17 Santa Cruz Poets — The 17th Annual National Poetry Month - 2012 PreviousNextHome


Alta Ifland

Alta Ifland

About Alta:

ALTA IFLAND is the author of two collections of prose poems, Voice of Ice (Les Figues Press, 2009 Louis Guillaume Prize) and The Snail’s Song (Spuyten Duyvil Press); and of two books of short stories, Elegy for a Fabulous World (Ninebark Press, 2010 finalist for the Northern California Book Award) and Death-in-a-Box (Subito Press, 2010 Subito Fiction Prize).  She has been awarded fellowships in fiction at Wesleyan, MacDowell and Millay.  The poems selected here are from her latest collection, The Snail’s Song.

The Rope

I once knew a man who tried to make a rope of sand that would never break. Later he tried to hang himself, but the rope broke, oh it broke, and the man fell into a pit of tears. Then he tried to make a rope of water so he could climb back up, and a rope of water he made. He braided the tears like hair and made them into a long, thick rope, but when he was almost at the top, the tears dried up, and the rope dissolved into the air, and he fell back into the pit. Now the man was so desperate that he began to make a rope out of air, and he worked at it hours and days and weeks and months, and when he finished, he let himself slide up the thick, invisible rope of air, and he thus managed to ascend to the top. By now, our man was so weak and frail he could barely stand, so he was just about to sit down when someone gave him a push and yelled: “Old man! This is no place to sit and contemplate. Here we all make ropes. Take this sand and make it into a rope!”

So, the old man took the sand and made it into a rope with which he hanged himself, but the rope broke, etc.

The Stone Collector

A man collected stones that he piled up into a tower in his backyard. The villagers said he wanted to bring the Tower of Babel into his yard, and mocked him. But what the man wanted was simply to enclose each sorrow within a compact, smooth, impenetrable stone, and thus to stop the flow of sorrow between things and beings. So he built a Tower of Sorrows, thinking that if he could gather all the sorrows in the world, he could make a stone bonfire and sorrow would vanish forever. Each night he stood by the Tower, putting stone atop stone, but he knew from the pain that never left him that tomorrow he would have to start all over again.

The Cherry Snow

When she arrived at the end of the path with tall pine and eucalyptus trees on each side, she saw the two trees in front of the building with their branches extending alongside the entire façade, full with little white cherry flowers veined with light pink, and all the ground equally covered with white flowers. The whiteness radiated with snow-like intensity on the darkgreen background of the forest. Heavy snow from the childhood amusement park in late December, heavy Transylvanian snow hanging from the seven dwarves’ houses and from the trees decorated with unlit lights and long luminous icicles.

Beyond the forest the cherry flowers snowed silently with the bright silence housed at the core of snow, and the gray sad building stood with its halo of barely pink light, removed from space, hanging within a timedrop. And when she opened the doors and walked to the shelves lined with books, the building became once again the old library, and she could hear the silence of the outside snow enclosing it within its soft walls, and spilling onto the pages of the book she opened, and the book grew so very soft, radiating with snow-light, and the library began to smell like cherry flowers, and she could no longer tell the outside from the inside, and what or where she was.

Ancheta || Atkinson || Crux || Dancing Bear || Freeman || Glick || Ifland || Moody || Omosupe || Robbins || Sirens || Spencer || Sullivan || Sumrall || Tagami || Teutsch || Weisner
  Co-sponsored by Poetry Santa Cruz and phren-Z   A publication of Santa Cruz Writes