("a minor or insignificant poet"--Webster's)
How can I believe we were so young
she loved the cock I cunt'd her with,
I was so wild and desiring only fame . . .
The year I, twenty-nine, took her, twenty-one, for wife
began the seventh of May and only afterward
did we learn, separately, the difference between
being home in a house alone
and jailed in a cell, even overnight
(you were free to leave the house
but not the cell without permission).
After our passionate summer together all we could be,
I began to act upon my desire,
long held, to emulate not only Rodin's Thinker
but Roethke the teaching poet,
and become a poet with a professor's salary
providing us with a true home
as long as we should live.
In my single-mindedness I was so in and out--
reading so long alone the night became a time
for talk of all I was reading and writing, and drinking--
my beloved was left too much alone,
and I, besotted, woke her in our bed to sleep
and return next day to the full-time job
I'd worked seven years but not the eighth
when I would have in hand the parchment
that was my price of admission to the Academy
but became the symbol of my cowardly refusal
to be her husband before all else,
rather the cur that turned my love
back to the fugitive path she had followed
before we met, learning again to live defiantly.
She returned to sleep with me one night before I left,
celebrating with me my completion of the Master's.
Still smarting from my former drunkenness, she slept
on our old bed beside me all night with her clothes on.
The night we met she asked me for a glass of milk.
Why milk? I asked. I'm pregnant, she replied.
I admired her, long before we loved, before I learned
the fetus was the price her dealer demanded
for the score she had no money to pay for,
though she had the habit she had kicked already
by that night she was staying on to hear me justify
Bob Dylan's monaural LP John Wesley Harding
as part of the first course I created and taught,
"Some Young American Poets and Their Elders."
Years later, with the same degree in hand
I believed had led me to throw away our marriage,
she returned to The Life to earn her daily fix.
To sleep she filled the vein that had left no tracks.
Then to cop her next load, she stayed awake
as long as it took, even if she must fill her booty.
Not until I lived in the house where I moved finally
after staying too long in that apartment Rebecca fled,
and still living alone, hosting one night a reception
for the out-of-town poet following his reading,
did she appear for the second time in our lives
and as that night ended I asked her to stay.
Next day she did not leave, and now she says,
I never left . . . though a half century has passed.
How much we remember. The book would be too long,
and now that she is sixty-six and I seventy-five
how could the book end other than how we all end . . .
The day we found each other again, she learned I was
married to a woman I had known and loved longer
than her, and she was married to a sax man she met
in the club he was playing and she passed out the night
he took her to the hospital, where she dried out again.
He took her into his home, watching over her vigilantly,
keeping his sax in the closet, afflicted with rheumatoid
arthritis, working as a flagman for the highway department,
devoting himself to her sobriety, loving her as she deserved
until he died. She sold his house and moved with her cat
named after him in honor of saving her life time after time . . .
(26 July, 5 August 2014)
copyright 2014 by Floyce Alexander