Karren L. Alenier



At Villa Ca di Nieri, wind blew all
night, slamming shutters, stirring
stale air.
...............In the morning, I shook
a scorpion from my shoe.
.............................................That afternoon
in Spoletto, dancers stripped bare,
bathed on stage letting
the water run.
........................Later, parched, drained,
dazed, we broke down at a roadside
tavern, unable to start
the car.
..............The owner and his waiter pushed
buttons and riffled through the automotive
guide but finally our driver found the loose
.....................Then speeding through hamlet
after hamlet, until we heard music
from a melon fair, we risked turning off
the temperamental motor.
...........................................Dust flying
in the school yard, we danced tango
and tarantella with the locals,
celebrating plenitude
under the lunatic moon.




She was a flippy lady--
a real sixer in a deck
of nines. She knew
the handle from the muzzle,
the click of the cock
from the squeeze
of the trigger.
She listened--
an authentic spoon tuner
in a forest of forks.
Her ear was better
than a metal detector.
Sharpened and juicier
than a blowgun, her mouth
tasted the purple plum.
In short she had more
life in her than the entire
city of New York.




Beggar, farmer, scholar:
our spirits carousel
from one life to the next

the animals--cow
monkey, serpent--rise
and recede in our path

mocking our appetites--
hot dog, cotton candy...
The music from the old

organ spills from
the fixed center
still we seek union

our spark, our flinty
two-ness, holding out
for brass.




Last night in the dislabor
of falling asleep, I dreamed
my sheep had gone astray
reproducing Fibonacci sums of lambs
which escaped my repose into your wakefulness.

You asked, "The recipe, could I
have the recipe?" Even as my body
made its nightly mends,
I countered, "Formula,
you do want the formula?"

You sulked,
"I thought you were hungry too."
From the wool of every bleating ewe,
a mathematician sprang
Archimedes, Newton, Gauss.

"More," they demanded. "More."
The sheep couldn't keep pace
with their ability to count.
But you insisted,
"I didn't have enough."

In this world, not all of us
can find our own nourishment.
Hunger keeps us awake.
But tonight, dear Friend,
the sheep are somnambulating
from my pillow to yours.
There is nothing to do
and nothing to eat--
nothing, nothing
but sleep.




We're traveling south in America
Billie and me--She's singing out
her heart: practicing. I'm driving, alert
to the highway patrol, vigilantes, road
rudeness--people who cut you
off, drive on your tail, scare
you white as if a vampire had sunk
his fangs. "Not like the old days,"
Billie shakes her head. Mmmm,
I say, reading the signs, but exceeding
the limit. On a bridge ahead, a freight
train pulls its load. I reach back,
pat my stuff to make sure it's there.
No doubt we've got our baggage:
neither of us travels light.
........................................To the west
a lake defines its banks as we speed
past. How could she do it? Billie moans
and from that vibrato comes: "Southern
trees bear a strange fruit--blood
at the leaves and blood at the root."
She just strapped them in, released
the brake, let the car roll into the muddy
lake. "Black body swinging..." Said a black
man hijacked the car, kidnapped the children.
"Strange fruit handing from the poplar
...........It's a pile up on the Interstate
blamed on dense fog. We get out to gape, unable
to render aid, only to mire the traffic more.
The news throbs inside, we hear the story
repeat. Billie says we've got to go, the gig
won't wait.



Karren LaLonde Alenier is author of four collections of poetry, including Looking for Divine Transportation. Her poetry and fiction have been publishing in The Mississippi Review, Jewish Currents, and Poet Lore. She is the President of The Word Works, Inc. since 1986. She is working with composer William Banfield and Encompass New Opera Theatre artistic director Nancy Rhodes on the opera Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On, based on her verse play by the same name. Her web page: http://www.steinopera.com.

Published in Volume 3, Number 4, Fall 2002.


To read more by this author:
Alenier's Tribute to Archibald MacLeish: The Memorial Issue
Karren L. Alenier: DC Places Issue
Karren L. Alenier: Audio Issue