A.E. Stallings Three Poems

Alice, Bewildered

 

Deep in the wood where things escape their names,

Her childish arm draped round the fawn’s soft neck

(Her diffidence, its skittishness in check,

Merged in the anonymity that tames),

She knits her brow, but nothing now reclaims

The syllables that meant herself.  Ah well,

She need not answer to the grown-up beck

And call, the rote-learned lessons, scolds and blames

Of girlhood, sentences to parse and gloss;

She’s un-twinned from the likeness in the glass.

Yet in the dark ellipsis she can tell,

She’s certain, that her name begins with “L”—

Liza, Lacie?  Alias, alas,

A lass alike alone and at a loss.

First Miracle

 

Her body like a pomegranate torn

Wide open, somehow bears what must be born,

 

The irony where a stranger small enough

To bed down in the ox-tongue-polished trough

 

Erupts into the world and breaks the spell

Of the ancient, numbered hours with his yell.

 

Now her breasts ache and weep and soak her shirt

Whenever she hears his hunger or his hurt;

 

She can’t change water into wine; instead

She fashions sweet milk out of her own blood.

Art Monster

 

My mother fell for beauty,

Although it was another species,

Ox-eyed, dew-lapped, groomed for sacrifice.

 

She had to devise another self

To put her self in—something inhuman

Or beauty could not possess her—

 

(O daedal mechanics!)

She grew huge with hybridity,

Rumor-ripened. I was born

 

To be amazed.

She fascinated me with cat’s cradles,

Spun threads out of my hirsute

 

Hair shirt. I was fed

On raw youths and maidens,

When all I wanted was the cud of clover.

 

I was named after my step-

Father, dispenser of judgment,

No one called me my mother’s son.

 

Minotaur, they said, O Minotaur,

You are unnatural, grotesque.

A hero will come to slay you, a hero

 

Who jilts princesses on desert islands.

It is heroic to slay, to break a heart,

To solve the archaic puzzle in the basement,

 

De-monster the darkness.

I await this patiently, as I bow to the yoke

Of making, scratching this earliest of inscriptions

                                                                                   

On a potsherd, down here in the midden,

Writing left to right, then right

To left, as a broken beast furrows a field.

A.E. Stallings

Three poems first published in Like

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 25, 2018).

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