blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Friday, October 23, 2015

How I met Alexander Hamilton


In a dim bookshop,

Where a huge, bad-tempered charcoal

Cat with yellow eyes glared in the sepia shadow

Of a fly specked window,

I found you.


A worn olive drab

A bold gold title

Antique spine, dated 1902.

Mother must have bought you,

The cost a whole $2.

Black and White

Trumbull in front--and

There you were!


You—ecstatic, thin, red head thrown back,

Face shining, 1776 on fire!

No wonder your new friends,

Fellow aides-de-camp to the great

George Washington, nicknamed

You “The Little Lion.”


Accustomed to escape like this,

I read and read, oddly compelled to

Struggle through a dense jungle of

Edwardian prose,

The work of a once lauded,

Now forgotten

Lady Novelist.


Oh, how well she knew you!

Baby-faced orphan who withstood the scorn of

A world where you were “baseborn,”

Who held on, somehow,

To the God Inside.


I started sleeping with you

When I was eleven.

We were both alone and anguished,

Threatened by mean drunks

Who round the clock

Figured chaos.


Outside, in tropical night, the

Rum-soaked party, grown-ups braying,

Men fighting, pawing the women,

A grand finale of blows and vomit.
We hugged each other about the neck,

Knobby knees to knees,

Breathed in each other’s breath—

Yours sharp, redheaded.

We tried instead to hear the

Tree-frogs chorus, to drowse at last to

The rattle of palm and

Whispers of Casurina, to let

Lady of the Night bloom

Inside our nostrils instead of



Together we crept from the hot room,

And stared at the sky, until

Our eyes spilled at

Venus blazing over jet-black surf,

A mirrored path

Across a living,

Phosphorescent sea. 


With that old book,

I traveled on prop airplanes,

On ocean liners, and

When the money ran out, on

Tramp freighters redolent

With diesel,

The rounded corners

My creature comfort

In a sinkhole of

Squandered love,

And money.

Across time, we held hands,

Brother and sister.


We hid from blows,

From nightmarish demands,

From double binds tougher

Than the Gordian knot,

Hid from the

Stink of last night’s whiskey,

Trays of butts,

Hiding, fingers in our ears,

From assaults which might

Include us,

From the harsh slap and roar

Of violent sex,

From the Beauty

With a black eye, who is

Our mother.


Tropic rain,

Sloshing cow’s piss

Splashing the palms, the beach,

Turning Caribbean streets  into an

Odorous garbage-strewn river.

Hurricane weather, gray dragon clouds

Sprawl above snarling surf.

White horses stampede and

Boom, manes tossing on the reef.

We grow up anyway,

Children in peril.


We find more books—

Mine in the trash can

Behind the bacchanalian

Bajan bar from whose stools

Inebriated Brits leap into the sea.


He finds his in the musty,

Cockroach haunted libraries of

Planters, lordly gentlemen

He fetches and carries for,

Merchants for whom he copies,

Dawn to dusk,

Accounts balanced,

Doors he jumps to open so

They can step right through,

He is just another a cheap

Commodity, this brilliant charity child.


We part company.

He goes his never-was-a-kid

Capricorn way, ponders

Philosophy and Law,

Studies Blackstone, Hobbes and Hume,

And the new science,


While I, backed behind the bar,

Sit on the floor and imagine,

Along with ETA Hoffmann,

That an aria can

Kill you.


Alone now, on the beach,

I watch whales court

In neon water, while at my feet, 

Sea foam dwindles into sand.


I am lost

Along with Odysseus,

Groping in the bedrooms of

Murderous Plantagenets.

We grow up separately,

Different centuries,

Opposite sex,

Different books in hand.


His ambition seeks

“War and Preference”

A Gentleman’s Honor,

While I roam the brown-sugar

Strand, talking to myself as he did,

Oblivious to the unblinking stares of

Wrinkled old men,

A tan teen-ager

In a yellow French bikini.



~ Juliet Waldron