She lies across the bed in a diagonal,
hair glints like the red of Tecate.
In the street, a lone lamp sends rays
that pool along the sidewalk
to soon flood the neighborhood
with a pale river.
I look out the window where
cat eyes catch light, flick like
June bugs. The wind blows again,
diced by the wire screen
and falls into icicles.
Alice stirs. I think of when
she re-planted the garden
with more tiger lilies, but now,
all the flowers are muffled by snow.
I drag my rough hands across the cut of her back
as the blue dress powders on my fingers.
Chapped lips crack hard, each snap a rip
just lick them
she says, warm iron filling my mouth as she raises
a napkin and for a second my eyes shut. I wake up,
half empty chess board in front of me, Red King
mated and toppled, Alice dreams from the couch and stirs.
She strips beads of water from the glass,
strings them along her hair as the boat
carries us downriver to a lake without
banks. We sit here until we notice
the sun has gone—
The boat crowning an invisible sphere;
she says, always the brave one;
water surrounds us and we drop
into a puddle of birds and mice.
Alice follows the sweet smell
of lilacs and we paddle to shore
where a rabbit opens a garden’s gate.
The weak cream and tea sits on the table
as trains rush by the empty station.
We make our way toward a field
of snapdragons, Alice pinching the flower
heads, making them tell stories while
we walk into the woods.
I’m not sure if it’s the way the light
bent around her, but she seemed less
identifiable, her hair an unknown rust,
skin paler, dress short.
A small yellow patch sticks out in the dark
she yells, a bunch already broken into her hand.
I correct, but here names seem fleeting—
an accepting quiet among the unfamiliar.
Alice places a crown of lambkill
on her head, inventing names
for things—sky touchers, dog’s breath
and no feet—herself growing deviant.
Alice looks at the mirror and lets out
a sigh, everything in the glass
accounted for yet again. No missing chess
pieces, one her and one I.
It is raining outside, pools of cool
water coalesce, the whole ground
a shard of pyrite. We leave the house,
our feet sending ripples through
watered down reflections.
Alice looks into the water
at herself, all undulating
hair and skin,
until she stills.
Chris Petruccelli is a recent University of Tennessee graduate who spends his free time exploring dendrochronology and smoking cigarettes with older women. His work has previously been published in Josephine Quarterly.
Photo credit: Charles Dodgson, “Alice as The Beggar-maid,” 1858.