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ALICE IN WONDERLAND
by Mary Jo Bang 

Such a fall! Watch fob and waistcoat.
How late the mistake is made.
How long the clamoring lasts.
 
Who are you? Bending against a blade
of green grass. Smoke fills
the Caterpillar. Smoke floats
 
over the polka dot snow.
Have you really changed, do you think?
This is the best part of the dark edge of down.
 
Down, down, she fell. This is the best part
of the edge where one is not one-
self. Don’t I know it, Alice says,
 
blinking her eyes once twice.
She took down a jar from one of the shelves
as she passed it; it was labeled “ORANGE
 
MARMALADE.” The game was changing.
There are games where one never wavers.
There are games where one follows
 
a dot-by-dot disturbance.
There is falling, and about to
fall, and ground giving way.
 
There is the beautiful
act of turning
to buy two and getting a free beach bag.
 
Perfect for picnics or toting and such.
A flavorful favor to take on a trip
to a mountain where chocolate is eaten
 
on weekends and during the week
it’s placed on your pillow
right next to your head which is swimming
 
in visions. She could almost envision it.
A pool with a placid surface,
mist shrouding a peak
 
that poked through at the top
to speak of impossible heights.
But, no. The peak was a spike
 
on the encephalogram
and she was dreaming again in a sleep-clinic bed.
Father was petting her forehead;
 
Mother was stirring a soup.
She’d be ever more
reckless if never she woke.
 
Now that was not said right.
Some of the words had got altered.
A row of button mums hedged the walkway.
 
She stopped
to enter this datum
in her Rite as Reign notebook.
 
She knew what the button mums meant.
Another fall.
Dying must happen quite often, said Alice.

IMAGE: “Alice in Wonderland” by Sigmar Polke (1971), mixed media on patterned fabric (The National Museum of Art, Osaka).

SOURCE: “Alice in Wonderland” appears in Mary Jo Bang‘s collection The Eye Like a Strange Balloon (Grove Press, 2004).

NOTE: We are honored to feature “Alice in Wonderland” by Mary Jo Bang in the Silver Birch Press Alice in Wonderland Anthology (January, 2015).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Jo Bang is the author of six books of poems, including The Bride of E: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2009) and Elegy (Graywolf Press, 2007), which won the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and was a 2008 New York Times Notable Book. Her first book, Apology for Want (Middlebury College, 1997), was chosen by Edward Hirsch for the 1996 Bakeless Prize. Bang’s work has been selected three times for the Best American Poetry series. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a “Discovery”/The Nation award, a Pushcart Prize, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, and a Hodder Award from Princeton University. Her books Louise in Love (Grove Press, 2001) and Elegy both received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a manuscript-in-progress. Bang was the poetry coeditor of the Boston Review from 1995 to 2005. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.