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