Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Usual Birthday Poem

is about the central fact, your birth, to be considered in any story
of who you think you are or the closest you’ve ever been to fiction.
You can see snow piling up simultaneously with sun coldly shining.
There are limits, though: places you lived, and she you shared with.
Is it normal to want to be as many round characters who aren’t obese
as it is to lose weight and run again, no matter where or with whom
you are? I’d as soon be here and alive as anywhere; especially alive.
Seventy-five years ain’t nothing on Methuselah. Another twenty-five
and I’ll likely be gone, surely. If not, with the aches and pains of age,
why would I not be intent upon engineering levees for the next flood?

(31 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 28, 2013


I am happy, I tell her, and I say
what I mean.
In the hours I am alone,
reading Catullus or Blake, or Shelley,
I know what I feel and what I believe
and must not say so.
If John were my name
I’d take Blake’s imprimatur for Milton
to be Floyce Milton’s: The reason Milton
wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels
& God, and at liberty when of Devils
& Hell, is because he was a true Poet
and of the Devil’s party without
knowing it. Hence the need to seek a truth
or two.
(1) The priests whose names are Adam
refuse to include humanity among animals,
and we who are blessed to know the difference
follow Hamnet into Hell where Hamlet lives;
or (2) Will and Anne knew their son was cursed
to die with such a name and Hamnet did,
leaving Will to imagine what his name foretold.
Only the shades applaud Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Adam named the animals. He named himself.
Eve danced with the serpent and bore two sons
after whom men are all named Abel and Cain,
and who named Eve and older sister Lilith?
Why does it matter I am happy and say so?
If I were Shelley I would know the poor
are rich but not in God’s way. They inherit
nothing, this world is their kingdom of misery,
though among them are angels with tongues
for weapons and a just God would send them
into battle, but no . . . and that is why
I weep in the dark and strike deep the walls
with words I carve, that read What must I do?
Nothing that I was born to do in daylight . . .

(28 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 27, 2013

Second Babyhood

Only days and he turns seventy-five
now that he’s resigned himself to an art
so dependent on the genie his wand
coveted. Kurosawa told Bergman,
Live to be eighty, begin your second
                   Esperanza takes the love
from him, and as seed builds high he fucks her
slowly with love’s deliberate fury.
Words pour out of the imagination.
Does she give him new life? Five years to go.

(27 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Moon Shine

In sepia they gather.
Love showers around.
Open the doors,
raise the windows,
this is not twilight
but illuminated dark.
If I could speak thunder
I’d talk it into rain.
The light zig-zags
when water falls.

If I had been there
the familiar tragedy
of a dying family
might have spoken
for itself, one at a time.
And I would hear
what words they used
and trace them
on rice paper
with calligraphic pen.

(26 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Grito for a Southern September Sunday, 1963

                                      Coltrane's Alabama

Listening to King’s eulogy for the four little girls murdered in the Birmingham church

Coltrane plays the cadence of King’s speech, rednecks hanging out there taunting, the law 
don’t dare make a scene, good ol' boys going as far back as Bull Connor’s dogs and hoses. 
How bring the dead back to life so nobody hurts? That’s how it’s said where a history of
eternity unfolds, en ingles y otras palabras, Un amor supremo . . . what’s left of this world?

(25 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

There’s nothing to do but listen
so you know where the sound begins.
Not the same anywhere but in your head,
where lights crawl off to pick up their shadows.
The Gospel according to Matthew is
gliding across the screen this Christmas Eve.

What if Pasolini rose from his grave?
Would he confess, I am a heretic,
or more likely, upbraid clergy for sloth . . .
I remember the first time I saw it
the film refused to go on long enough
to lose its tempo, Odetta singing
Motherless Child, Prokofiev’s Nevsky
orchestrated for Sergei Eisenstein.
Who believed this Jesus Christ was Marxist
would discover no prophet lived alone
when freeing the poor was heroic work.

