4 Poems
by Rosa Alcalá

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Two Loading Docks

Between my thumb and finger is John Cage playing a chance operation. I've learned to quiet the violin and listen with intention. My mother, the girl, is bleeding from the procedure.  Beneath the nail, she is a dead singer.  The audience looks on, politely squirming.  My mother's job was to screw or glue: smokers' toothpaste, lampshades, plastic cubes.  All the women stand side by side, like Norma Rae or public television. The conveyor belt determines their form; their wing jokes, organic. Monotony is not a monopoly: learn to be bored, people—whether its assembly work or the avant-garde.  The workers' wrists are weary from tightening caps or turning pages—see them all pack up products that go off into the world.  Some make it to landfills, others to universities!





Allegory of a Girl with Aspirations

Everything here carved in mythological smut: babies with weapons, virgins yawning, satyrs licking their grapes. All the while the piano plays:  plebeian, plebeian.  The dining room stretches its wood into the village down below. Not all its doors are heavy and ornate, some hinge on a coming and going. Through these, the cook slips in and out of frame wearing a white, double-breasted jacket. First, only the buttons can be seen, then the hands.  Only the hands, not the buttons.  Then neither, but his back and elbows.  There are several entrances/exits to the kitchen, each swing winks a metal, an edge.  The cook makes the food appear, but never delivers. His uniform sets a different kind of progress, his failed hunches are casseroles. This is his selected work.  We think some expressions palatable. The double cotton worn two ways is a religious order, it is a protectorate. I feel the fossil of some baron's mutton haunches in the claw-foot tub, and think of my cook.  I want to carry myself across the threshold, to kiss him, to be him, to sharpen his knives, to wear his jacket, to button it up the left side, then the right, masking and unmasking a spill, a breast, a blunder, a chest.  Feigning a work of art I enter, camera attached to an eye. Everything is perfectly framed in the viewfinder as it spans the room.  I take note: from the outside, the inside becomes another angle; from the inside, the picture changes with each step.  There is no way to piece it together. He shows me all the surfaces, but I can't locate a burner, an oven. He lifts me & my equipment onto a cutting board, and in his close-up, says, "work the butter and sugar before adding eggs."  I sink. I sing:

The compote or the composed.
The cook or the dandy.
Who will glaze my ham?
Who will I marry?





Introduction to Poetry (Job #5)

A line turns forward
with the inexact exposure
of beer, and snaps back
a sharp punch to the gut—
this, no less,
is the murky rim of encounter,
the stunning straddle we call
the cake and the rub. If we walk
out now we'll mean to ape
the trick of winter air.
For now,                                                                                            
I'll speak barbaric and you
a shaky bulls eye.

To eclipse the wedding quartet
with a gift for happy hour
(in a slight envelope fits a cheap wish)
why I'd wrestle similes
from babies, listen to a whale
that is marriage when it snows.
Until it reverts to a bar stool
which is the emblem
of you.





Suspension Bridge

A peddling of goods through the lake, this district of impiety that is afternoon sleep.  The sun slants hard through the triptych, each shutter warding away, poorly, the delivery guy's neutral stare.  Tangled in the comforter are things you've been translating.  Each version flirts with and suspends an attraction, pushing off the bank, then rowing back in unpredictable intervals. What if you make it across those mossy clumps of water, and into the town where everyone meddles and labors in concert? Knowing already there's no return. Or insist on a voyage through larger bodies of water, indiscriminate in the arms of the fleet.