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Tobi Alfier

Litany

I am mercy’s wayward apprentice.
I am the dubious truant of grace.
I kneel at the Stations of the Cross,
then climb through the shreds of a fading downpour.
I am the late sun that flames through a window.
I am a cityscape of wind through the alleys.
I am a desert highway fringed by meadows
where fields and blossoms unfold into radiance.
I am a clock that needs to be wound.
I am a cello that plays in the evenings,
ushers in nightfall’s infallible silence,
and the sweet scent of creosote in the pitch dark.
I am a love you may almost remember,
your mind lazing loose in imaginary elsewheres.
There is no amnesty for ancient sorrows,
I am the galleon, sinking, still vanishing.

Winter Tourist

Once, in another winter, in a village
by a seaside with different accents
than mine, waves crash dark against
the shore and over the breakwater,
a woman in a red coat hurries through
her realm of kith and kin:

fishermen just docked—nets and boxes
brim with still moving catches for pubs
and homes, restaurants fine and common,
children walk to school with grannies,
their uniforms bolstered with hand—knit
scarves, hot bao from the Chinese bakery

in each pocket to warm their hands,
schoolwork in backpacks bear
the latest superhero and ballerina—
other women in bright coats with smoky
exhales bustle on their way to bank work
or as nurses at the clinic.

Wind carries the iron voice of cathedral bells
through the streets, an undertone
and melody for morning birds,
their sweetness drowned by crows
and seagulls, gangs protecting
territories, criminal versus delicate.

I am but a tourist here, brought by my love
of coastal roads, my curiosity of lives
touched by the sea, by the winter.
Laughter floats from half-shuttered
windows. Crimeless payphones ring.
I could’ve traveled half a year to find you.


Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. “Symmetry: earth and sky” was just published by Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

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