writing : ALICIA JO RABINS

Writing


Alicia's poetry book, DIVINITY SCHOOL, was awarded the 2015 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize, selected by C.D. Wright. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Boston Review, Court Green, and 6x6, and anthologies from NYU Press and Knopf. Alicia's chapbook, The Girl Who Wants to be a Landscape, was selected by Mary Oliver for the Artscape Poetry Prize by Mary Oliver. Alicia holds a MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College and is the recipient of fellowships from Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Bread Loaf Writers Conference. She also writes nonfiction.

Order Divinity School here.
Scroll down to read a few poems from the book.

 

 

 

 

 

Poems




HOW TO SING

A nightmare has wings.
You sleep in the death camp
with tiny feathers on your face.
You wake up near the mineral pools.
A singer must paint her nightmare directly
onto the dream of her listeners
until it becomes the listener's dream.
Then rescue the dreamer
who wakes up wet with tears.

("How to Sing" originally appeared in American Poetry Review.)




THE CHUTE


Each time a baby is born
the universe squeezes itself
through a chute,
the same chute
into which
suicides squeeze themselves.
Its mouth
is lined with small iron teeth.
When you bathe your father
who has become like a child,
you feel the teeth
on your fingers.
When your father asks
who you are,
it means his legs have been
sucked in.
For you the tunnel's
mouth is closed.
For him it is open
and oiled.

("The Chute" originally appeared on augurybooks.com.)




THE MERMAID MURDERED BY TIME

A mermaid crawls out of my mouth to meet you in this poem,
my teacher who calls me teacher and therefore is my teacher,
who shows me how to knot a net to make the moon rise
during night watch on calm seas while the other sailors sleep.
We are the ocean and our speaking is the waves, each phrase
a little breaker spreading its foam, then a pause, and then another.
"A poem is a scrimshaw knife," you tell me. "The carved pictures
mean something and the blade cleans a fish for dinner."
"But why can't the poem be the fish?" "Because the fish will die."

By now we've knotted a net that covers the deck, and the moon is up.
"Oh teacher, I feel so far from New York." "Well, teacher, we are.
Out here we must eat of the sea and navigate by star." You teach me
to throw the mind into the water and haul it in full of frantic poems,
choosing which to keep and which to fling back quickly, while they slap themselves
in panic against the cold wood. We pick the best two for a meal
and eat them raw. And now that we are satisfied, you say,
let us lie back and read a poem of the constellations. Orion
contains the future: there is a stellar nursery in his sword.

Unlike you, I am patient, Orion says, stretched out on his rack
though he was there far before medieval torturers and, in fact,
is not there at all. Who is more imaginary, me or Orion? Is it
wrong to toss the word "torture" around like a shiny fish while
people are locked in cells? Should we try to imagine them?
My teacher and I look at each other for a few hours. It's a problem,
this incarnational merry-go-round, some humans on a poem-boat
in the middle of the ocean and some children begging for food
from tourists and some in jail for having murdered a girl.

I could say it's the mermaid murdered by time, but it's wrong
to redeem cruelty for beauty, isn't it, teacher? Teacher?
Why are you silent, teacher? Teacher, why are you silent?

("The Mermaid Murdered by Time" originally appeared, under the title "Writing about Writing about Writing," in Ploughshares.)