Among the defeated, the abandoned, 
came one bent on poetry, cinema,
mythology’s reality stripping 
history’s shame down to mourning’s absence.
He was mauled, murdered by his young lovers.
For Pasolini no resurrection.
His boys did not trouble to bury him.

(24 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Brightly Shining

Here’s where the work gets done. Nothing stands between words and love but money.
I was listening to Jimmy Jive give me a rundown on the orphanage he came here from.
We were parked feet first on Avalanche and Merci, where cars flow by like electric eels.

I can’t see staying here, he mumbled, friends all over been inviting me to visit, adding,
If only I had the money to stay out of trouble and be free from all the curses my life holds.
He says, Bobby, give me a smoke and I’ll lay a J on you you can have later with your girl.
He walked off with the the cigarette, swallowing smoke. Sure, I said, glad I had the money.

I don’t think about money now, I just wait to be surprised. It’s my girl who needs money
and earns all there is, one way or another, on the books or off, or tells me when I get some.
Here’s a surprise, she says, her white skin and red hair brightly shining as she hands it over.

Where am I going and what will I do to survive when she gets fed up with me and cuts out
for the Islands, Hawai’ian or Virgin, or maybe go to the city she only reluctantly came from.
She likes to show off her antic eyes, moving them the way she frolics when getting me up.
I look around as she goes out. It’s still in pencil. I go to the typewriter: Make some money.

(23 December 2013)

Copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Poet in Thrall

I caught her looking beautiful in Venice,
then at the helm of a sailboat somewhere.
I miss seeing her, I am a despairing lover
too hung up to recover sanity at any price.

I never get to see her now, it’s like I’m blind.
Why can’t the masters of reality let us live
our years the way we need to learn to be kind.
Such a life includes the body and eye of love.

I was always where she was. Here winter
always lasts longer than by the Outer Banks.
I want to find her in the skin of the deer
she became. I am so old I must give thanks

to the magicians of distance that is timeless,
whose genie always comes around to me
to say she’s out there frolicking but chaste,
waiting for me to find reality’s lock and key.

Thus I despair. I give up. I gnaw the bones
of my body. She is surely too far away
for love’s sentiments to travel, its moans
rising out of the moon’s sleep with the sea.

(22 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 21, 2013

From Black Mountain

  North Carolina

Forgive me before I go.
You said I would leave you
like all the others left you.
I have learned nothing
your lips were sealed to say
because you hoped for rain
to cool the Southern earth
and keep your skin soft
as ice floating the Atlantic.

Mary Shelley’s monster walks
the Arctic in her horror story
composed the night the doctor
awards her his prize,
and she reads Frankenstein
to all the castle’s shadows:
Polidori, desirous Claire,
Byron, and her husband
not long before he drowned.

I climb Black Mountain
where silence is poetry
living now on the other side.
Here’s only the poet and you,
two bodies plucked
from graves on separate nights:
his aging skin, your proud heart.
You were two bodies sewed
together to make one.

(21 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Ladder

So she stayed home as long as she could without screaming,
Let me go! You two-faced trinity! Stop exterminating kids
and all who come to attempt to end the folly of nations,
now the edges between good and evil are as blurry as ever.
So I went to see her. She was combing out her long red hair.
Barefoot, she scoffed, You got a foot fetish, lover? I said sure,
I got a breast and a hips fetish, the sound of your voice fetish.
You are my fetish, I told her, as she hunkered in for the night.

In those days I did not want to see any woman but Esperanza.
I gave her the name because her given name translated well.
I walked out there with her, though she had to walk slower
than she would have with a younger man. You think I’m old,
I was damn near dead when I met her. She’s the only reason
the cuckoo still comes out of the clock when the hour changes.
Her white, creamy English skin shines in the full moon light.
She is my home now. She dwells where hearts are harvested.

What’s the ladder reaching to the second-storey window for?
It’s for me at the end of nights when I’ve been drinking shots
instead of merely imbibing. She said she'd never climbed up,
only down. I loved her so, I once told her I ruined my life
by drinking all the time I was waiting for my ship to dock.
She said, You’ve been reading Melville again. Yes, Redburn,
I replied, teaches you how to be a sailor nearly all the way
to shadowy Liverpool, cruelty that only the young may see.

