by A.E. Stallings

The bottle still says, “Drink me.” I still feel
All knees and elbows in a room, half hope
To shut up tidy as a telescope.
The nonsense people talk! Oh to walk out
Through a little door, into the crepusculum
Of a private garden, the only person there
Save for the nodding idiocy of flowers.
The hours pass, a slow murder of Time.
Always the golden key sits out of reach.
Always people riddle me with questions
For which there are no answers; always the wrong
Words tumble out to fill the awkward breach,
Like half-remembered lyrics from a song.
I’ve lost the trick of dealing packs of lies
In spades, so that the trumped heart follows suit.
The bottle still says, “Drink me.” One obeys.
If only I could forget things as they pass,
Amnesiac as the glaucous looking glass,
Or stop that sinking feeling I am falling.
Oh, to walk out the door, to where the moon
Hangs like a disembodied head’s queer smile
In the branches of the trees, the curious while
Till the sun comes up and paints the roses red.

IMAGE: “Drink Me” by John Tenniel (1865)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A. E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999) — winner of the Richard Wilbur Award — Hapax (2000), and Olives (2012). Her new verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things, is published by Penguin Classics. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. She lives with her husband, John Psaropoulos, editor of the Athens News, and their small argonaut, Jason.