did not know me, then we met in the Zillah potato warehouse: you were on the
line, I was tending the burlap sacks filling with potatoes that you and the others–girls
and women–had culled through and let the good ones go over the chute into the bag
and when it was full I had an empty one ready and put it on as quickly as I could
upon taking away the full sack, and we did this ten hours a day, and after you left I
stayed to fill the boxcar to the roof, with my friend Jess Maltos, before we were
finished by midnight and on the way home I forgot the sharp curve and rolled the car
that came to a stop on its side or maybe I would have been crushed, the cops came
and a wrecker arrived to upright the car and I drove on, down the highway to town,
where you were waiting. You said you had no time left, you were expected home, so
I drove you from there, where your friend Mary had driven you after work, where
you were waiting at the Circle Inn, Riverbend’s only restaurant, owned by the father
of my friend, with whom I would play football once the summer was gone, and 
I drove you to the Roza where you were living with your mother and father, and
then we kissed and fondled and did what we could do without making love, and you
went inside, and I drove back to the farm where I lived with my mother and father.

You did not know me and you never would. And I did not know you, nor would I
ever. I knew your mother and father who treated me as though I would be one of
their family someday, and you knew my mother and father who felt the same of you.
They were both poor families, yours Mexican, from Juarez, and mine Southern,
from Arkansas and Oklahoma. But no one knew the other and they never would.

No one knew anyone, no one knew anything in the world beyond our home that lay
in that bowl we called a valley, bordered by the Rattlesnake Hills, near where you
lived, and by the Horse Heaven Hills, near where I lived.

I know nothing about rattlesnakes or horses anymore. Nor do I know where you are
now. Those who gave us life and shelter are gone. You must live with a man if you
are still alive, and if you were lucky, you would have children. I have fathered no one,
but I am loved by the same woman with whom I fell in love in Seattle after you left
and I came back and I could no longer find you when finally I returned to the place I
had called, and I thought you must still call, home.

We know nothing about the other now, only that we must both be old enough to
know the stars are dying for us, the trees spreading their roots to prepare our
graves, and the Yakima, our river, bears nothing in common with the Mississippi,
where I am trying to remember everything I never knew because I wrote nothing
then of all that was relegated, both then and now, to the realm of what was always
called “personal,” and we will never be remembered as the lovers we believed we
were, even though neither of us truly knew the other, either then and certainly not
now. By now we have learned, at least, that one life is never long enough, and as
young as we were how could we have known there would never be anything to
remember us by but these words, which will never be the right ones. As flesh is
remembered only by its bones.

(gathered & revised, 2 July 2013)

copyright 2012, 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, July 1, 2013

Politics as Crime

What a perfect foil politics is for criminals who possess more power than anyone in this nation except the very rich, for whom they work. For no one dare call what they do crime lest they be charged with committing a crime against the State. And in childhood one learned once–do children still?–the story of Philip Nolan, “The Man without a Country.” We were taught Nathan Hale was a martyr, Benedict Arnold a traitor–neither of whom made the impression on me that Philip Nolan did. Eventually I loved and married a woman I had met in Mexico City sixteen years before she came back to estados unidos after twenty-six years in Latin America, having moved from Mexico to Cuba to Nicaragua after we met. When she was brought to trial by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for her so-called anti-American political views, I testified that I fully supported her effort to bring light to a region of the world–Castro and Guevara’s; the Sandinistas’–we would know less about if not for her willingness not only to report what she was learning–fully capable of experiencing life there through the ideological lens of her host countries–but, more crucially, to write in both prose and poetry, in both English and Spanish, about what and where she was living, and, for example, learning more than any  denizen of the International Hotels would be privy to.

We married in 1984, and when we divorced five years later, after a three-year separation, we agreed that we should have remained friends, which we have. For many years she has lived with her partner, and they will marry once the state in which they live has made same-sex marriage a reality. When she was brought to trial a year and a half after we separated, the INS judge ruled, after another year had passed, that she must return to Latin America. Then followed four more years of appeal, her defense team during the INS trial continuing by her side until at last she was allowed to remain in the United States, where she had been born. 