(20 December 2013 )

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 16, 2013


Do you wish you’d learned to kill, or at least fight like a marine? my friend Tony asks.
I say no, there've been enough fights for one life, and before that, murders in my family.
Tony is in the marine reserves, boot camp, when this kid comes up to him and starts talking
about what a fuckup he is. Tony listens a while, he says, I didn’t know how to help the kid
so I tell him I’m a priest. You are? the kid stammers. Give me your confession, my son.
Sign of the Cross. The kid says he wants to go AWOL so he can see his girl before she  
marries somebody else. I'd die, he says, before I give her up . . . which is what he’s doing,
she wrote him all that, all he’s talking about, he wants to run away and steal her for his own . . . How romantic can you get? Tony mutters to himself so low the kid can’t hear. 
He traces the Sign on the kid’s forehead. Go in peace, my son. Thank you, Father,
I feel much better.

(16 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Sunday, December 15, 2013

To My Longest and Now Late Friend Tony Lehman (1942-2013)

  for Laurie

Remember that class in Greek tragedians you took because you’d already read Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and wanted credit for having to listen to the prof’s opinion.
Then you quit school and drove your Morgan through the University District after hours.
I earned a B.A. for both of us. You wrote a treatment for the first chapter of a screenplay, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” for Andrew Sarris at Columbia. Then lived in Paris.

San Francisco, Berkeley: you never left the City again until now. I will miss your hip talk
about Lenny Bruce, whom we almost caught at the Hungry I on one of his last nights,
but climbed the stairs to Cochran’s Room instead, watching the hustlers working, pool
cues dusty with chalk, a hum of sang-froid that never abated even when the loser lost.

Then we drove to Los Angeles, the freeways emptied out, the fires in Watts flaming,
we drove through and returned to where we had entered, needing gas, the black attendant
pointing at the palm trees declaring he was getting out of town once he got off work . . .
Another summer we went to the park to hear Preservation Hall play, taking Mason jars
full of Jack Daniels and a couple extra fifths to see us through the night of inspired talk.

When I was in love again with my old flame, you talked her into giving up her secure job
teaching to run off with me to the wild-ass Vietnam valleys of New England and New York.
Near the end of my Massachusetts madness, you sent a clipping concerning James Jones
returning to the States after many years in Paris, scribbling on it: You too can come home.

You called from California Street, I was staying in Berkeley. Come to dinner, you said.
Laurie and I met for the first time. The phone rang incessantly. No message machine.
Simply two American Express travel agents determined not to be available evenings.

Then you moved to Berkeley. The years pass. Now Laurie calls to say you had a stroke
and died. I had been trying for a month–well, actually years–to send you a long letter 
once your heart threw you down, time elapsed, that same heart sizzled, sputtering out.
I felt a short circuit fill my throat with fire, disgust, tears: each future invariably brief. 

(15 December 2013)

revised 17 December 2013

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Friday, December 13, 2013


for Esperanza, who said,
I saw you moving among the moors, your manor, and my heart.

Not Wolfman Jack, the L.A. DJ,
or Lon Chaney Jr.’s original,
but Anthony Hopkins, Shakespearean
Welshman. The tyrant in Titus.

Old man with your frozen life,
remember when she ran
with you the moors, roamed
the manor, gave her heart
license to entwine with yours.

I would read her, then engrave
the countryside with my mark,
do my atavistic dance with her
. . . into her future.

The moon, the opium, the live TV,
friends back in the world, 
telling the Seventh Calvary
to go get fucked up and fill the hole
with George Armstrong Custer,
1969 swallowing the tail of 1876.

Paula, who loved me then, was there.
When she left that house to go north
I followed, south. Forty years passed
learning regret, the wages of old love.

