P & J Poetics, LLC, published Mike Alexander‘s first full-length collection, RETROgrade. His chapbook, We Internet in Different Voices (Modern Metrics), is available through EXOT books. His poems have appeared in River Styx, Borderlands, Bateau, Abridged, Measure, Shit Creek Review, Raintown Review & other journals
Before the storm, a flood of weather news,
a looping squall of human-interest clips,
what passes for reporting — comic strips
& poetry hold more that we can use —
the anchorpersons, two-by-two, enthuse
with lipbalm adding sparkle to their lips,
the latest updates toward apocalypse
Disaster strikes. Hilarity ensues.
We loll before the television, numb,
victims of information overload,
uncertain where the greater threat comes from;
we start to think we’ve seen this episode,
the one where God sends Noah on the road
& blows the wicked world to kingdom come.
Bon à Tirer
Eugène de Broise, the printer, also stands accused
O Save me, Holy Mother, from these poets,
& may I never set another line
of poesy, no matter how bejeweled
with fashionable metaphors, urbane
bohemian conceits, or posterity’s
residuals. Who’d want to buy Baudelaire?
He’ll never sell as well as de Musset,
Saint-Beuve, de Lisle, Victorious Hugo…
You’d think his verse was minted out of gold,
& him a miser of his word. We rushed
to get the galleys done in time for spring,
when verse enjoys its brief perennial bloom.
He blocked us with complaints about our work —
the capitals, was Beauty uppercase?
the spelling, was it classically correct?
the punctuation, if a comma cut
the page too deeply, was the stock too light?
Then after I had shut the print shop down,
he’d come himself, & stay at least till dawn,
bent over proof sheets, as the rows of type
glittered by dying oil lamp. Each day,
he would demand another draft be run,
another morning of corrections. Claiming
he’d pay the cost of labor from his own
unlikely pockets. Often he’d repeat,
“Perfection is the least I can accept.”
As if this book were his immortal soul,
as if by editing the errors out
he’d cleanse himself of ordinary sins,
the daily peccadilloes that a man
might tally against rosaries unsaid.
As if it meant his balance in the book
of Heaven, — not a curio, worth two francs,
a duodecimo volume bound in black
Moroccan leather, hand-tooled to reveal
a serpent twined about a lily stalk,
No sooner were the first few copies sold
than the remainder of our stock was seized,
the flowers of his genius swiftly plucked,
& we await a verdict now with thieves,
pickpockets, prostitutes & columnists.
He gives the coldest nod in my direction.
The judges enter. It’s too dark to read
my watch, but I can tell our hour has come.
O Save me, Holy Mother, from these poets.