Aliki Barnstone

Aliki Barnstone is a poet, translator, critic and editor. She is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently, "Bright Body" (White Pine, 2011) and "Dear God Dear, Dr. Heartbreak: New and Selected Poems" (Sheep Meadow, 2009), and the translator of "The Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy: A New Translation" (W.W. Norton, 2006). In 2014, Carnegie Mellon University Press will reissue her book "Madly in Love" as a Carnegie-Mellon Classic Contemporary. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she serves as Series Editor of the Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation.

Alas

      All the days since the autumn equinox
            I’ve been unable
                  to get the word
      alas
            out of my mind.
                  Alas
      swirled on maple leaves
            burnished by rain.
                  Alas—too pretty
      to be sad though it signifies sadly.
            Alas, the birds alight too briefly
                  before their southern leave.
      Alas, the lawn,
            monochrome emblem
                  of the love of money,
      a single conforming species,
            its rank’s blades held aloft,
                  poison-tipped
      lethal, alas, to all
            insects (except
                  the few pests targeted),
      lethal to little helpers
            and food progenitors.
                  Alas,
      too many eradicate the dandelion
            and the clover,
                  mistaking them for weeds.
      I like my dandelion greens with lemon
            and extra virgin olive oil,
                  capers for a treat.
      I like to think the soil likes
            the clover to fix its nitrogen
                  and the clover likes to be the grass
      Walt Whitman loves, inviting us to loaf
            and hum among wildflowers
                  whose names recall
      daughters, home, and harvest—
            flox, golden rod, and cosmos,
                  pincushion, Queen Anne’s lace,
      sweet allysum, sweet violet, Autumn Joy—
            where bees intoxicated by nectar, not toxins,
                  live to be our promiscuous pollinators.