Into light

There is a darkness
that our tremulous adoration
cannot rescind or slay.

There is something in us
that skulks in the grotesque
headspace between
our diasporic minds,
rejoices in the valley
of our worst grief and folly.

Tell me its name,
how it calls in every
adumbral doorframe
and vesperal void,
the surreptitious face
of our monstrosity.

Speak out loud
that which only
your fear has known.

Tell me you’ll hold my hand as
I confess the nightmares and
draw you a map of graves,
shallow rivers running over bones.

The quiet is scaring me, love
so stay beside me until we find
the words to hearken dawn.


Looking back: a year of poems and prose

Today marks one year since I began sharing my writing with you all, and for all the ink that I’ve spilled in this time, I can’t fathom a way to articulate how much these past twelve months have definitively shaped me as a writer. Over a hundred poems, one anthology, a scrapped forest of rough drafts, and a plethora of online encounters with fellow poets later, I’m really astounded by where this site has gone and I can’t wait to see what the coming years hold in store. Below I’ve amassed a few poems from the past year that hold particular resonance, and whether you’re reading them for the first or second time, thank you for sticking with me this far.

-M. Alden


You can’t trust crazies with shoelaces
so we strung our feet together with zip-ties
And don’t let us get ahold of a spork
its prongs may bite at twitching wrists.

I didn’t have any shoes within regulation
(the buckles are almost as dangerous as sporks)
and my toes curled against the hospital-grade carpet
embarrassed to be so ill-endowed
of shoes, of sanity.

My mom wore sneakers just my size.
and quietly
her hands pulled the laces loose
through the parallel spaces
till they sat, two vacancies
for ten ashamed toes.

She pulled off her socks,
two cotton skins to keep me warm.

A nurse bent down
and looped a plastic chain
where the laces used to be.
I think her hands
were tender because she had seen
the procedural exchange,
and my mother walking away
with two buckles on her steady feet.


Gannet Hollow

A fire is still going, and burning up the roof
ashes drifting into our hair so we grow old
together, the way we always dreamed
coughing on ruined homes and
breathing in charred rainfall.

Dilapidated cabinets with rust-scabbed
hinges, cracked glass on the other side.
Empty fridge, barely cold.
Half-open pantry with your favorites
still stocked inside, stale and
molded. Still a feast if you eat it quick.

The stairs stained with dog piss and other
unnamable messes under my naked feet
bony rail creaking under my hand, the other
stuffed in my pocket, fingers cold because it’s full of holes.

I push open your door, pressing hard because the
other side is strewn with singed jackets and broken
picture coffins and half-torn smiles. Rumpled
green sheets with unutterable emptiness.
I breathe the moment you threw me down,
one shoe on, crumpled lashes, bra strap
hanging off my shoulder and asked me to stay.
I’m there on the carpet, taking off my
shoe and saying “okay”.

I think somewhere my phone is ringing. On the
bathroom counter, shivering on the marble
smeared with toothpaste and scum.
Blue October ringtone, the one you set
one morning when I wasn’t looking.
Is that you calling? You always said
it was always me.

I curl into your shadows and live a hundred days.
The ashes settle into my lungs.
Slowly the roof burns.


To the other end of 12 ‘o clock

It’s late, too late for young girls to walk dark sidestreets-
that’s what the man in the freedom-color police car tells you.
It’s a dangerous time to walk, pump gas, go for a jog,
a dangerous time to live- haven’t you ladies heard?
but the three of you are bold and raise your chins to the shadows.
You call attention to yourselves, the good kind that repels sidewalk monsters
belting middle-school punk anthems and cawing when the others make dirty jokes,
the whispered kind that no one expects Catholic girls to know.
You lose your breath looking at your friend’s moon-blue skin, and you think
she is goddamn beautiful when she’s fearless.

You have no reason to be out on the streets, but you want to kiss midnight
with an open mouth and taste his black secrets. You want to dance
with those honking drivers and toss your hair when you step on their sorry toes.
You want to sing along with the cricket-thrum and the screeching tires.
You want to conduct this moonside cacophony, and watch the world kneel down
as you yourself bow to the omnipotence of dawn’s aureate crescendo.


I still feel you and all your heat
and light, incandescent wonder
of your face proximate to mine,
tender bed of your chest praying
life into my breast.

I gave you every flame and grace
and traced your limbs with my
lips because dear God I love you,
love you as heliotropes yearn in
a virid stretch toward the efflorescent
cynosure of their existence
love you, you, you as an affront to every
cynicism and doubt transposed
by elders and faith and time.

And beloved, as the last star
sputtered into a frozen mass
as midnight wrinkled twilight’s perfect tapestry
while your shoulders heaved with
two shares of grief

I kissed the remnant light,
the pale strobe blessing
me with one more glance at
your silhouette fading,
earth glowing under your feet.


the poem I should have sent you is the
 one I whisper into my coffee and sing
 to my shadow when I’m alone on the sidewalk;
 the poem I should have sent you is love
 papered with scraps of futile grief, ransomed
 with blood and skin shed in locked white rooms;
 the poem I should have sent you sounds like
 what you mumble in your sleep when you’re
 dreaming next to someone you adore, lithe limbs
 over her waist and her fingers gentle in your hair;
 the poem I should have sent you is the tender
 braille on my hips that your fingers read in the dark,
 secret topography of knives and healing;
 the poem I should have sent you is a hand-carved
 confession of my sedulous monstrosity, bares its
 wicked fang discolored with the rotting entrail of a devoured lover;
 the poem I should have sent you prays to the
 ancestors of every word that comprises its reticent
 lyric and verses not above a whisper,
 and here I am writing in pen a poem I'll never send,
 etched over the pencil strokes of foregone truth.

At your table

Here we are in the red
room where the table
gleams with
epicurean temptation
and you
fumble with your
napkin, your knife
a silver clatter
on your plate

fingers stained
before you’ve
raised the fork to
your teeth. My
eyes, persephone
seeds in a grisly skull
painted with crimson
and black, looking at
you in the hungry way
you say
you adore. Hands folded
in holy invocation.

Violins burn like empty
coffins in the fireplace.
All of our sins and hope,
laid before our mouths
in a banquet of
rescinded wisdom and
gluttonous tongues.
A divine immolation
in reach of our
quivering bodies,

and the hour is now
to swallow down
our valor
and taste the sordid
delight, roasted hearts
and words simmering
with asinine love
and nothing.

A cornucopian
glory to spit into the sink
and throw out
with the ashtrays,
to rot in the river
by morning.

Return to sender

Please place today
in an envelope unaddressed,
and tuck it softly in
a solitary wooden drawer
within tomorrow’s dark.

I want to finger the pages
of winding hours,
slats of light turning
your eyelashes into
a thousand golden filaments,
the mountains like earth-hewn pearls
in the misted afternoon.

And when I’ve memorized each
ephemeral glow and wonder,
we may write the date
coordinates to a kinder place
in the folded corner
Seal its thin lip between
forefinger and thumb.

And I will send the hours forth
to meet you where you are,
in the desert of forgetfulness
in the midst of your coldest need.