Eight poems(from my full-length ms., The Circus Poems) which were featured in the latest issue of The Missouri Review.
Alex gives an overview of the book:
The first ring is contained in a small box no bigger than your fingernail.
We keep it on a shelf with minor planets and constellations -the beasts,
people, sawdust - the random arrangement of atoms and circumstances
that make up the world. I once knew a woman who believed that every
moment of every life was moving inexorably toward the same vanishing
point–the myriads moving on a giant canvas toward an invisible pinhole
somewhere in the middle distance. The stars continue to burn. The seas
pay homage to the sky. The brittle shards of days under your fingernails.
Her body twists like snakeskin - limbs looping around limbs,
her hair tangling like seaweed on pylons – the music gyrates
as she lifts one leg to touch her mouth from behind her back
and extends her tongue to touch her eyebrow. The audience
is divided - the men clap like young sea-lions at feeding-time,
the women and children shudder, fidget and cock their heads.
Things are always collapsing. You climb the staircase of years, the steps
crumbling quietly behind you. The rain falls down in gales of laughter,
holding its sides. The moon disintegrates in a puddle of light. It all turns
to dust eventually – the flowered wallpaper – the flapping curtains – the
letters bound in tin boxes in the highest attic room – the night’s paper
wings flare on morning’s noiseless flames- collapsing, always collapsing.
She looks at you the way a man with grey hair looks at the ocean.
Her thin fingers caress the ball and there’s no turning back -black
nails clacking crystal and the low hum of her voice, soporific and
foreign, winds in your ear. You are on a very long voyage, unsure
of your destination– many companions will come and go, certain
places will hold you - you are moving, returning, always returning.
At the top of the pyramid, like Pharaoh piled on a bed of slaves,
she balances on three fingers – then flips her grasshopper body
and lands on the white stallion’s back as it canters past.Her body
melds with the horse – its snort and rumble pulsing through her
feet – tight muscles and tendons snapping – mane flapping like
white seaweed in a bridled sea of dust and plumes and memory.
Stars on his fingernails, sky in his hair, breath of the sea in his voice.
His father sailed west on an Ottoman clipper -journey of the Magus
from Constantinople. The magician knows the world, feels its blind
dominions held tight in the sleight of his hand. We stumble through
the world like drunk men in a fog, outstretched arms clutching at the
air. Now you see it, now you don’t – then he takes your breath away.
For him, there is no Ohio, no Baltimore, no Fuquay-Varina -
they melt into a single place he left on a slab-grey afternoon.
His hammer slams the metal peg into red earth, the clanging
metronome of honest toil, heartbeat of a certain kind of man.
Tonight he will drink blood-red wine– trail his fingers across
peeling photographs – rise once again into slow continuation.
The line of people loops around the barriers like a Chinese dragon
eating its own tail – ouroboros in a Delaware field - like Quetzalcoatl,
God of the morning star – who laid down with a celibate priestess,
who created man using bones of the dead and blood from a wound
in his penis, who burned himself to death and whose heart became
the morning star - his ashes falling to earth and becoming the grass.
It’s easy to see why Alex Grant’s chapbook Chains & Mirrors won both the 2006 Randall Jarrell/Harperprints Poetry Contest and the 2007 Oscar Arnold Young Award (for best book by a North Carolina poet...