Like many others, I believe that the Patriot Act instituted by the Bush administration following the attack on Manhattan’s Twin Towers lies at the root of the crimes committed in the name of our country since September 11, 2001--from the Abu Ghraib interrogation scandal in Iraq to Bush Jr./Dick Cheney-approved use of torture techniques, like waterboarding, illegal under international law and never used in an American war until the twenty-first century.  To implement the Patriot Act, a new bureaucracy called Homeland Security was created to enable other bureaucracies such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to communicate more effectively. The CIA and FBI have always been secret organizations, with only their directors known to the public, but never aware of the names of those who work there, unless, to cite an example from the Bush Jr./Cheney eight-year putsch, the administration exposed the identity of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame, as a way of punishing her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, for revealing that Iraq was not buying enriched uranium from Niger because Weapons of Mass Destruction neither existed nor were being made in Iraq. As we well know now, Wilson’s news did not stop the controversially elected–Supreme Court appointed–Bush Jr./Cheney junta from declaring war on Iraq, in the midst of the war in Afghanistan that took on a moribund caste after Osama bin Laden escaped his Afghan stronghold, thanks again to Bush Jr. and Cheney’s failure to foil Al-Qaeda’s flight.

Before Barack Obama was elected president, he promised to rout bin Laden, and early on he did, giving the order to invade the house in Pakistan where Al-Qaeda’s leader was found and shot dead. Thus Obama risked his reputation early in his presidency as Jimmy Carter had done late in his administration, suffering from his failed attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages by losing to Ronald Reagan, who benevolently and relentlessly charmed the electorate as he plundered the country, perhaps most notably in the Iran-Contra scandal that evolved from his determination to return Nicaragua to its pre-revolutionary status quo.

Reagan also attempted to appoint to the Supreme Court one Robert Bork, who had followed Nixon’s orders during the Watergate affair, which led to the president’s resignation, the first such end to a presidency in American history. When Bork was refused by the Senate, Reagan had to settle for one Anthony Kennedy. Earlier, in appointing William Rehnquist Chief Justice a seat was left to be filled, as it is now, by Antonin Scalia. Little wonder that Reagan has become among Republicans the foil to Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as the titular god of the right-wing conspiracy that calls itself the “Tea Party.”

Last week the 1965 Voting Rights Act was decimated on a Tuesday. On Wednesday same-sex marriage was strengthened by discarding California’s Proposition 8 as well as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Each case was decided by the now familiar tally of five justices voting for and four against. Though controversialists may elect to split hairs with regard to the Court, declaring that since the Senate “advises and consents” in the case of each judicial nominee, the people do, after all, elect the members of the Senate. Perhaps, however, hairs must be not only split but severed when, arguably, the crucial element may be said to reside in the ideological arsenal belonging to the particular presidents who appointed today’s justices: Ronald Reagan, not only Antonin Scalia but Anthony Kennedy; George Bush Sr., Clarence Thomas, and George Bush Jr., Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Bill Clinton appointed Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Barack Obama, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The conservatives (a misnomer that grates)–Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Olito–as well as Kennedy’s so-called swing vote, eliminated the strength of the Voting Rights Act until Congress can agree on a more up-to-date list of states possessing a record that presumably will reflect the shenanigans of the present day, as though all of those states named by the Lyndon Johnson administration have not continued their racist antics and, in fact, have been joined by miscreant politicos in Pennsylvania and Ohio–to name only two states that attempted to change voting rules before the 2012 election and were unsuccessful in the face of the long-standing constitutional power of the voting rights instituted forty-eight years ago. The very next day, Kennedy swung from negative to affirmative in delivering another 5-4 vote to rule against both DOMA and Proposition 8, that had outlawed same-sex marriages. Thanks to California’s state government, same-sex marriage ceremonies resumed there Friday. California became the thirteenth state where LGBT people (Lesbians, Gay, Bisexuals, and Transexuals) may now legally marry.

