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Four Poems

Alexandra Zelman-Doring

Farmwork at the Argive Border.

Electra marries a
farmer and moves
away after her
father is killed by
her mother.

Beginning to feed
On the mist of a stream.
Looking around for the wood and the wreathes

But the steam is no house, and the current
No fixture. Growing thin
As a tree under water,

That leaks its sap, and finds no rest
In the underways.
O it is dark in the morning where I pleat

In the wrinkle wood.
Come drain my unsorrow,
Lead me to that other tree, whose branches—

Let the vessel. Look away. Oil for the earth.
Brook no notice: My embroidered face, sprigged.

By an urn with ribs of glass.
By my orphaned ornaments
Faintly stored.

I grow like a view
Kept alive in a socket
Of lachrymal width.

Ravening through the underwood.
Soaking up the water meadow.
Wringing the wild dry of you

Husband, father, realm.




Chorus From: Tragodia

The chorus leader to Medea

Neck fled back, motionless
Helve; voice wrung thin
Surging with father
And fret, bitten wild
With wrong.

Through the half-
Cry, half-fulvid
Moan when you
Wake in an ear
That never heard
Song, and dusk bucks forth
And your thoughts yawn
And snap like dry wood

Remember through the violence
We are speaking.

Rear your hand back,
Cradle your wrath.
Lullaby to your breath.
Over and over I beg you
Come out of the house.
A leak in the air, shrill—
And the light-pale tears
Drown also my eyes.

I say weaken, sleep, crack
Let it hurt you,
And blithe the wound.




Philocetetes Sonnets


We’re at our odds. The dark drapes along
Nailed in bronze and held to.
A brief blue knits between nests
Like a healing, then ties a loose ribbon
Of grief. A last hungry wick swallows up;
The sea at my door heaves a dimming
Cough. My moans— a pallet of wolves—
Drink tinges of dawn dry: new light
Crawls by with a fading limp.
You think I don’t know
You’ve been here? I know
You have. My sores spin a compass
Pointing open. We’re at our odds:
You sleep, while my heart’s in a fist


What is this for, exile I wound
About myself like a scarf, not burning
Or light on the skin, and why
Won’t I pull it tight, or take it off—
I, wool and extinct, toeing one foot
After my rough-skinned
Sleepless hunt, like a fragile bat.
I send you my bow, salt-sealed
Windows, stories of my house –
Try to visit, even bring unripe words,
I still live in a double-eared
Cave and dream I heal,


Time to drown the bow
Its ever-cresting limb,
My life’s taut strain.
I’ll lease my dwellings
Of crave-hollow night
Plangent bed-soaked leaves
Wooden mug, and rued kindlings.
Now that you have come,
Do not leave me
Raw and melding
Among the inlaid shadows of this
Echo-breasted wound, perched
Like a syllable about to spill
Into a small beyond




Autumn Letter

They’re painting the King’s Arms—
All day the same lank painter
Maundering at the wall,

Smiling at his molding, child-stained,
And graced to the task.
Leaves footfall dumb as pale paper

And lie down bright to dry.
Wended to the trees: five skies a day—
Amber, water, Mediterranean, then

Church-white, grey encrusted, thin,
Dark hull—the inside of a chestnut.
A wren lies doused in angular

Fury, gloriously bedded at the hands
Of two mother oak leaves, while
A muzzled greyhound whippet

Leads his owner like a vision
Through the parks, lonely
Direct, cumberless.

Autumn glares in gasps
Aureate—a sate beholder,
A metaphor in wither;

And I am yet to incarnate—
Just this, then, of telling.
The night we spent,

The monsoon-crested night, lucent,
Bold as your arms, bright bold enough
To bid a blind man see.




Alexandra Zelman-Doring is the 2008 first-prize winner of the Glascock Poetry Prize. Alexandra studied at Brown University, Saint Edmund Hall, Oxford, holds a Masters of Fine Arts from Columbia University’s Program in Poetry and now lives in New York.