The HyperTexts

Mike Alexander

Mike Alexander is an American poet who lives in Houston, Texas, the Bayou City, Space City, a milieu of his own choosing. Poems have appeared in several fora, most recently in River Styx, Bateau, the 2010 Texas Poetry Calendar, and in Modern Metric’s chapbook, We Internet in Different Voices.

Alexander has organized readings for decades, from the Paterson Arts Council in Jersey to the Helios readings in H-town. He has also dabbled in criticism, translation, & pop lyric. The output of any magazines with which he may have been connected once are no longer to be laid at his door.



She Responds to Music

She reaches out her hand to touch the strings
of my guitar, where I am making chords
appear & disappear. There are some things
I cannot say, for which I have no words.
At times like this, I go for my guitar.
Flat fifths, augmented fourths, & minor thirds
leave blisters in their wake, if not a scar.
I play my mother a diminished scale.
I fall back on my usual repertoire,
the crowd-pleasers, old songs that rarely fail.
But at her touch, the flat-wound strings fall dead.
She reaches out her hand, painfully frail,
to interrupt, but leaves the thought unsaid,
& rests. The silences between us spread.



Fermata

I walk in as my mother plays “A Long,
Long Way from Home” from memory. The keys
kneel gracefully beneath her hands, the song

obeys her touch with such apparent ease,
that I am marveling at her technique,
not the progressive state of her disease.

While playing, she can keep in tempo, speak
coherently, & smile. She must have played
the same piece every day of every week.

Away from her piano-barricade
she'll talk as if the words do not belong
to her, but to the Alzheimer’s, a trade

of gesture or a fluting of her tongue
for once familiar melodies gone wrong.

Originally published in the Houston Poetry Fest anthology 2001, as “At the Atrium”



Charbydis

I bring a load of whites—wool sacrifice,
our lost cotton mesh, our warmth, sweat-stained,
reptilian skins shucked off, that we replace

in secret, streaked with venom, rattle-brained
secretions from the grass, a tire’s screech,
convulsions. Working in the basement, chained,

a tool bench, badly-stocked, just out of reach,
beside the storage bin below the stairs—
I lean into the Whirlpool, adding bleach

& Tide to gym socks folded into pairs,
an extra change of sheets, large undershirt
& underwear. In antiseptic chores,

our nightmares gather strength. Like week-old dirt,
our whites show the regrets, the faded vows, 
perpetual mortgage of a ground-in hurt.

I’ve tried to pass for the exemplary spouse,
while turning like a termite in the wood, 
like cracks in the foundation of the house,

I feel the mortar wash away for good. 
I feel exposed to adder-lidded eyes.
I feel the Whirlpool rocking in my blood.

Originally published in Znine  (UT Arlington) , then reprinted in The Weight of Addition, Texas Poets 2007, Mutabilis Press



Turista

Your table’s set with chips & queso,
& guacamole’s on the way.
The best in town; the guidebooks say so.
Your table’s set with chips & queso;
as long as the dollar outpaces the peso,
you can relax. Enjoy your stay.
Your table’s set with chips & queso,
& guacamole’s on the way.

The waiter with the smiling eye
knows you & all your kind are rich,
for he has seen what you can buy.
The waiter with the smiling eye
believes that God will rectify
all debts when meek & mighty switch.
The waiter with the smiling eye
knows you & all your kind are rich.

He doesn’t know about the pills
you take to regulate your heart
or keep in check your nightly chills.
He doesn’t know about the pills,
the credit margin, the unpaid bills,
why your marriage fell apart.
He doesn’t know about the pills
you take to regulate your heart.

The so-called harmony of the spheres
rings equally for everyone,
but since nobody really hears
the so-called harmony of the spheres,
the fault must lie with human ears.
Tone-deaf, we howl beneath the sun.
The so-called harmony of the spheres
rings equally for everyone.

Peals of prayer roll hot & wet
from bells in the cathedral tower,
whose belfries open wide, to let
peals of prayer roll hot & wet
across your face, till you forget
how strange it is, at twilight hour:
Peals of prayer roll hot & wet
from bells in the cathedral tower,

on the far side of the street;
a dusty taxi’s polychrome
chimes back. Say grace, & start to eat.
On the far side of the street,
the colors of the day compete.
El Sol invites you to his home
on the far side of the street:
a dusty taxi, polychrome.

A mariachi’s big sombrero
shines down its blessing, a man
wearing the mask of a lone vaquero,
a mariachi’s big sombrero,
singing, “Yo no soy marinero,
soy Capitan, soy Capitan…”
A mariachi’s big sombrero
shines down its blessing. Amen.

Originally published in Barefoot Muse

The HyperTexts