Alexandra Haines-Stiles is a graduate of Harvard and Oxford, where she studied twentieth-century literature and language. Her work has appeared in Copper Nickel, Meridian, The Missouri Review Online, and elsewhere. She lives in New York.


Under Attack

Alexandra Haines-Stiles


Scientists, like lovers,

are always testing theories.

In the 1980s, they hauled

sharks out of the water,

force-fed them fiber optic cable.

Big fish had acquired a yen

for the lines linking us to

Europe and Japan, ocean

arteries pumping our essence

around the globe. They

smelled blood in our veins,

left loose teeth in steel skin.

We were trying to explain

the appeal of the latest technology;

the creatures wanted it so badly

they’d caused four comms

catastrophes, snapping at our

voices speeding through the deep

on laser light, our hand at

bioluminescence, glass tentacles

pulsing, trembling food-like.

In the end, we discovered sharks

feel the faintest electric fields,

our fixed wires a high-pitched

whine that never clams up.

Eerie echoes in their heads,

staccato beats vibrating the cool dark.

The kill instinct: catch your prey,

make it stop.


Alexandra Haines-Stiles


Air’s like water

now, so thick

and quick to spill


secret creatures

unearthed with each

hole you toe.


Dig and collapse,

no holding back

tides, nothing permanent.


Palm your lodestar

and it burns like a small sun,

illuminating everything


except which way home.

(But you are your own beacon.)

The heavens are full of flares


or the fire behind your eyes

playing tricks on you –

any mirage in a storm.


One reason you can’t breathe

is you weren’t made

to live here


like some sheer-headed fish

with jelly body and an angel’s shape,

skirting the edges of worship


on ghost-white wings –

carrying all an ocean’s weight,

lost at sea.

Zeno Machine

Alexandra Haines-Stiles


What’s the thing water can’t fix?

What can’t it cover, cleanse or sink?


Its finite edge proves everything ends,

even the interminable. Here, I’m toeing the line


to show you where vastness meets its limit

and contracts, crawling back from the brink.




We don’t think enough about middles.

The whole mess has a halfway point

though you’ll never lay a finger on it.

Look – it’s already gone and left you in its wake.


Departures, arrivals are where love lives

and what’s between puts your nose out of joint.




Always on the go. Watch me sail off into the sunset,

wing through quilted clouds, see the water puddle


at my painted toes, the moon beckoning closer,

then waving away. Life composed of such


tidy bits, infinitesimal instants so still and calm

I might not be moving at all.




Maybe it is infinite after all. Or maybe it’s so small

it doesn’t even exist, phantom of some electric brain,


this full-bodied distance. Maybe what we feel at its verge

is the urge to enter and run, in equal measure, so we split our


differences at each threshold, unsure where or when

we’ll land: lip against lip, arms outreaching. Hoping. Praying.