Alice and Me
First, there was the hole,
so small it seemed nothing
could fit. And yet, there it was,
a bee sharp hum, an invitation.
Alice leaned into it as you would
the wind. She bent
to the size of a caterpillar,
turning. She touched it
like she would a closed mouth,
or the petal of a living flower.
It didn’t even occur to her
to leave it alone.

*

I’ve fallen in dreams
and never died. I’ve fallen,
losing my blue dress to the greedy
air, felt the delightful untethering,
a hungry skin
unsheathed. I’ve fallen
from the ledge of an archway,
like a loadstone dislodging,
dragged the stronghold
to rubble. I’ve fallen
from the arms of queens,
forgotten as the plea
for escape. I’ve been pushed.
I’ve jumped. I’ve slipped
on a slant of light,
my shoe grinding against
the concrete like teeth.

But never had I watched
myself fall as if outside
my own body, calm as a clock,
thinking, Well, there she goes.

*

Skirts akimbo, hair wild
as the sudden flood, Alice was
oddly beautiful in the way
everything broken is
beautiful—the cracks
and shadows of a patched tea cup
like blue veins whispering
in an old woman’s thigh.

*

And with me fell
a drawer full of loose keys clinking,
exactly the sound of my son’s xylophone,

and the red guitar given to me
by a former lover, carefully grained
wood I would never learn to play.

The gray onesie my son wore
home from the hospital
ballooned like an empty sack of flour.

My grandmother’s lamp
my husband had always hated
soared by with its tacky green shade.

I saw the piano that wouldn’t play,
the crib with the splintered slat,
the dryer with its cyclical speech.

Then, things disappeared,
replaced by the careful black angles
of the words I dared not say
           
the name of the child we wouldn’t have,
the address of a house in which we would not die
together.

*

How could Alice know that she would not
scatter like playing cards? How could she
have known that the ground
would not break her
into pieces like so many
oyster shells crushed
into the sand?

She was not what she had
expected.

And yet, she knew
that this had been
done before. She knew girl
after girl, in blue pinafore, lips
flamingo pink, had wandered through
the strange wilderness of her own garden
and fallen, quick as the flash of a rabbit’s tail.

*

Oh Alice, oh world of Alices,
on the cusp of drinking
the unknown,

remember me,
praying for the mushroom-soft earth,
praying for it not to be
a dream, but a parable.
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