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An Anthropology

The story is the king and the people who loved him
so to run through the vines of yam weeping for his death
a hundred years ago. They stumble over hummocks with whitened eyes—
it begins and ends this way, whenever the lush thicket's breached.

Understand precisely this: death grasps the ankles, sucks out breath.

Anthropology 101 boards a bus to Cincinnati. The girl from the East,
too city for Ohio's livestock pens, thinks Cincinnatus. If myth,
so be it, warrior or plowman. How glad his wife and children,
binding sheaves, glowing at his cheerful, ragged return.

Is that you already? Where would the emphasis in that sentence be—
it depends, of course, on the wife.
She probably can't imagine a mercenary fighting just for Juno's money
because war bloats and battens on the fat and gristle of ideas.

What is jail? A very rough idea. All is relative
now the king has died again. Whether the convicts want to spit at them
who knows, but the visit has forced the scouring of commodes,
the slicking back of stubbly scalps.

You there girl, what I'd like...

Must not commit a crime, then. What of dreams where you cross a line
and cower for a punishment. Anyone can. The patricide is smoking in the yard
clanking his invisible chains. All the marooned mariners with farsighted eyes
 are swimming toward the sun, in search of a new king.

                                                                                                                        —Carol Alexander

Carol Alexander is the author of the poetry collections Environments (Dos Madres Press) and Habitat Lost (Cave Moon Press). Her chapbook Bridal Veil Falls is published by Flutter Press. Alexander's poems have appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals including Chiron Review, The Common, J Journal, Matter, and Mobius, and most recently in Bluestem, Cumberland River Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Matador Review, One, Southern Humanities Review, Stonecoast Review, and Third Wednesday.