Esperanza, take my heart for yours.
Esperanza, you know what your name
means to me in these ebbing years.
Esperanza, shield me from full moons.

(13 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


Thursday, December 12, 2013


I am backing out of my life like a car in reverse.
I don’t need to watch it happening,
no one plans on seeing the unexpected.
The brakes are gone, lost fluid puddled among
the broken clouds welling up with black eyes.
Let me drive, I say, thinking, Settle down, relax.


Today I went to see the doctor. I was a doctor too.
He had not read much Freud. I have, I said, but
I learned nothing children hell bent on seeing
the universe through dark glasses could not know.
The doctor leaned back listening to my story.
He asked me what I meant calling myself “wild.”


I lived once among the grasses that drank rain,
I let myself soak in the falling drops that splashed
between the roots, where the blades lifted slowly
while I dreaded this loss of such propinquity
to sky and mountains shouldering it with care
that the earth resolved by melting most of the stars.


I tell myself to go home, I am of no help here
where the wine-colored skin of lascivious women
want anything but to be alone, unspoken of
or for, the shadows of the only street perplexed
in their sun-laced cane breaks. If I take her home
she will want what I had and will not live to give.


I know nothing. I will not agree to love myself.
How can you tell the truth and remain upright?
Of all the skunks and porcupines in my yard
on moonless summer nights, none are so feared
as the black bear chasing deer down the streets
to be seen on the front page of tomorrow’s paper.

(12 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

April Twenty-eight, Nineteen Hundred Sixty-three

Here love unravels out of sight,
your mischievous stare a bushel of bright humor.
If I should die at seventy-five
when you’re still fifty (be my widow),
toss my bones and ashes to the west wind
from the second storey of your white house
where I would stand six inches over you.

The heart stands high where you outlive the dead.
On Summer River Road the door is locked
when you leave. My ghost waits for the car to arrive,
the door to open, your body step out,
your bare feet carry your beauty
to the door . . . In back of the house
we would walk where you hear only water.

At the turn of the year and west of you,
I pass the house on Conley Road
named for the people who reared my mother
and where I first lived,
a house built of the original logs
that were invisible by the time I arrived.

This year I’ve lived a quarter century,
you are being born, Martin Luther King Jr.
midway through the speech no one may read now
save in the national archives.
Who are they who could lift the copyright,
allow us to read what once we had heard?

It is April 28, 1963.
Seven months until Kennedy’s cut down,
five years before King’s murder in Memphis;
a month later the president’s brother
after his victory speech in L.A.

The dead dwell underground or in the air.
I was in Fort Smith, you were in Norfolk:
your heart was broken with the placenta,
I lay in the hollow place of my dead brother,
Robert Rufus, who was always Bobby.

Each year corporate America
replays the death of JFK. Not so
for Malcolm X, for whom chickens
also came home to roost: He might have saved
too many black lives. No such folderol
for King or Robert Kennedy,
whose murders brought life to a stop
if, that is, you had a TV set.

Right now I’m going back to my birth year,
to Hitler’s blitzkrieg of Poland,
the beginning of World War Two,
four of my five uncles in Europe,
the Pacific, their mother in the house
down the field from mine
rocking before the big window,
taking snuff above her silver spittoon,
watching convoys pass,
pondering the fate of her sons.

You loved your grandma as much as I loved
my own. They lived closer than you and me.
I’m too far away to visit the town
of Huntington–or is she buried in
Mansfield?–a thousand miles from me.
Five hundred more, I could even touch you
and pay homage to the one who loved you.
I no longer visit my family down there.
My ashes mix with bones that would grow wings. 

(2-3, 9, 11 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Woke in the Night

Hope is the bird sleeping in the attic.
Wings flare and take hold of the air.
She was looking up and now looks down
from the zone of flight beneath the ceiling.
I hope she knows she is my love waiting
. . . for what I do not, nor will ever, know.

She can’t sleep through the night but wakes in dark
absence, moon shadows lighting brightly
dreams of the one who could not give her children,
the other who could but prostituted her instead.
Then this one, the married man, whose poetry
might lead her to think, We are eternal . . .

