Alice These Days and other poems

by Kelly Cherry


A universe of pulsars and dark matter,
of stars spectacular with raging fire,
of ringed or cloudy worlds a mad hatter
might find bizarre, something like a choir
of mutes, deaf mutes, who nevertheless inspire
a sound so beautiful it grips the heart
and moves the mind in a twisting, turning gyre
no Yeats could make conform to credible art.

What is this wonderland in which we live,
this physics that seems magical as alchemy,
incomprehensible except to those
who know the formulas, equations, laws
and quantum contradictions, the dark energy
we cannot see or feel but must believe?


Sometimes a child outwits her crummy parents.
Andromeda, for instance. Born to a vain,
narcissistic mother who declared
herself (not her daughter!) “the fairest of all,
prettier than the Nereids,” which slur
upon his own daughters seriously miffed
Poseidon, the Nereids’ dad, who quickly dispatched
a monster to ravage coast and city. Now
Andromeda’s father, the king, was frantic. What
to do? The oracle advised the king
to sacrifice a virgin, who happened to be—
Andromeda. O those tragic Greeks!
The king ordered his daughter chained unclothed
to a rock in the treacherous sea. But bold Perseus,
returning from battle with the Gorgon Medusa,
saw the naked princess struggling against her chains
and rescued her and then, Dear Reader, married
her. After a long, fulfilling life Andromeda
died. Athena set her in the heavens,
a jewel among jewels, a diadem of diamonds,
next to the constellations of her much-loved husband
and stupidly superficial but, yes, dear mother,
Cassiopeia, who’d none of her daughter’s virtuous,
uncomplaining courage. Pitied her mother, did
Andromeda, for wanting compliments to bolster
her against the awful onslaught of increasing age.
Andromeda is a blueshifted galaxy,
destined (we think) to collide with the Milky Way
in roughly 4.5 billion years.
Andromeda is not afraid; she sleeps
beside her husband in eternity.


According to the latest thinking, time
perceived may hang on well-nigh imperceptible
neurotransmitters tucked away in differing
cranial regions. Thus time does not so much
flow like a river as signal like the signal
man of an earlier day: start, stop, slow, fast,
wait. Switch tracks. You cannot step into
the same river twice, said Heraclitus,
but now you cannot step into it once
as the river no longer flows. We might decide
to think of time as the signalman, waltzing
with his flags, the locomotive adding on
luxury cars or leaving others behind,
warning whistle haunting a night-hid landscape.


Bacteria and fungi fly
upward, seeding clouds.
Not all clouds, but some.
And then the clouds precipitate,

bacteria and fungi falling
down to earth.
A simple explanation for
the birth and death of clouds,
the rise and fall of clouds,
the being and nonbeing of clouds,

those irrepressible bacteria,
those wily fungi.


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Kelly Cherry has published twenty-one full-length books and nine chapbooks of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Her twenty-second will be published in spring, 2014.

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diane grondin 2

Photo by: Diane Grondin


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