Archaeologies | Poems
by Carol Alexander

Eulogy | Field Research | Browsing
Hall of Dinosaurs | Two Bridges


If this is all we will have of the century’s snow
a spongy luminescence hybridized from rain
I imagine ignorance ably serves the time.

Sorrow’s reserved for hostages 
like the bleached corals that glow thinly
in vaults wreathed by anemones. 
Some flourish as devolution reclaims their bones
sloughing the hectic away.

The child’s vertiginous fall
composed of grief & light’s haunting,
a white matter catastrophe; I once palmed
a half-dead bird, listening for its faint machine
while over the field came word of another suicide.

The rest outlast those pearling storms
all chrysalis & hope’s fabulae
or breach cold counties from the outer lands (let’s make a bed)
bringing heat & spice, ripening through the tough uproot.
By the next bloom, we may transfer hues soft as stain.

There have been years deep in maple & snowdrift
where trees bright beneath the moon
held creatures of some far, glimmering habitat.

Field Research

Jade columns sing with grasshoppers, mudpuppies preen their gills.
They watched the village drown but slate and shingled roofs 
raise slimy heads. Mossy dams, reservoirs. The mad, mimicking rain—
drought counters with raku, salt-encrusted brick. Mirrors catch a ruinous sight
only an eye insisting it be jewel. Finding doors, a slaughterhouse,
steeples to interrogate: Love’s bodies in their elsewhere crossed a bridge
and later, wells exhale the fleshy smell clinging to shattered bone.
Each day’s archaeology uncovers vertebrae, chalky fingers trapped in pitch
while we part stalks, the soil thrusting out burrs, goat head weed, 
what grows common, thick as anywhere. I will pay for burial upkeep
until a soft field lays its simple claim. The country’s gold and thirst
flow on through dark cellars in which glass jars of preserves stay cold. 


I browse the shellacked bell peppers, despairing lettuce, pink and cream radishes, inedible creatures floating in aquariums. I’m here for couplets of acetaminophen, praying the viral hangover gone by tomorrow’s drill. Rice noodle packets displaced by pastel macaroons, the cat by invisible traps. The little mice all dust and eggshell scoot beneath the counter as I look for another thing to want. No more rice vinegar or dried plums or safety blades vanished like the stroller full of daughter and cracker crumbs. An upstate voice asks how have the streets changed, should he come back, is everyone being murdered now. I check my heart for bullet holes, my neck for the garotte’s twist, text a friend in East New York singing to her baby behind the brass chain lock. She diagnoses her long malaise postpartum gloom though the child has boarded the night boat, sleeping until shoals of dawn. I feel those soft antennae of misery, tropic beetle that stowed away. The sky a phosphorescent green, an estuarial funk settles into sidewalk cracks. There is the idea of island, then the fact of it. What no man is, ignoring the worrisome pronoun. I miss the black-haired woman who bagged my daughter’s rice cakes along with some small but potent surprise: a ginger lozenge, a milk candy. We are all beggars choosing blindly, breathing in our own stale air. We only want the things we had, unfiltered cigarettes and incandescent bulbs. A teenage girl calls me invisible.

Hall of Dinosaurs: Still Life as Reconstruction

Iconic and foregrounded, favored fishbone skeleton—
imagine it as harp or hull, salient metaphor 
cracking the earth’s spine, opening gilt crevasses. The child
who ran sobbing from immensity, open-jawed menace
begged petting zoo pleasures, baby hedgehog or chameleon.
When he left, impulse forced me deep inside the strung bones
to play with a stick this little tune. A Jurassic tree swayed 
primeval as magnolia, and of course I only fantasized
the hour of acoustics fainter than any wind.
Closed mouth I hummed, growled with the phantom tortoise,
patellae creaking one gloom corridor to the next.
There is never sufficient light but glare
to interrogate our ruin. Still, there hang the great eye sockets
from which restless pupils played over brushy ground
broken by bracken and accidental cairns.
Still, there is notation for the chill music of bone.

Two Bridges


Obscured by the mosaic rise
snow drifts between duple currents
refining its element against burdened branches
and through the windows of this place some glow
and through the passages where the living freeze
standing up, prairie cattle, the eye’s green needle
spins. Fruit, bread, are laid on the ground.
You feel the age in your nerves
an ache palliated only by walking off
the ache laid like a wreath 
beside one who condemns you. 


The violin students must practice Saturdays
milking high notes to the snow shovels’ scrape.
The last flakes shudder over garbage pails
while that unquestionable sadness of the stringed instrument—
only the cello more profound, more sentient to mortality.
A lens from an eyeglass glinting on white
makes you stop, recalling the accident
when only a pair of spectacles had life, the man himself still.


Spring yearns toward Two Bridges
oscillating, metronomic with a barely visible furze
where the nonexistent cattle might have fed
tuning udders to a nourishing pitch.
That daguerreotype of Old New York.
The neighborhood inverts plucked chickens and boils stock
perhaps deliberately tosses refuse in the alleyways
smelling of elderflower and rotting hay.
You are lucky to keep the imprint of a sunny field
limbic, nearly without words, even the young pony. 
Feeding the nervous system becomes a task
but coming on with warm breath, the month breaks ground

Carol Alexander is the author of Fever and Bone (Dos Madres Press, 2021) and two other poetry collections. Her work has been published in numerous print and online journals, such as Denver Quarterly, The Common, Southern Humanities Review, Third Wednesday, and Verdad. Recent work appears in Another Chicago Magazine, Free State Review, Potomac Review, San Pedro Review, and is forthcoming in RHINO and elsewhere. With Stephen Massimilla, Alexander is co-editor of the award-winning anthology Stronger Than Fear: Poems of Empowerment, Compassion, and Social Justice (Cave Moon Press, 2022).

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