Alex Manley: two poems


Three reptiles crane their necks, watching the shooting star.
Consider the infinite possibility of a camera,                    then
discontinue.              Take your shoes off and slough them in
the gears.          Your body is tar stuff. Some body has to put
this machine to bed.            Your body is coffin smoke. Some
body has to stopper up the stacks             like the stem of an
unfinished red.          There’s a rumour around town about a
ghost in the shell,       a God in the machine,      or else some
body is running the cogs unseen.           Maybe a brick taped
down to the gas.     Some tricks run devilishly clever.    Some
body better call a priest.         Is there gold buried at the end
of the arc?         What if hell is just  the centre of the sun? We
could burn for eternity       lighting up our children’s failures.

I know there’s a heaven somewhere,     where you teach me
to dance again,                first position, second position, third,
on your mother’s kitchen tiles.             But we found a way to
solve the sand and stone.               We don’t believe in curses
or just desserts.            So to every egyptologist a map. Every
sarcophagus must be excavated.   Now let the archeologists
sing:   Back up the back hoe. Dig in and lift up from the sand
what you’ve found.     We found a way to solve the backyard.
To every tree a wasp trap.      Every sting must be inoculated.
Let the entomologists sing:                     Build a trap so strong
it catches passing birds.                 Peel back the mass of grey
stuck to the gluey tube.                   Little wings fall off so easy.
We found a way.          We found a way.         We found a way.


A war                  is a war is                  a war.
A relentless crossing,            into and over.
Caesar the Rubicon,      Hannibal the Alps,
the French                   the Russian steppes.
Open your eyes                and you’re there.
The path back passes         through an eye
not even a camel                          could slip.

I wanted to be a young buck,               ever
running through the under               brush,
praying you’re the eye   of the hunt or the
hurricane.         The French named it black
butter.               I’ve seen God in the flèche,
I’ve seen the archer’s quiver              full of
nervous blood,  like troops in D Day floats.

There’s a chemical       that turns rubicund
flesh to dirt under fire:           hemichrome.
Have you seen the young   boys assemble,
constellate into a golem of meat,             of
striated tissue and vein?        Put on the tie,
breathe (in / ex),                    press the door
bell.       The core in your hands beats time.

Now the arrows are tipped            with fire.
Watch the boars          scatter in the woods
Pray tell:                  Will a chilling wind blow
out of that cloud again?                  I’ve seen
the seraphs                     in their sepulchres;
the demons down under   the CRT screens.
The plastic comes to rest in willing mouths.

But come, let                    the vultures haunt.
Let the clouds                    mottle and moult.
Did you know whales          have collapsible
rib cages,                  do you recall the rubric
the glaciers’ snaking        caravan followed?
A war is,                a war is,                 a war is.
As crimson                       by any other name.

If everything                alive has a wellspring
in my heart,                         then blood flows,
the veins encrust.                            It’s rubies
and rose gold, now.      Have you ever been
a willing fence          for a cheap happiness?
Don’t look a gift horse in the                chest.
That’s how the                            night gets in.

Alex Manley is a Montreal writer. A graduate of Concordia University’s creative writing program, he was the winner of the 2012 Irving Layton Award for Fiction. His work has appeared in publications like Maisonneuve magazine, carte blanche, the Puritan, Powder Keg, and the Association of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day feature, among others. His debut poetry collection, We Are All Just Animals & Plants, was published by Metatron Press in 2016. You can find more of his work at


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