Issue 9 · 2007


a Sonata in 25 Movements




by Alifair Skebe






She stands, a hammer

swinging at her side. Blood runs

from her right temple.


How one makes the loveliest of axes.


Poetry and art can make

the most violent of weapons





The prisoners at Kosovo

are on television tonight.

The scene: work camps.

Their eyes have disappeared;

their eye cavities have become stone.


Breaking stone:

one man has a strong arm

and his body emaciated.

Another man, a mangy head.


This is on every channel.





The little girl cannot stop

for killing herself.

She sees the woman

with a blow to her head:

she is in the act of dying,

she did it to herself.


In the bathroom, the girl

stands atop the counter,

stares into the mirror. 

Her expression changes

to one of begging,

her eyes being more lifeless.


She launches herself

to the top of the open door

and slides down to the knob.                                                                          

One tries to save her.





A gunshot in the distance—

the stall of a car,

the call of a bird.

She is on the windowsill in panic.

One cannot eat a reasonable meal.





The police come to find what has been hidden.

These victims—post-Holocaust—hide in the video closet.

The house is a former psychologist’s practice:

he has moved the reclining chairs into two closets.

Four girl-children hide beneath the reclining portion.

We must do this again early in the morning, he says.

Young women are tickling the girls now,

perhaps, the police have gone.





The space of hiding in the US:

the room is 20’ by 10’,

four tall windows begin at 5’

above the baseboards.

The walls are paint-

ed pale blue.

One wall opens to a

smaller room—an arcade—and the bath-


room is off to its side.

The tele-

visions work,

but the CD and D


VD players are broken.


Puff Girls episodes play on one set:

to fight crime in Townsville or such:

to placate other episodes.





One does not know—

should she turn

on her caretaker

or herself? The girl:                                                                                        

6, 7, 8 years in age,

her body thin,

olive skin. She growls.

The first of the acting-out.

Until this point, the acts

were directed inward.

She stops when the man

coaxes her with green fields

and pastures covered with cows.

Think of the milk, the wheat;

Think of the cheese, the bread.





The poet was conceived

on a grassy football field

in late Spring. The edges

of the court were lined in flames.

He has pictures.

He shows them to some.





His wife looks away

with hollow eyes.

She is asked questions.

She does not respond.





Pupils point to the life,

a chronology of the poet,

singling out the conception,

then the birth. It is about

the becoming, he says.





One cannot stop their cries in the night.

The caretaker finds the little girl

in front of the television at one in the morning.

The news seems harmless now,

but it’s more of the Kosovo prisoners,

seeing their faces in close-up shots.

Guns can be heard in the distance.

Those sounds are just insurgents

in their homes, the correspondent notes.

One can only see the back of her head

as she watches; the blue light radiates                                                       

in the filaments of her hair.

One can become entranced.





The camera pans

along the rock wall



The duty is

to break more rocks

to build the wall.


The prisoners

have turned

to stone.





They move to an inaudible rhythm

without seeing

the correspondents.

They are breaking the rocks now,

she says; and now, something

of their meager subsistence.

One pleads with the audience

to continue support for these men:

we are saving them from themselves.

we are saving them from their fate,

their country, their God.





The little girl comes

to her caretaker having stuck

a fork in the side


of her doll’s head.


No more dolls.





Here is your maker:




construction paper.                                                                                        


Rebuild now.


A little boy might

get an erector set.





Frida molds her

            spine of clay.

Dorothea folds

            paper birds in the shape

            of her dress.

Leonora colors a face

            again and again

            again and again.





Once they realize she is trying to jump

out of the window, the psychologist

pulls the shade. She now spends

much of her time atop the wooden table.

Pushed to the wall.

She cannot be cornered.





She paints a wound of fire

for the poet to enter.

The letter becomes too heavy,

groaning under its weight.

She paints pomegranate,

nectar, persimmon in the

New England snow. The

image delights. No emotion

can contain the feeling therein.





Her hair haloes a crown

of sleepy fibers golden and

brown. Wistful glances down

the hall.





The letter A. Intoned. Brief

second letter, consonant

falling hard. Bakelight, bread,

boasting canvas C.                                                                                         

Quantitative—she’s barking

in the next room arpeggios

and the grand scale.





Inside the stone is a fire

Toralee, eyes, a blind persistence

the color of old meat.

Limestone, marble, amethyst

dust of the mind reportage.





Dorothea paints in her mind

brilliant positions—trapped

children like ghosts, inaudible

screams of fancy. One

hears them in form—

beauteous transcription.





God is dead because he

won’t write back. Construction

prefigures another






Will the poet emerge

from Purgatorio?





One must not fear their

stone towers.




E · Poetry Journal