One day the Voting Rights Act is gutted and the next day, as though to ease the deep feelings of betrayal certainly coursing through those most directly affected–or afflicted–the power wielders broadcast the seeds of internecine warfare–blacks versus gays–by once again sanctioning same-sex marriage. With the abolition of DOMA, same-sex marriage could be declared lawful in all fifty states, but like racist whites homophobic straights want time to wear down and drain the will of those they oppose. Therefore the tedious and unnecessary state-by-state rulings must continue to seek an affirmative voices among the thirty-seven remaining states. And the states named in 1965 as having prevented African Americans from voting are likely to refuse to approve the right to marry among their LGBT populace. Passage of a Constitutional Amendment is unlikely to happen, with the Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee women complete equality with men providing a cautionary tale of waiting without result as long as men maintain their power. And how long will it take to find a fifth liberal woman for Court? When will another case come before the Court, and be accepted for adjudication, that might muster another 5-4 vote, this time one finally granting equality to all American citizens?

We continue, no one knows for how much longer, to live with the machinations of the unindicted criminals among the Right Wing. Bush Jr. and-Cheney walk free, unless like former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet they might find themselves arrested in a country overseas that abides by international law, and then indicted and ordered to appear before the International Court in the Hague, Netherlands, to hear the case against them and to explain their actions, this time under oath. Other criminals in our government now are more passive-aggressive: the House of Representatives, as presently constituted, block all efforts to change America for the better by America’s first president with black skin, a mulatto intellectual and published writer of a memoir and a book addressing the need for various political changes (before his decision to run for the presidency); educated at Columbia and Harvard universities, he was a community organizer in Chicago’s South Side before entering state and national politics. And being president has saddled him with all that the eight years of Bush Jr. and his cohort Cheney not only did but left for him to undo. Exemplary is Obama’s continuing effort to close the Guantanamo prison. It is simply one more instance in which Republicans prevent the president from making changes. Among prisoners who have been in Guantanamo, some since 2001, many have been legally declared innocent but remain imprisoned–a hopeless state of captivity that has resulted in a hunger strike that may end only when their corpses are removed from the compound, enabling the place to shut down at last. The foreign policy rammed through Congress shortly after September 11, 2001, continues mostly in place, although Obama, as he promised during his 2008 campaign,  ended America’s misbegotten war in Iraq. His corollary promise of returning American power in full force to Afghanistan has become the disaster it has always been to outsiders since Alexander of Macedonia.

The Republican Party, whose muckety-mucks jointly vowed on Inauguration Day 2009 to do what was necessary to make Obama a one-term president, could not counter the president’s daring refusal to allow the American automotive industry to go bankrupt. Nor could the G.O.P. or the Supreme Court do away with the Affordable Care Act, which narrowly became law while both houses of Congress had a Democratic majority, even though too many of those Democrats sided with the united Republican opposition, clearly indicating that there were not enough votes available to risk an entire program in pursuing a single-payer provision, which has been lawful for many years in Canada, with whom we share our northern border. And now the southern border we share with Mexico may soon become a virtual U.S. military zone–thereby indicating America’s fully voluntary armed servicemen and women may soon find themselves with more future employment in a country where joblessness has dogged Obama as Republicans, after winning the House, have  opposed all proposals he sets forth to attempt to alleviate civilian unemployment. In the Orwellian condition of permanent war that America seems to have entered, our troops no longer serve one tour of duty and return home; now they go back and back to active duty until they are either killed or wounded so gravely they cannot return to whatever front remains. Though many retire, others are prevented from doing so by the twenty-first century’s Stop-Loss provision invoked by commanding officers who declare that a soldier is indispensable to his or her fellow soldiers and is ordered to return to active duty, thereby delaying retirement until a future date. In addition, nonstop war since 2001 has created a burgeoning and critical need for much more room to house the wounded, and armed forces bureaucracies fall farther behind daily, it seems, in dealing with veterans’ applications for assistance.

