Poem-A-Day: Mike Alexander

I first met Mike Alexander — with regard to being a poet, he went by M. Alexander in those days — back in the late 90s at a regular reading series in Houston that was held at a dive bar called The Mausoleum. I think I learned about that series from Bucky Rea, who had been in a poetry class with me in college, and I read at The Maus in that series every now and then. That bar’s owner took the place through several incarnations, including Helios and Avant Garden. In the mid-2000s, I ran a monthly bellydance show there called Eclectic Bellydance; it was a fun and easy gig; the bar’s owner had actually been a member of the first dance troupe I was in, too. I can’t tell you how many concerts and festivals I’ve been to at that place. It’s a Houston institution and has for decades been a haven for artists of all types.

But I digress. As a poet, I’ve always trended toward the reclusive, not attending or even giving readings very often. But eventually I did come back into the scene more regularly and found Mike again at a Mutabilis Press anthology launch party. We were both published in it. Mike also runs a reading series in Houston now called Poetry FIX at Fix Coffee Bar — incidentally, next door to Avant Garden (or whatever it might be called now). That’s a fantastic series.

I’m so pleased to be back in touch with Mike again, and equally pleased that he shares a poem with us on the blog more Aprils than not. He’s extremely adept with form, capable of “hiding” even true rhyme in the clever rhythm of his work. Enjoy this wry and deft critique.

 

OUT OF EGYPT

In time of plague we all subscribe
to Exodus. Hysterical,
the paranoia of our tribe
eclipses the merely clerical
dispensaries of diagnosis.
We anodyne the tell-tale sores.
Obedient to a coxcomb Moses,
we butcher lambs, then tag our doors.
Ankh-eyed, mummified & Coptic
at the threshold, one hand reaching
for our dollop of antiseptic,
we echo back the viral preaching.
An angel of quarantine shall slaughter
the firstborn sons of swollen glands.
Believers, see the parting water.
Inoculate. Wash your hands.

***

Go to this month’s first Poem-A-Day to learn how to participate in a game as part of this year’s series. You can have just a little involvement or go all the way and write a cento. I hope you’ll join in!

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Mike Alexander came to Houston in 1996.
Everything here is so extraordinary, it’s hard to define the ordinary. Nevertheless, he contemplates the quotidian every day.

Featured Poet: Vivekanand Jha

With the ramp-up of the 2016 presidential campaign lately, I’m already anticipating the news cycle misery to come. Shouldn’t we limit our campaign season to just a few months? I really think that would be a good idea. Other countries have that. We should have that, too.

Anyway, all this preemptive fatigue reminds me of this poem by Vivekanand Jha.

***

Toxin-Tipped Words

Our politicians, merchants
of vibrant, electoral democracy,
are cultivating a novel poll weapon
of toxin-tipped words,
flooding the lexis with new entrants
of vices and venoms.

It’s not the first time, new thing;
only medium of discourse has changed.
We can understand their disquiet,
sudden harmonic imbalances and fear.
The festival of fleece near,
they rehearse to chant the satanic verse,
seeking salvation for selves
spitting befooling words.

The new gutter dialogue
carries limitless sewage,
stinking a rotten egg-like smell,
words leaving their tongues
as aimless as the boat
without oars and rudder.

A pompous journey on a felonious fling,
through the sewers of language,
setting the course of the nation to capsize
into the water woes of hazy politics.

***

Dr Vivekanand Jha is a translator, editor and award winning poet. He is the author of five books of poetry. He has also authored one critical book on the poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra and edited nine critical anthologies on Indian English Writing. His works have been published in more than 100 magazines round the world. Moreover his poems have been published in more than 25 poetry anthologies. He has more than 25 research and critical articles published in various national and international anthologies and referred journals. Recently he has edited a poetry anthology, The Dance of the Peacock, featuring 151 Indian English poets and published by Hidden Brook Press, Canada. He is son of noted professor, poet and award winning translator Dr. Raja Nand Jha (Crowned with Sahitya Akademi Award, New Delhi). He is the founder and chief editor of two literary journals, VerbalArtPhenomenal Literature. Read his blog at http://www.poetvjha.wordpress.com.