Karren Alenier


″What can go wrong is always
more interesting than what
goes right.″ Paul Bowles

Tell me those stories
about you as shadow
of Jane Bowles, breathing
on her neck, shining light
into her mouth, the pain
she suffered, waves
of pain from a bad
tooth--too much sugar
in her mint tea. Ha! Like me,
you suspected the majoun
sticky with raisins, dates,
honey, ground ginger,
walnuts, nutmeg, anise,
globs of goat butter
and of course cannabis,
cleaned of stems
and seeds.
                       You profited
as her dentist in Tangier. No!
You played would-be
biographer trying to extract
details about her wedding,
her marriage to me, Paul Bowles.
Persistent, you declared yourself
devotée, lived with her, wore
her clothes but never noticed
she called her husband Bupple
or Fluffy--look at me, that man
answering his door in necktie
and jacket, that man who named
her his muse.                         
                           But she limped,
didn′t she? She lived on a floor below
me. You probably wonder if I chose
a Jew to embarrass my father. You ate
with us the night I ranted about
my family. Do you think Jane served
as my cover, that my mother expected
grandchildren? The simple truth
is I loved her as I loved no other.
Tell me, was it true her female
lovers like you poisoned her?


I smoke with my dead lover
husband because his kif
tastes good--aromatic,
               Paul talks about a snake
and the body of a boy who lost
his mind to this slithering
creature. He forgets even women
like me can hear this story
in the souk.
                       Behind that screen
of smoke, his eyes burn
like coals.
                    He blames me, Cherifa,
descendent of the Patron Saint
of Tangier, for the death
of his wife Jane.
                               What kind of marriage
between these two? I knew her better,
inside and out, than this hungry-looking
liar who says he grieves.
When he journeyed to Ceylon, I took Jane
to my dentist. She bought me this gold
A voluptuous woman should care
for her teeth,
Jane said to me.
                                                         That torturer,
he yanked out  my incisor--a rotten
tooth I howled over like a moon struck
dog. Jane swore I could be her dentist
before she let that butcher
touch her.
                     She hated doctors. They crippled
her knee. Sometimes she screamed
she wanted to be a python to crush
those who stood
in her way.
                    When did Mr. Bowles hold Jane
in his spidery  arms? She gave me his den
in the casbah. The two of us could crawl
in there and drink until my name was hers
and hers mine. She feared majoun,
said it would seal her mouth
like cement.
                      Has the master forgotten
how greedy Jane became the first time
she tasted that dark candy?
                                                    Probably not,
storytellers invent their own truths,
storytellers traffic in gossip that twists
s heads. Last night as I entered
a dark alley, I heard him say,

Cherifa laughs like a savage.
No, I laugh like the wild
canine I am.
                       I spit on Paul
s shoes.
What does he know? An American,
he thinks that spit is for shine.


Stooge, the philodendron, served
as the Moroccan maid
s stand-in
channeling intimate orders that cut
through reason.  Magic in a dirty

cloth containing fingernails, pubic
hairs, sticky phlegm, dried blood
buried in the potted plant
s loam.
At 52, the mistress still slept

with a stuffed koala bear dreading
night shadows, dosing and dozing
fitfully. If the hired woman poisoned
the husband
s parrot, flashed

the quick blade of her mechanical
knife in his direction, what injury
did she coax her green spy to do
to his little girl muse?


Budupple, budupple-mah, rop
the parrot said to Jane. Not,
Hi, where is your money? Not, Hello,
take me home!
                            After the sunrise horse-
back ride--clip clop--with fifteen cowboys
through the Costa Rican jungle, trees laden
with howler monkeys, the big black male
roaring, swinging from his tail, tiny
babies clinging to their mother
teats, Jane and Paul were offered one
of seven young parrots.
Nonsense, Jane squawked,
I dont break up families.
                                       But Budupple perched alone
on a man
s fingers, so they bagged him in a burlap
sugar sack, along with their 27 trunks
and Paul
s typewriter.
                                  Jane heard him say, Don
t pinch me
but Paul retorted, He
ll never learn English. The parrot ate
their peppermint toothpaste, one Russian
novel, and Jane
s tortoise-shell
lorgnette much to her delight--
that gift from her mother,
she never liked it anyhow.


Because the hotel manager floated
scores of our favorite flower on the surface
of the swimming pool, Jane and I decided
to visit the Taxco market and buy enough
gardenias to cover our bed.
                                                At siesta careful
not to arouse staff sleepyheads, we carried two
baskets of blossoms in several trips
into the hotel and up the stairs. When the bed
became a sea of creamy white, we undressed,
lay down and drowned our senses.

How much is too much?

In the blue fluid of the pool Jane Bowles poked
her head, short curly hair winking red,
through the fragrant corollas--a swoon
of flower boats.
                           Could a husband and wife, sheath
and knife, be joined in everlasting memory
on a perfumed spread of gardenias? She
with her women; me, Paul Bowles,
with my men.

Could I recreate those hours we lay

In New York I furnished everything in white:
sofa, chaise longue, Ottoman, coffee table,
lamps, a polar bear rug. Then I sprayed
the drapes, and every pillow, every throw
with ambergris mixed with crushed
petals of gardenia.
                                  Come back
from Taxco, I wrote to her.

What price paradise?

Karren Alenier

Karren LaLonde Alenier is author of five collections of poetry, including Looking for Divine Transportation (The Bunny and the Crocodile Press), winner of the 2002 Towson University Prize for Literature. Her poetry and fiction have been published in such magazines as: the Mississippi Review, Jewish Currents, and Poet Lore. Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On, her experimental, jazz opera with composer William Banfield premiered June 2005 in New York City by Encompass New Opera Theatre under the direction of Nancy Rhodes. She is president of The Word Works, a Washington, DC literary organization. For, she writes a monthly column on the process of developing contemporary opera entitled Bumper Cars: The Steiny Road To Operadom. Forthcoming in 2007 is The Steiny Road To Operadom: The Making Of American Operas.



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