My Photo
Location: Sacramento, California, United States

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Poetry of Alicia Stallings for Monday, September 4

From Whose Bourne No Traveller

Death, the deportation officer,
Has seen your papers and has found them wanting,
Discrepancies in why you came to visit:
Pleasure, you said, then business. Which is it?
Your intentions are not clear, but he suspects
That you are trying to stay here forever.

Your claim, that you cannot be replaced,
Holds no water. Others can pick the tomatoes,
Smell the gardenia at sunset, stroke the cat,
Watch over your lover deep in a pillow of dreams.

You protest--so long ago, I cannot remember,
Anything about where I came from. Not even the language.
They say but for dogs and buzzards the village is empty.
They say, there is no work. There is nothing to eat.
No phone, no way even to send a letter
To the girl I want to marry, waiting at home.

Your case is closed, he says, stamping your folder.
The others waiting in the holding cell
Assure you that the language will come back,
An uninflected tongue, without number or gender,
In which hello's the same word as goodbye.

How the Demons were Assimilated & Became Productive Citizens

The demons were more beautiful than the angels.
They had no qualms about plastic surgery.
They took to wearing black: didn't show dirt
In the city like Innocence, which anyway
couldn't be worn between Labor Day and Easter.
They tired of grudging angels their gilded hair
& had theirs done. Their complexions were so pale
The blond looked natural, only more so.
They shrunk their wings into fashionable tattoos
So cashmere suits draped better from their shoulders.
Elocution lessons turned hisses to lisps.

The demons converted. They became Episcopalian,
Name-dropped high-ups in the Company of Heaven.
As for Evil, it became too much trouble:
The demons started to shirk the menial jobs
Which like good deeds, took one among the poor,
And bruised the manicure of rose-petal nails.
They preferred to stand by & watch Evil happen,
Or offended by odors & noise, even turned away.

They had become so beautiful, even the angels
(Who never looked in mirrors to comb their hair,
Afraid to be called vain, & never bought clothes
Since the old ones didn't wear out, just got shabby)
Left the lovely demons to languish, dropping all charges
On spoiled creatures. They were that good.

The Dogdom of the Dead

There is no dog so loyal as the Dead,
Always with you, trotting along at your heels,
Or snoring lightly and taking up most of the bed,
Their paw pads twitching and their tails a-wag.

For even in your slumber, they still tag,
Dawdling behind and charging ahead,
Sniffing a memory out like a fleeting rabbit,
But always losing the scent when it crosses the Styx.

They are creatures of habit and cannot learn new tricks.
But what you would throw away, they fetch back for you,
A game they never tire of, and what you would keep,
They bury in the ground, a hoard of bones.

If you try to sneak off without them, they sound such moans—-
Wind skinning itself in the trees, the boo-hoo of trains—-
And then come bounding behind you, faithful as shadows.
You will come to prefer them, dumb and dogged, forgiving,

For the Living, like cats, insinuate into your arms,
And when they’ve licked everything clean, dictated their terms,
They stray back into the moonlight and other kitchens,
Ungrateful creatures with their own lives.

Another Lullaby for Insomniacs

Sleep, she will not linger:
She turns her moon-cold shoulder.
With no ring on her finger,
You cannot hope to hold her.

She turns her moon-cold shoulder
And tosses off the cover.
You cannot hope to hold her:
She has another lover.

She tosses off the cover
And lays the darkness bare.
She has another lover.
Her heart is otherwhere.

She lays the darkness bare.
You slowly realize
Her heart is otherwhere.
There's distance in her eyes.

You slowly realize
That she will never linger,
With distance in her eyes
And no ring on her finger.

For the Losers of Things

She is shedding belongings wherever she goes--
Necklaces, combs, virginity, lovers,
Bus-money, phone numbers, gifts and their givers,
In the laundry, perhaps, in the pockets of clothes,

Dropped in the aisle of the east-bound train,
Slipped down the seat of her car-pool-ride
(Or her eighteenth year, in the Lenten-tide),
And places more difficult to explain,

Like deep-in dreams, like half-way-there...
She has left by her unfinished drink at the bar
The keys to her house and the keys to her car,
The ribbon that orders her unruly hair...

He is calling her number; she is not in--
She is shedding her dress, like scales, like love,
A dry, silk hide she has cast off--
She is ranging abroad in her new skin.


Post a Comment

<< Home