alice d’alessio | three poems

28 01 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 208 | January 28, 2008

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Three Poems by Alice D’Alessio

norb3neu.jpg When people question why I devote so much personal time and energy to projects such as Poetry Dispatch, the answer seems very clear to me: because too many fine writers never receive the attention they deserve. Alice D’Alessio, another case in point. She’s as good the best poets on the American scene today, yet she’s barely known in her own state of Wisconsin, where she can write circles around many of the highly touted poets-in-universities who know how the game is played, appear regularly in all the ‘important’ literary journals, receive all the grants, get paid to read their work at other universities, and inevitably find their way to major presses, small and large. Why Alice’s work has not appeared in the hallowed POETRY magazine after all these years…well, go ask the literary entrepreneurs who run that enterprise.

blessing.gifShe has published only two beautiful books to date (and I do mean beautiful in design and content)…both books limited editions, and both books out of print. The first, SOMEBODY LIVED HERE ONCE is long gone. The second, A BLESSING OF TREES, which my press published (500 copies) four years ago is also long gone, but occasionally a copy surfaces, one way or another I get my hands on it, and when I do, I ‘offer’ it (at a collector’s/negotiable price) to a list I keep of people looking for specific back copies of CR+Press works. I’ll be happy to add your name to the list, if you are interested.

Alice’s poems are highly crafted works of art shaped by a deep love for language, ‘the’ exact word to capture precisely the moment she wants us to share. If you have ever held the tiniest bird in your hand, felt…well, that’s what many of Alice’s poems are like. Norbert Blei

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Somebody Lived Here Once and woke to bird songs by Alice D’Alessio

The first chirp comes at 4 a.m. in May
after a night of barred owl
coyote howl, and yes,
the whippoorwill.

We don’t know who he was
or what he did—his tiny cabin
just big enough for
rusty wood stove and a bed.

Outside, the pump and somewhere,
no doubt, tho’ long gone now
an outhouse, weathered—its rank fragrance
mellowing into earth.

Once in the woods
I stumbled on foundations
of long-gone buildings, up the hill,
under the gloom of oak
and basswood trees,
buried in honeysuckle, blackberry
wild geranium. Close by
the barn—gray, hand-hewn timbers
rough notched at ends, to fit
and stand for decades—now tumbled in
on bales of wire. old tires
and rusted wash tubs. It’s 30 years
that we have owned this place
and yes it keeps its secrets.
Who planted the apple trees?
Who plowed the field, where
corrugations underfoot, hidden
beneath the goldenrod,
attest his dreams?

And did he count the fireflies on a summer night?

from SOMEBODY LIVED HERE ONCE, The Valley Poems; privately printed, 20 copies, Madison WI, 1997

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Saving the Forest by Alice D’Alessio

On my desk, a hawk’s skull
thin as parchment
rests in its pottery cradle beside
the ivory clenched talons;
acorns and fluted walnuts
sleep in an oak-leaf nest
their tasks undone.

Gleanings from the forest,
they whisper of soft rain, wild wind,
their fiber woven from millennia of adaptations-
spring’s wanton surge and autumn ripening.
I keep them close at hand.

If I store them
in stoppered urns
hand-painted with Druid symbols

If I take them out when the moon
silvers the birch,
rub my fingers on their sacred skin,
turn slowly around three times
chanting the dove’s slow plaint,

will the stealthy ones cease their invasion?
Will the earth cool, the rains come?

Will this be enough?

blessing.giffrom A BLESSING OF TREES, Cross+Roads Press, 2004

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Something for the Journey by Alice D’Alessio

Suppose, for instance,
this is the last morning. You never know.
You wake to find a wet snow
has sneaked in after midnight
wrapping the branches
with an airy gauze, spangled with diamonds
so that every snarly twig and tendril
is an epiphany of white
etched against the purplish-blue
of an undecided sky.

And you want to be sure to seize it,
store it in scented linens,
in carved and gilded coffers
along with last May’s poppies,
August sunlight spilling its motes and spores
among the pines and sandstone cliffs,
and a copy of your only perfect poem.

Because we must take something with us,
like the pharaohs.

blessing.giffrom A BLESSING OF TREES, Cross+Roads Press, 2004

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Editor’s Note: Check www.poetrydispatch.wordpress.com for an archived edition of this dispatch in the next few days. Please send others there as well to experience some of the best writing to be found anywhere on the net.








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