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Four Poems
On Birthdays

Alaska turned 10 on a 
summer storm day. 

She set out breakfast
on a rickety table by
the summer sea

Alaska loves breakfast best. 

And the dog wobbled into
the dog-space under
the rickety table droopily. 

Some children, Vancouvers and
Angels and Victorias and
Washingtons, some children don’t
like birthdays. 

They wake up and the
gray sky has twisted around
the house and squeezing

twists all tongues
from saying foreign happy

the shrinking sky
shrinking and high

the furling sails of the 
pacific sky shrinking

me-mystery and you-mystery shrouding 
the furled tight sky and 
lonely, pulling

goodbye to the sky! 
striking all your good
friends down

in the subsequent light
and the wishing smoke and
the cake. 

Alaska looked with smoky eye
at the dog named Sunset who 
said woof

which raised new questions. 

The sun behind all the rain
is only real in retro-
spect, said the real dog

and the only things that came to the party
sat under the table 
with the dog—freebooters
and scams

Would you like more cake? 

Alaska loved, would vanish
against the ocean

often lost when finally the gold
electroplate of the sun
could return to clear up


What’s Done Is Done

On the island of 

there are no snow plows. 
Or when there are snow plows

there are no mechanics. 
Or when there are no mechanics

there is no worker’s compensation. 
Or when there is worker’s compensation

there are no doctors. 
In short, the island

is good or bad as any
other island. 
In a small cave lives

a large dog named Sunset. 
From across the snowy
plains her long tail

is long like a snow leopard’s tail
and up close her breath

is warm like Earl Gray Tea. 
Sunset’s baby was kidnapped
by breeders

and taken to the mainland
but Sunset can’t swim
far enough to cross the

water that separates the
mainland from Whasdunizdun. 

Still, in the mornings Sunset

opens all the gates to her
expectations and at the 
evening she closes them daily. 

One blanched day a skunk came streaking
across the snow to Sunset’s cave. 
“My name is Alaska and I
am cold and lost, can I

sit in your cave with you?” 
“My daughter was named Alaska,” 
replied the big dog

and the skunk came inside
and curled into the breath
that insulated the cave. 

the skunk was shaking
away from her center
and full of wind

and outside the snow fell silently
and the perfect dips
and crusts had no paw prints

and the water knocked at 
the shore all night
shyly onto the porch of the island and

receding, as if visiting
an old friend 

and the snow was piling up on
the top of the cave

and the ocean was knocking 
as if visiting a lost lover or 
a brother or sister 

and the snow kept piling on
the roof of the cave

and the ocean was knocking as if
at the part of your mouth that you
always rope in 

that you tie up, 
knowing you’re a fair sailor 

but a poor swimmer

while the snow in the 
ocean frothed and the hour kept
proceeding, receding


My Nice Empire

My best friends
Rose and Hawk

and I discovered
a tunnel lined in petals 

in which under
each petal a cavity
lined with petals etc.! 

Hawk like myself has
residual fear
of tunnels that get smaller

but Rose
is a cat. 

We spent the day exposing things
to the sun, 

hiding behind
architectural nuances
when the neighbors
walked by. 

The tunnel was either full
of water or not. 

Who sees water
and why? 

Currents not
Our p.o.v. changes
regarding the currents 

that quiver
too fast for love. 

We packed the bags with food. 

Often the wind is calling
someone’s name not mine

and under my
feet is a cavity
lined in feet



A hundred
stuffed animals play

in the

My nice empire

declines all invitations
to war



Sea View Avenue

The brain being balanced
on the seat of the soul
after all

at all times without

sudden such explosions of soul

bright and unbelted
close to the center of town occur
such that

two lovers
leap into the hot sun as
glittering mink. 

As a reporter
I came to watch. 

“I don’t love you when
you bulldoze my roses
and lemon trees” 

and other unthatching, 
mean things

as children gathered to watch
with salt sandwiches
the toothy hearts. 

Some on stilts to be eye level
with the soul

Some in a ball to get tossed
to the level of the soul

and the whole crowd drifted
towards Sea View Avenue. 

the little round bullet
shaped like the little round sun

just kissed her elbow

but all the gulls stopped
and the swapping breezes
stopped and the papermen
like myself felt

The siren noise is the quietest noise— 

salt sandwiches on the street
when it started to rain.  

Allison Carter is the author of a book, A Fixed, Formal Arrangement (Les Figues, 2008), and a chapbook, Shadows Are Weather (Horse Less Press, 2008). She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches workshops at various institutions, including CalArts and Eagle Rock Center for the Arts.