She likes to read sheet music as she listens
to her fingers writing her interpretation
of Franz Liszt in this concert hall or that.
He wonders if she’d found her man in time
what art their child would make, what to call it
to wait patiently for the piano-playing poet . . .

Esperanza, melt me down with your fiery fingers,
soothe my wand with your lips and let me find
your jinni’s bottle to fill near to bursting
with love that coalesces between us, your spawn
of mine own Ulster pride, your sweet London
where I want to go, though here my orange turns green.

Belfast is a smoky place from the fires of sod
we gather in the dawn and carry sunrise home.
I do not know how to tell you the truth I feel,
nor do I wish to weigh on your heart with sorrow
so hard earned I know there’s no god forgives
the stutter in my step, the caul that swaddled us.

(5, 11 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Esperanza, Cathleen


He called to hear her voice. Her phone rang and rang again, then the message machine clicked on. Esperanza’s voice sounded like he imagined, a slight Southern curvature to the educated edge: self-educated.

He left no message: he wanted her to hear his voice, but not this way. He called again and this time got a busy signal. The third time he asked himself, Why did I think it was OK to call her at all, especially now? He was afraid to feel the stirring in his aging loins, but here she was, breathing happily to hear from him while he felt what he had feared he would feel. If he were still imbibing–her word, not his (he preferred throwing down shots with beer back)–he wouldn’t bother fearing what his loins felt; it was her loins he hungered for and wanted to be with his. Her voice was as he had imagined it, he thought; yet he needed to see her, even if only a photograph, but her photographs were gone now, and he remembered them as he listened to her sparkling Southern timbre–again, her word.  

All I care about is you, he could have said, but there was Cathleen taking care of him to the point of self-denial, a lovely love he’d known all but twenty-one years of his life and to whom he was married, again. A quarter century passed and here he was, thinking he was in love again and with a different woman now, when it had always been Cathleen during those interims between love affairs, two and then three of them becoming what the society called marriages. Esperanza had told him she’d fallen twice, so being twenty-five years older he owed her one.


He was living alone now. Or so he liked to think. Cathleen was with him weekends she had free from her pimp. He wrote to Esperanza about Cathleen, but he didn’t use her name when it came to her night work. She could have been a Sunday school teacher, but she dug behavior and thought B. F. Skinner had something she could learn from, so she taught Walden Two in the college course that she moonlighted during the week days. Then she saw her lover at high school, where he was football coach hired from the Miami beaches, where he’d learned to sell his body as a kid. She was keeping the wild boys and girls from going batshit, which they refrained from only because they liked her, one and all. One of the big Chicano boys told her out loud in class one day–a non sequitur–he’d like to get her alone some time. She didn’t even blush (or so he said later). 

He was living in an apartment he got free with his managerial job, opening doors for tenants without keys (but with IDs), also checking them in and checking them out, and–the worst part of his duties–lighting gas furnaces. Cathleen had been hired with him, and because she said she loved him and didn’t want him to live on the streets, she drank with him and screwed him and blew him and asked him if he wanted to do her in the ass, to which he replied, No, something’s got to be left to the imagination; besides, I’m not paying. She didn’t know he knew her new lover, the football coach, was pimping her until one night in the Radisson Hotel bar he saw the black man sitting at the bar talking to fellow customers like he was a waiter, not a customer. He sidled up to the coach to tell him he’d seen a game or two and because he had been a high school star once, turning down a free ride at a California junior college because he’d only played one year and was more interested in art.

You a painter? Will asked. Poet, Bobby replied, adding, the kind of artist who works for free and sometimes takes the early way out. You mean suicide, Will asked sans questionmark. Yeah, Bobby said. Will then asked him if he’d like to meet a woman friend of his. Bobby said, Sure, knowing she would take the money. Will called ahead and then gave Bobby the girl’s apartment number. That’s how Bobby found out Cathleen was selling herself. She said it was her alternative to a mixed-race marriage, and: Besides, she made a special effort to add, I’ve always loved you, I’m just getting the experience.

