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Mid-Century in Sepia
and Willful Unknowing

After 1946, a room for eating bread,
skin on chocolate pudding, fibers of dark meat.

A knock upon the door—bibelots, shellacked wood:
you see things lean uneasily.

               Cats’ eye marbles on the rug
filmy dresses, woolen suits. A knife fight of bare words.

Inside the afternoon falling out of time
we were coevals under the blue circumstance.

I didn’t want shielding, just warm wax in the palms.
My father said what has it got to do with you?

               I begin to answer
by polishing table dust in slow, compassionate arcs

my soft-spoken slide into invisibility
               the precarious child.

There is a witch in the Black Forest
embroidering fate upon flesh, I excel at nightmares,

               Hansel and Gretel.
I am stepping in their tracks while my brother plays

with trains that pass through costive fields
implanted with miniature trees and unexploded shells

He is the saner child. I’m sent out to breathe the air,
cannot bring my book or knitting block.

               An emerald snake, a toad.
In the room, they go on eating torn loaves dipped in salt.

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Carol Alexander

Carol Alexander has authored three poetry collections. Individual poems appear in  Another Chicago Magazine, The Common, Denver Quarterly, Mudlark, RHINO, Verdad, The Summerset Review,  Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. She co-edited the poetry anthology STRONGER THAN FEAR: Poems of Empowerment, Compassion, and Social Justice.

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