Cassandra de Alba

Cassandra de Alba lives in Massachusetts with two other writers and a cat who won’t stop hitting her. She has published several chapbooks and competed in several National Poetry Slams. Her work has appeared in Red LightbulbsDrunken BoatNeon, and ILK, among othersShe still doesn’t know how to ride a bike.

Four Poems (August, 2014. Issue 45.)

sleep well

Tonight, the old cabin in the woods will light up
with every firefly a child caught in a jar
and then let go. The windows will shine out
like lighthouse beacons and the copper saucepan
on the ruined stove will look just like it did
in the Sears catalog. The railroad bridge
by the cemetery, which has not known wheels
since before your parents met, will catch the wind
so its broken ties sound like boxcars. An alley cat
who has been lying immobile beside a dumpster for two days
will get up. He will walk to the nearest doorstep.
He will be let in.

16,000 feet

From an airplane window, I finally understand suburbs.
The pleasing half-arcs of houses, identical roofs,
all the pale shades of paint catching the sun—
maybe these things are meant to be seen from above,
not lived in, like their most perfect incarnation
is the scale model on the designer’s desk,
cardboard walls cut just so. Leaving Seattle
at midnight, each streetlight creates its own halo
in the dark—a perfect grid of circles glowing
like cats’ eyes, saying here: here is another street
safe to walk on. Here is another place humans call home.

Apple Picking

I haven’t been to an orchard in years, but I know
all the vocabulary—that I should talk about crisp autumn air,
boughs heavy with fruit. What television tells us
fall looks like in New England.

In my New England, it is November and unseasonably warm.
I am staring out a laundromat window
at leaves that are not dying as prettily
as they should. The vocabulary of death
is not the same as that of fall.
I have so many words for what these leaves ought to be—
red and orange and crackling underfoot—and none
for what my father was on the last day of his life.
Television teaches death as swelling music, pan
over corpse, quick cut to funeral. It does not teach
anything more useful to say than pumpkin spice! wool sweaters!
when it is seventy degrees in Somerville
and half the leaves are withering brown and joyless.

I say that fall in the city is failing me, but
I am a hypocrite; I expect these leaves to do
what I can’t. When we die it is not colorful,
or pretty, and unless it comes on the highway
in an explosion of flame, no one will stop
to exclaim how spectacular we look. No one
will know how to talk about it.

Kodachrome

My mother has kept your pictures.
I doubt you are aware of this, but
here they are: popping up
between dictionary pages,
under paint cans in the basement.

Some are self-portraits, taken
with a tripod and timer: Walker
lying in bed. Walker sitting knees
together back straight on the couch.
Then the snapshots with careful labels:
“Red Door Inn in Poughkeepsie.”
“Black-eyed susans in our yard
which I was going to bring to you.”

My mother calls my fascination with you
creepy. She does not believe me
when I say I have looked you up
on the internet, you are a lawyer
in Ohio, you have lost your hair.
For her, you are the faded colors
of a photograph, a curio
on a high shelf,
a bug trapped in amber.