Alice's Sense of Self-Preservation is Alive and Well
The white queen's blank stare
could make anyone snow-blind.
She does not approve of my fetish for
black wings and tongueless bells --
perhaps she can see the raven in me,
the desire to murder light.
She calls me Tarantula, her sallow
fingers moving in that creepy-crawly way:
this is her idea of fun, how she gets
her kicks in this candy wasteland.
Her liver-coloured tongue silences
the little happy flutters in my heart,
tightens the knot on the fears
I hold tied up in my belly.
I must be quick or she will drag me
for a walk along the crystal river
and point out a hundred
ways to happiness so ludicrous
that I might climb one of her
castle's pretty turrets and jump.
Self Portrait as Coelacanth
I used to be a missing link. Now I stretch myself
into a firm BECAUSE, shrink to an OR, an IF.
I curl and twist my limbs into an ampersand,
press my plump cheek against my lover's heart.
With him, touch is elemental. But let a stranger
get too close and I'm gone, battered armour
and all. I know they're out to take my picture,
put me in some glossy magazine or mount me
on cardboard for gallery walls. I wait out
all the daytime fuss in crevices and nooks.
At night I hunt. There isn't a word that's safe
from me, not even the dark ones. My eyes cut
through the murk, seeking out the blackest
shadows. Hidden currents drive them into
my mouth, a pod of obedient fish. This is
what keeps me alive: the taste of language,
the coolness of my cave. Sometimes I'm
even happy, do headstands, float belly up,
trust the tides to steer me towards stories,
adventures that happen in another world.
Michaela A. Gabriel lives in Vienna, Austria, where she works as an English teacher for adults and occasional translator. She has been widely published both online and in print: recently or forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Yew, Thrush, Pebble Lake Review. She is the author of two and a half chapbooks: apples for adam, the secret meanings of greek letters, small confessions and pebbles of regrets (with Alex Stolis). After a stubborn spell of writer's block, she returned to writing more regularly in 2011 and is hoping to finish her full-length collection, elemental, this year.