The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Carol Alexander

Children's Stories


I.  Nursery


The children lie down for a nap, doing anything but.

The one with bright baubles in her hair

twists and squirms; she is already suffering for beauty's sake.


The children hiss don't touch me, you're touching me.

Their teacher arranges paper and paint,

a cartoon of the deep, what flits and feeds within.

Though they all thrill to octopus and shark,

few have toed the ocean sand, or carved its isinglass.


The afternoon's game is touch without being seen,

while the victims forfeit some essential dignity.

The braided, bedecked girl can be thought to win

because continual discomfort keeps her sharp as a knife.


When she sees a hand reach for her knee

she slaps at the flesh and bone with a practiced stroke.

No traitorous sleep clouds her thick-lashed, sickle eyes

busy tracing a brittle star.


How she'll translate that waking dream to paint

is the story she must shape, again and again.


II.  Knowledge


When my mother asks the butcher to take a look

he sees the red of the bee-stung flesh.

Believing in the efficacy of any man's judgment,

she is quiet while the butcher raises a knife.


He says, it will have to come off.

The stinger? No, the arm. To be six

is to be credulous, with a smattering of fact.

Which is, in this case, that people do lose limbs.


A butcher shop is not an operating room--next fact.

The pimpled breasts of chicken, fat of baby lamb

don't reassure; only see what a trusting nature can do.

For further information, see the smirk at my dismay.


III.  Mother Country


Young Abraham, dragging the goat

to a stone, the haft of volition is in your hand.

Crevasses of wind sing madly

of wonder, of the three blessed days.


Rose-ringed parrots in the wild plum trees--

a flash of emerald teasing the eye.


Motionless and numb in American sneakers

and baggy jeans as the frantic doe screams:

fear like a shaft nearly cleaves your spine.                                                                       

A knife is passed from hand to hand

but the village has seen you turn aside and fail.


With a belly of rice and meat, a sweet

in pocket to be savored in the persimmon night,

dazed by this strangely swelling heat


cousins with dark, enormous eyes

and bare feet splashed by carmine guts

stare as a man with his expert arm

guides the knife home to the sticking point.

Her delicate legs buckle; the sun falls.




CAROL ALEXANDER's poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, such as Bluestem, Canary, Caesura, The Long Islander, MadHat Lit, Mobius, Poetrybay, and Poetry Quarterly. New work is forthcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal and Pectoriloquy, CHEST Journal. Her chapbook Bridal Veil Falls is available from Flutter Press.



Previous  |  Next