August 2009

Julia Alter


Julia Alter
Kurt Brown
Alex Dimitrov This marks an author's first online publication
Gregory Lawless
Austin MacRae
Kirby Olson
Simon Perchik
Marvyn Petrucci
Dan Veach This marks an author's first online publication
Ryan Vine
Rob Walker
Hilde Weisert
Marjory Wentworth
Ross White
Michael Wynn

Haley Carrollhach This marks an author's first online publication
Mariko Nagai

David M. Katz
interviews Daniel Brown

David Rigsbee
reviews Divine Comedy: Journeys through a
Regional Geography

three new works by
John Kinsella


Julia Alter is the author of Walking the Hot Coal of the Heart (Hummingbird Press, 2004). She has work forthcoming or published in Red Wheelbarrow, Porter Gulch Review, Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, DMQ Review, and others. She lives in Venice with her husband and two children.

I Don't Want to Tell You about the Ocean    

We've already heard Neruda talk of seven green tongues
                                                   of seven green dogs
                                                   of seven green tigers.
And even though Monterey Bay is more grey than green,
more tin shed than tiger, where I am from, yes, we have ocean.
Where I am from we have the soundwave lull of kelp
undulating right to left, an ancient script.

I can't imagine someone not knowing the ocean,
how it melts and spreads and thrashes, how it acts
some days like my brother's friends moshing
at a Dirty Rotten Imbeciles show in the city,
crushing its guitars, throwing cymbalcrash tantrums,
eighty boys flinging their hard knees and elbows,
the salty taste of their wet, hot skin.

Useless to describe the ocean on its snail days,
its poured glass skin, skin of eel, of oil, of boring stars.

In Santa Cruz, people in long sleeves stand and stare out
for hours, as if translating direct messages from God.
The people where I'm from say Dude.
They say Duuuude if the surf is high.
Duuuuude! if you tell them your grandma just died
or your best girl left you for your boss.

I could say the ocean talks to me in churchsteeple tongues.
I could say that ocean calms me into syntonic bliss.
I could say ocean is a woman and when we speak of her
we say body. We say dip and curve and foam.
But where I'm from, the ocean is male.

I want to dive anemone deep where cold grows cold
on its finny gills. I want the ocean to suck my nipples hard
as clamshells, to suckle every seaweed strand of my hair.
I want to drown in him now, mouth full.

My bones breathless in the numb body sea,
my bones held hard in the crystal sea,
his wet gravity slipping around my ankles,
splitting the rock of my ribcage.

I'm going to miss his fishingline flesh.
I'm going to miss his thousand kisses sucking off my dress.
I'm going to miss his sweet razorblade tongues,
my flesh licked—eighty tongues, a thousand tongues,
one hundred thousand salty tongues
scouring the breath out of me.



Julia Alter: Poetry
Copyright ©2009 The Cortland Review Issue 44The Cortland Review