We will continue to be an America whose values resemble more and more those of the nineteenth-century Wild West, though as yet no one must deposit his or her firearms in the safekeeping of the frontier marshal or sheriff’s office during their stay inside zones that demarcate a town or city’s borders. The effort to convert barbarism into a modicum of civilized behavior, for which World War II was fought, now boggles a mind that would believe a future even possible; in addition to the slaughter of children at Newtown, Connecticut, and a steadily mounting number of the young people murdered in Chicago,  not to mention the attacks on audiences in movie theatres, shoppers in city malls, and other forms of resentment expressed by the discontented and mentally ill, all wholly supported by the National Rifle Association, making it impossible to get enough votes from Congressmen and women who fear being what is called “primary’d” and thus losing their seat to another right-wing politician who will easily fall into line behind their ilk who are interested only in furthering their agenda by preventing Obama from having his way.

Combine all this with the scientifically undeniable phenomena involved in climate change and the refusal to allow Obama to work with the best scientific minds of the planet in not only stopping the destruction of the ozone layer but eventually attempting to repair it and offer the young a more viable future. To live until the age of three score and ten (seventy) or four score and then (eighty), or even longer, as Psalm 90 in the King James Bible says, depends today not only on a body’s strength but preventing natural disaster that puts in grave peril–to consider America only--the great populations of the Western, Eastern, and Southeastern coasts that may one day be submerged by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as well as the interior of America that may become uninhabitable due to an already unpredictable number of tornados, hurricanes, floods, insufferable heat, unbearable winters, and only God knows what else. Meanwhile, women’s lives remain at risk more and more as Republicans institute laws forcing women to submit to transvaginal probes and all manner of insults meant to delay women from having an abortion until now, in some states, the foetus cannot be aborted until twenty weeks have passed, by which time an abortion may well endanger the woman’s life. Even though such legislation is unarguably an attack on women, is meant to punish women, such laws are proliferating at an alarming rate and constitute an assault on the constitutional right of a woman to choose between bearing a child or aborting a pregnancy, for whatever reason, which has been law since 1973. Now Republicans who dominate state houses pass bills, far too easily outlawing all but a few abortion clinics in a growing number of states; North Dakota, for example, has only one left. And in Texas, state senator Wendy Davis heroically filibustered eleven hours recently and her supporters packing the statehouse gallery took up the cause to defeat a bill intended to decimate that state’s abortion clinics. Thereupon, Texas governor Rick Perry announced that a new, month-long special session would be convened to pass the same bill . . . and this time we are informed that a filibuster meant to defeat it would require no less than two weeks!

States’ rights are still attempting to trump Federal law, and the savaging of the Voter Rights Act constitutes in effect a new criminal effort, or at the very least a return to hateful Jim Crow laws, considering the floodgates opening to states busy instituting voter ID laws, prohibitions of early voting, including “Souls to the Polls” rallies after church on Sundays, and who knows how many other gambits will follow? Remember the refusals of two governors–Orval Faubus (of Arkansas) and George Wallace (of Alabama)–to abide by a Supreme Court decision to integrate public schools, following Brown v. Board of Education, a decision spearheaded by Thurgood Marshall, the first of only two African Americans to sit on the Court (the other being, of course, the resolutely reactionary Clarence Thomas, whose political convictions lie a pole apart, if not a world away, from Marshall’s). Thus far, we may have seen only the tip of the iceberg–what Hemingway declared was all a good writers needed to show, allowing the reader’s imagination to see what remained under the surface. Lest we forget, though, this story more closely follows the criminal lives in Dashiell Hammett’s eponymous town of Poisonville in his novel Red Harvest; and, obviously, it is more crucial to pay heed to the irrefutable fact that actual icebergs are melting now, continually, relentlessly.

(28-29-30 June 2013)

 copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Earned Experience

The Supreme Court disembowelment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act . . . the day before Same-Sex Marriage came through (mostly) . . . Today, July 10, I’m still bummed out by the floodgates opened by the 5-4 decision that virtually performed seppuku on LBJ’s Voting Rights Act, which John Lewis said he believed he would never live long enough to see the death of . . . and the Roberts Court travesty of the long-ago great John Marshall Court (see, e.g., The Cherokee Nation v. The State of Georgia) v. the Cherokee Nation, e.g.) has already spurred six states to begin herding through the passage of bills requiring voter ID and outlawing early and Sunday voting, among God knows what else . . . in northern states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, who like their Southern brigands, were denied the right to make their own laws before the 20012 election. So: just in time for the Republicans to keep the House in 2014! Or so they believe . . .

