This year, the potatoes rot. The wind’s full of malice.
The judge notes among certain birds unhinged movements
a hardwired loop braided from instinct and forecast.
Threaded saffron crocus bloom
deliberate crowds dyeing the flagstones.
Across country, a daughter is losing her hair;
the summer before, she watched the wild rice harvest,
Ojibwe couples sharing the labor
with a pole, a pair of wooden sticks.
Having mated very late, telescoped marriage
the cancer sprouting insidiously, a pain in the side.
The judge no longer sits on the bench.
He still takes his boat out to the inlet
where weed fringe startles with cormorants and loons.
Silver fish-head alms smack the brimming Sound;
he lures a shadow, charred wings of a sea crow
stretching its gullet to swallow the future
sharp as a glimpse of glass eels
slowly absorbing greens and browns. The child’s irises
behind heavy glasses, her deep embarrassment.
Between gull white and ink, these hours
are a blotched quarto before indigo erasure, a sleeping tablet.
On this coast a child took her sacred breath, harp and rib,
and from bivalve lungs cried out in triumph.
Time now works in reverse, pyrrhic and remorseful.
He was prepared for the soul’s shearing away,
but fruit he’d reckoned to taste, handing the good plate on—
she will be all the mouths, all the hands raised over the water
rising from sea catacombs, then a wisp, a mackerel cloud.
At the Magic Mountain
I open my mouth to a frost.
My father dissuades me from the creaky funicular—
dead, he continues to give advice.
That perfect cold couldn’t heal them.
Sharp crystals stung their eyes, the heights winded them.
These are his tokens—near-fatal vial of horse serum
a Niagara postcard. At the edge, a shriek rough as crow’s.
A dream of suspended time, the lodge
where fevers blushed at night, the common maquillage.
I spent my giddy adolescence there, cutting the pages with his knife.
My father half-way up on foot, blood in his boots
feels his chest flutter. His pocket is warm with tobacco ash.
The worst cases, he begins: without lips, eyes, skin.
I can’t climb any higher. But we live long
he says, despite bad lungs, frantic hearts, several other things.
Thomas Mann in Los Angeles
walking his poodle, serving drinks to fellow emigrés
could make me love the Hollywood Hills.
Something, maybe the ice, tried to kill Mann
the way my father nearly plummeted into the Falls.
These are words from the interstice, unsparing flints.
The lift by means of which we shall shortly disappear.
To plan a city modular and climate-proof
where we might endure as notes in the plangent scheme
architects dress in the fur of bees
“caring” the hum(an) word.
Pollen, honey, sealing wax.
The self, always the true foundress
listens at night with headphones so her love can stay asleep.
Up North a hunter shifts a caribou cow’s head
perhaps the soul will be flushed out, advent to rounded indigo.
Or does this signal Doomsday
calves wandering away, the skull an offering too late…
still a red string binds us. Social animals,
should we go bodiless or remain choate material
how a herd seems all mahogany in drizzle,
sentient bricolage, and the apian world an interstitial convexity.
Two politics—many-fingered vs. a busy algorithm.
Soul shrift, silicon, words counterfeited from organic time.
Marking distance by wing beats, by thunderclaps
off-center, proximal to the web
the deliberation goes on and on.
Where will our interred souls go when bones bloom
through flooded earth. Could we remain essential
figures foregrounded in a field
rich in sunning sweetness or to each other
Upload consciousness until the machine itself melts down
disembodied once again. A century coding
in vain hopes. Preferring to remain a child(less).
Love. the indomitable bees, concordant flowers.
The Wolf Man
What possession more complete?
The capacity to transform, to throw a gaze
Sun and Moon
however terrifying however opaque that eye
crossing a boundary we can only observe
behind a screen.
ewes stirring uneasily, purple sleep
the beast-man cannot hide the oracular gleam
but envies stars
their multiplicity, disparateness;
without the constellations imposing a human order
it crosses the open, a poor yet brutal thing.
Moors beneath a milky sky
after the wet season, smeary cottage windows blind
the farm wife slipping on cracked boots
runs out with a torch
and spies a bloody trail.
What spoilage’s in the air?
Crunching bones, clacking joints, a satiated howl.
A dance to the pulse-pattern in time.
Carol Alexander is the author of three poetry collections, the most recent of which is Fever and Bone (Dos Madres Press). Her work appears or will appear shortly in About Place Journal, Another Chicago Magazine, Asheville Poetry Review, Burningword Literary Journal, The Common, Delmarva Review, Denver Quarterly, Free State Review, Mudlark, Narrative Northeast, One, RHINO Poetry„ Split Rock Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Summerset Review„ Sweet Tree Review, Stonecoast Review, Terrain.org, Third Wednesday, Verdad, and other wonderful journals. With Stephen Massimilla, Alexander co-edited the award-winning anthology Stronger Than Fear: Poems of Empowerment, Compassion, and Social Justice (Cave Moon Press, 2022). A fourth collection of her poetry is due out in 2024 from Glass Lyre Press. Email at email@example.com