the poetry that matters

Michael J. Alfaro

Michael J. Alfaro is publisher and editor of Silenced Press (www.silencedpress.com).  He lives in Columbus, Ohio.  In kindergarten he was given the "Best Artist" award.  He has been trying to live up to this ever since.

Consider your reader

Consider him bored.
Consider that she is
probably looking to
this for entertainment. 
Dance goddamn it!
Fucking sing!  This is it. 
If you cannot retain
their attention now,
consider yourself a
failure.  Forget trying
to communicate.  Forget
art.  You might as well
try to sell some pre-paid
calling cards.  Push that
two cents a minute rate
to Mexico!  That always
sells them!  Maybe then
they will find an answer.
Because they have already
stopped reading.  Move on.
It is not you it is poetry.
It does not work well with
others.  Just tell your family
and friends that you are
no longer a poet. Tell them
you are joining the Peace Corps
because you are going to be the
positive change you want to
see in the world.  Because
people never really listen. 
Because no one really
reads poetry besides poets. 
And how many poets are there,

If You Catch a Taxi in Colón

Say, “La finca de las culebras.”
The locals will not understand,
“The Julia and David White artist
colony.”  They do not know who
the fuck Julia or David were or that
they both committed suicide (she
jumping off a building, he over-
dosing on heroin) or that their
father began the colony out of
his sorrow.  The locals will know,
“The farm of the snakes,” because
they remember the old man who
created the myth to keep people
off his property, and this,
translated literary, is what you
must say if you want to return. 
The locals will also know Francesco,
a former professional fútbol player
and his brother Carlos- the most
genuine person you may ever
meet if you happen to meet him.
And if you are lucky enough to
befriend him then he might take
you to the worst pool hall you
have ever been to in your life
and you might drink beers with
him as you shoot pool and look
at the pretty girls walking by
or he might take you to Pointe
Leon, or up the mountain to
see the view of Colón, or to his
home in Guadalupe to meet his
family or to San José to drink and
eat and dance and listen to horrible
karaoke in Spanish or even worse,
in English, or hit on women or to
wherever you want to go since
he is just that kind of kind person. 

Go to the market on Saturdays.
When your Spanish skills improve
you should be able to buy a week’s
worth of produce [one pineapple,
a half a bag of strawberries, a bunch
of bananas, two avocadoes, garlic, 
cilantro (which if you want to buy
cilantro you will need to say
lantro because if you say sil-lantro
the lady will look at you like you
are an idiot which you kind of are
since you do not know how to say
cilantro), tomatoes, two potatoes,
a head of lettuce] for about six dollars.
At first, and possibly always, you
will look and sound American.
Some people may take advantage
of this.  But if they happen to over
charge you and you later calculate
the conversion of colones to dollars
and realized that you paid too much
for your melon, let it go.  Remember,
these people are poor Costa Rican
farmers.  Long after you fly back to
America they will still be selling fruit
and vegetables every Saturday for pennies. 

Now, walk out the front door of your
casita and take a right.  Climb the hill.
When you reach the outlook to your
left, past the stone wall, look directly
ahead.  Look for a sign at the entrance
of the jungle.  Follow the path it points
to.  You will curve around and down,
past some dogs that will bark at you. 
At the bottom of the hill to the left
you will see lights and stairs.  Follow
the lights upstairs.  Welcome to,
Bonanza!  Order nachos and a beer. 
Walk up the circular staircase to the
sunset room if you happen to arrive
around dusk and it is not the rainy
season and/or cloudy.  Watch the sun
set over the mountains or the hills
(I do not know, you decide which)
as you listen to Caetano Veloso
cover Nirvana’s “Come as You Are.” 
After a few more beers when
you are ready to leave and it is
well into the dark night do not
walk back through the lush. 
Have Guero (Bill) or Luz (Lucy)
call you a taxi.  Through your half
awe half daze drunkenness remember
what you are supposed to say.  Say it.

The Literary Journal as Artifact

I subscribe but I am not
buying it. MFA and PhD
seem more important than
ART.  I consider myself a
fairly bright individual. 
It is hard to believe I am
the only one bored out of
his fucking mind.  I often
find contributor’s notes
more interesting than the
contributions.  It must be
me.  I must be all alone on
this one.  When did nature
poetry become romantic like
waving goodbye to an old
friend?  Why are we translating
poetry instead of learning
languages?  I see no progress. 
Only some strange monetary
system where the rate of ex-
change is a few words.
This has long ago ceased
to be a source of inspiration. 
It is now just a way to check
the level of competition or
the trends.  Ghazaals are in. 
Sestinas are out.  The only
form I ever cared for is female. 
It becomes its own mockery. 
A suicide note.  Only this is
the part of me that does not die. 
I only wonder how many times
we have to kill it.

The ocean is dead.

Forget about crests
and troughs, sand
and foam.  No point
in being specific about
the ocean.  When it
glistens down her pale,
naked, shivering body
ignore it.  Ignore every
tiny pore accentuated
from salt and saturation
surrounding her ridged
pink nipples.  Never-
mind rendering this
to paper.  Nevermind
throwing her to the sand
and entering the abyss. 
Nevermind the false words
falling from your lips. 
Do not compare your love
making with the waves slapping
against the sand over and over until
its climax, when the moon’s magnetism
shifts as the world stops, for one, brief moment,
before slowly, reluctantly, it turns again,
and the tide begins to recede.

The birds are not singing.

Nor have they ever sung.
Singing involves melody,
harmony and beauty
not screeching.  Birds
do not possess the ability
to sing.  This is a complete
misconception.  You can
definitely classify their
mechanism as sound but
not song.  If the sound a
bird produces ever resembles
anything similar to singing
then you should visit your
local psychiatric hospital.
Tell them:
the birds are
and you find it:
excruciatingly beautiful.
Like a helpless little
bird flopping around
in a circle from a broken
wing, they will kindly
take you in and nurse
you back to health so
that one day you can
fly again
and sing.

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