John Lewis suffered a skull fracture on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge’s on Bloody Sunday in the spring of ’65, but the march from Selma to Montgomery followed, drawing Americans of all races to Selma and encouraging Lyndon Johnson to badger Congress into making the Voting Rights Act law. Lewis, now a longtime congressman from Georgia, thought he would never be alive if the day came that he had just witnessed with a heart heavy as the lawman’s club against his head . . . 

Two good friends, photographer Jim Barker and Robert Cole, Johnnetta Cole’s husband, were on the march to Montgomery, and a Detroit housewife, Viola Liuzzo, driving back to Selma from the Alabama capital, was shot and killed on the road. I remember vividly the brave Lewis, Robert Moses, and of course James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner as well as so many others among the young with whom I identified because I too was young then and had been born in the South and was in Louisiana that summer, where I was asked by Ray Fox, owner of The Saloon on Bourbon Street, during an early morning breakfast, “You’re a liberal, aren’t you?” But that was fine: he was young and a liberal too.

New Orleans became the home of heaven and hell in my life that year, even though its Pandemonium was immediately more at home in my mind than its Paradise . . . its music and (may I say) its ease. There I found, however, the place I adopted imaginatively as the city of my true origin, the city that claimed my soul as it had so many others . . . certainly it was not Fort Smith, Arkansas, where I was born, or Tahlequah, Oklahoma, where more Southern white boys than I went searching for his chalaqui ancestral lineage via his father’s mother . . .

One of the poets I read and reviewed in those years was Galway Kinnell, in whose book Body Rags he refers to his experience as a civil-rights worker during the summer of 1965. I reviewed the book for George Hitchcock’s kayak magazine and during the writing of “. . . this map of my innards” (the title I gave the piece, a phrase in one of his poems), I found myself writing what I would finally call, twenty-five years later, “a poetry of experience,” with each poem “well earned,” words that occurred to me when first reading Tess Gallagher’s “Red Poppy” in The New Yorker in the fall of 1989, when Karenlee and I moved into our first house--the first we've owned together-- in this northern Minnesota town.

Well earned, indeed . . . Tess lost her beloved Raymond Carver, in 1988, to acquire the experience in the book Moon Crossing Bridge, which included this poem as well as many others that were just as moving; Kinnell took at least one beating  meted out by the Sheriff Raineys of the day, and the book-length poem that came next, The Book of Nightmares, was an even finer performance, and all the rage in Massachusetts when Karenlee and I moved there after leaving California’s Marin County in the summer of 1972. One night, in the summer of 1965, my companion and longtime friend, Betty Ludington (whom I married later, though we divorced), was gang raped, somewhere in New Orleans, and delivered back to our motel room on the edge of the city where she lay soaked in her own blood when I found her on our bed hours later, after combing the Quarter and surrounding streets that led in circles and finally stopped at the water fronting Tchoupitoulas Street, a bevy of newfound friends helping me look for her, their numbers seeming to grow by the hour. Betty died in 2009, I learned only a month or two ago from an obituary in a Sausalito newspaper posted on the internet, which stated that she “died unexpectedly with her family gathered around her.” We had said nothing to one another since last talking in 1971, in her Sausalito digs, her remarriage and happiness ahead of her, for which I'm grateful.

Now, near fifty years after that experience that ended a night of drinking at Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, there has been no end to war--writ Large or small--since those Vietnam War days. Certainly the Voting Rights Act was won only with the shedding of blood . . . and in many instances, with death, including the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the era’s truly and inarguably great American, as truly tested and authentic and as celebrated as the indefatigably heroic Nelson Mandela, who now lies in a bed in South Africa dying from pneumonia at age ninety-four.

(27 June, rev. 1 and 10 July 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander