Offcourse Literary Journal

Three poems by Jeffrey Alfier.

The Tavern at the Grey Wolf Annex between Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona

This chasmal Hopi sky is wide enough
to make you wonder just how old friendships
could become things that slipped away from you.
Here, you seek again the warm allegiance
that brings smiles to these few who stayed faithful.
But wine and your mind conspire to say
some man's daughter is untouched by the Fall
and the gentle slope of emergent breasts,
rising smooth as the Venus of Ingres,
is begging your eyes to tread the contours
though you know desire burns dignity
down to cinders. When tables are too close
in small taverns, all gazes are suspect.
Friends, ill at ease, take notice of exits
as they leave you mumbling like Icarus
in a flat spin, embarrassed by the thought
you might keep them from the road out of town.
Only the native bartender remains
to read your face: that lonely petroglyph.
She knows your rage is paid for in advance.



The blue shroud trimming his shiny coffin
and your black dress are brushed by a spring breeze
that finds your eyes downcast like Andromache,
when she saw the future of her city
dragged behind a chariot of madness.

Some other headstone in the field reads 'Bach',
but no one thinks of Leipzig cantatas
distilling an incoherence of tears
when stock futures are up, oil prices down,
and cities we conquered fill with snipers.



Where small town news seems hardly worth the print
the grace of spring fills your lungs one more year.

Nothing going here but headlines from dust:
in Black Mesa, paleontologists
found a stone shadow in a vanished sea
from a species that died out long before
Navajos said bears go west to bad luck.

One-night tourists fearing wide-open space
come and go like island girls in strip bars.
You see a woman that could be your wife
twenty-some years ago, and emptiness
becomes the enemy now, not remorse.
Eyes are wary of unwitting ambush
when mirrors are cruel and a shot glass
is last resort for your averted eyes.
So you walk outside to elide small talk,
where lightning swells horizons like hunger.

Back inside, all talk of war. South of here
extinct bones say death is neutral country.


Jeffrey Alfier's poems have appeared in Offcourse Issue #12, Winter 2002. He is a technical writer living in Bechhofen, Germany. He formerly served as an adjunct faculty member with City Colleges of Chicago's European Division. He has published with The Adirondack Review, Border Senses, Columbia Review, Penumbra, Poetry Greece, Stolen Island Review, The Richmond Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.



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