(4, 10 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander


You must be luckier than lucky
if you gamble your life as I have,
pari-mutuel windows for horses,
smoke-choked rooms and shots
with beer back debating to fold
or raise, and running the table,
while boys and girls bet on love
to their detriment, tears, despair.

And so you place yourself in peril
by writing lines that say nothing
when all you wish to conjure
is what the words may convey
only through their deepest sounds, 
the sudden emblems of ecstasy.

(1, 10 December 2013: II)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

To The Angel of Sorrowful Marriage

Some days I wonder if it’s worth staying alive,
she goes through such hell with me.
I would give her back this earth
we once trod together so happily
once we devoted our selves to ourselves.
Angel, I do not want to die. Please stay alive.

(1, 10 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Monday, December 9, 2013

Old Times

The scrapbook was drenched by the broken pipe.
Pretty Boy Floyd’s demise on the front page–
you get sent up you might as well take a bullet to the heart.
John Dillinger in Chicago (city some may never know),
his body cross-hatched from the machine gun.

And so the thirties left my father and mother’s memory.
I appeared somehow in the world of The Wizard of Oz,
the books not the movie (every Christmas I was given one
of that series from the pen of a fascist, I know now).

Then I went back to comics, Crime and Punishment,
when I’d not even heard the name Dostoevsky spoken
(and never would as long as I was a child living home;
then found the novel in a college library).

I sat on the roof of the neighbor guy’s tree house
reading Charles Biro’s update of Raskolnikov,
of John Dillinger gunned down leaving the movies,
Pretty Boy Floyd getting his in Oklahoma.

All that in the soaked scrapbook was thrown out
long after L. Frank Baum; before the great Russians.
In Siberia my holy whore raises me from the dead.

(30 November, 9 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

The Poor

All day there is no heat. For two days the water was frozen.
I had asked the sky for a gentle rain in a bleak winter.
No answer. So this is how homeless pilgrims run out of luck.
They stump on if canes keep them upright. I imagine the days
that are nothing but night, when not even the moon appears.
I know no other way but to hobble on; even crawling
is a boon to the thirsty, hungry one I have become.
I have come to the last day of the penultimate month
of my bliss turned into the haggard cry of a tongueless death.

All woe to him then. He knows nothing of the world’s last gasp.
He waits for thunder. He is poised for lightning to strike near.
The trees, gnarled and burnt, silhouettes against the dying sky,
the birds turned upside down in the wind smothering their wings–
they are part of the body’s map stripped and blown to the poles.

(29-30 November, 9 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Twenty-first-century Dark Ages

She left town giving me her numbers, yes,
Write when you want, she said, I’d love to hear
your voice if you can find a way to call,
then bowing out she vowed her own body
would be where she found the one that wore me.
Electricity out, the phone lines down,
post offices closed from here to the South.
Who could have seen what would be forthcoming?

No, I who did nothing but sleep and wake
to see the world incoming through TV,
its sweeping panoramas, the spot-on
reports from the front that’s found everywhere . . .
Prevented to love every way I turned, 
I snuffed the flame touching you in the dark.

(28 November, 9 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Don't Try

to save me let alone love me,
roll your dice, baby, our bodies know
the rules, love me forever
above the river run, remember
rain falling on what we have lost
and who knows when we’ll find it again?

If what we were was a pair of lovers
we tried to live up to the word love.
Comes a time betrayal festers, grows.
She thinks you’ll go back to loving her
if she tells you who she’ll be loving next.
Put your life on ice.

You no longer waste your time  where you slept
alone or together. You go get lost.
She comes around. She asks the doors
that open where I am . . . then the windows.
Nobody knows. Your death crawled off;
alive you were like the weather:

too cold up north you had to go home
where your body got so warm, you glowed.

                              para Siempre

(27 November-6 December 2013)

copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander