Two Poems

by Jean Alger


When I was small, I watched swallows
Swoop and dip over the front lawn.
Speed and grace held me rapt.
Elated, excited, my heart swooped and dipped
As their bodies flashed in sunlight, wings spread
Then pulled tightly for a controlled drop or turn.

Breath caught in throat,
excitement and fear,
anticipation and dread.
I couldn’t swallow, breathe, or blink.
Frozen, caught

plummeting toward earth
without the agility to twist
away from impact
yet imagining how it would feel
to push screen from window
balance on ledge, and fly.

That’s what I told my mother
when she found me in the second-floor window
with the screen out.
I told her I wanted to fly, with the birds.

When really, I just wanted to
hit earth
and feel something solid
beneath my feet.

Wall Paper

I ran out of space on the walls.
Took down posters and paintings
and even papered over the windows.
But still needed more plaster to

plaster pages onto.

Printing out pages to mark up with
purple, blue, red, green, yellow, orange
ink because color coding is the key to
good editing.

Numbering paragraphs and cutting
the paper into pieces
taping back together again because
organization is chaotic.

This method was easier with ten-page
papers and still works for twenty, thirty, forty
pages but it’s harder to see.
The floor doesn’t have enough room

so I tack the pages up on the wall
and they make for such unique
patterns with a Jackson Pollock feel
from all the different colors of ink
and splotches of brown from
spilled coffee.

Layers upon layers of white paper
lined in black ink–double-spaced ink
white between black and lines of
colored pen,
swirls of handwriting that I really
can’t read so I don’t know why I insist
on editing by hand
and I imagine myself behind the ink
trapped in the white space
like the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

The pages can come down, now
layers held up by tape and thumbtacks.

Will peeling them down release me?
Or will I still be stuck in the space between words?

Jean Alger is an academic of sorts and moonlights as a poet at an open mic night in Oklahoma City. Pacific Northwesterner transplanted to Oklahoma over a decade ago, taking up roots for Colorado. Coffee and ink addict. Wild-eyed bibliomaniac. Cat lady. Yogi, swimmer, runner. Petticoat Swashbuckler.

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