2017-2018 FINALIST, COG POETRY AWARDS
 

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.

Homewreck

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.

 

© 2015 Cogswell College •  191 Baypointe Parkway, San Jose, CA 95134 800.264.7955 • www.cogswell.edu