Alana Siegel: From 'Archipelago,' 'Communion (A Preludium)' and 'Afterword'

[NOTE.  Soon to be published by Station Hill of Barrytown, Alana Siegel’s Archipelago adds a new presence & intelligence to a major subset of postmodern American poetry with traceable connections to Duncan’s “grand collage” & Olson’s “composition by field.”  In her own way, which is “a completely different way” (G. Stein), she approaches the poem, in her own words, as “‘world-making,’ weaving & challenging the discourses of philosophy, history, science, and religion – with poetry as primary.”  And further: “Through the material of dreams, etymologies, immediacies of the phenomenal – works of artists, poets, mystics, past and present – [she] recovers lost knowledge so as to hear the poem-as-epic not in length but feeling: a cry from beyond and inside the heart of time.”  Writes Robert Kelly, who knows about such matters: “There’s something Wagnerian about Siegel’s work: a sense of ‘endless melody’ undistracted by conventions of closure and easy formal strategies. Instead, her poetry strives into openness, lives up to the deepest challenge of the past century, creating not artifacts but processes, long dances for agile readers.”  The proof, as always, is in the work itself.  (J.R.)]



I do not want to be romanced. I want to be known as water in a glass is seen, taken in. A stranger is sheltered. The stranger is honored, by the blue and black tribe in the desert. 


Hearts of wandering men walking in the burning sand become each other. They long for each other as they wander.


A parakeet strings its feathers across a laundry line, leaving to dry what covered its fragile bird heart. 


The language it doesn’t know, it leaves for the sun to landscape—it lays out, to anyone or anything that may see, glimpse, the yearning of its feathers to feel. 


He said, “The Dharma cannot be known but it can be experienced.”


A chord is struck, momentarily, a note is played.  A color overtakes the signal of the bird—cellular—a color, a cell, a promise for how it coats what was once a call. 


“If you know how to supplicate, do so.”


He said when he was young, traveling in a foreign country, he saw people wasting away with flies on their faces. He wanted to brush the flies away, say to them in simple words,

“You can live. I promise I will not heave the word heaven upon you, or any word like it. But I can tell you there are worlds different from the world you live in. I know, I have come from one.”


Bound to the seemingly inescapable, they were letting life trespass permission.


At a point you must return to arguing with the angels, demanding new angles to rearrange your self-created eidolon of who you are to be and are—


Highest image of my heart break forth from me!

Momentarily reveal how I am to see you or any other form


Me is a word we gave to our pain

For the life that longs to hear between two shells

Just this passing, this sorrow I see scale up the side of the building


He bound his heart to the front of his brain

This is what the box is for—

A prayer is what our third eye asks for


The shout with no meaning except



Love me with all your heart, with all your might

With everything you have


Not because I want

Or need anything from you

I want you to feel I am everything you are


Matchbox you can’t find, number you haven’t called yet

Thought about your next thought


And one day awaken

Alone in the forest

This he says

Is the silence I meant

It has no meaning

It is not silent

What do you think from one moment to the next?

How do you know the name of what is in front of you?


Someone must have told me once—this is called a fork—and this, a knife. Or maybe, after so many restaurants, hearing the names said, I came to know the names. Or maybe I knew the names not by hearing them. I knew them before I grew into them. Maybe I knew the names before I knew my life, these vestiges of language. Maybe the names know me more than me, are great vessels I am granted to enter only when I say them. 


My prayer is not asking the world to be any way. My prayer is not asking to be given a thing. You asked me, “What can I do for you?”  But you are one whose gift to me is giving me nothing, sitting inside, opening the doors of your mind. A door flings open to an Italian villa, rolling green Tuscan hills. An old eye is the key. Sorrow is the door. 


Watch as the lips taste one more time—animal pull that makes me feel medieval, causes me to resort to drastic measures, abstain from the sweetness that is life’s tip.


What I mean feels only wrong because it is more, less than, beyond being ensconced in the subjects of your thinking, your baseline dramas that scourge divinity, plague sense with boring please.


I sue the random, echo gravity, twist for existence a new name.


My life is my words, are my names, they are yours

Her skirt is not a grass skirt

It is a skirt of sky


She left but left the sky with me

A piece of cloth I make my word


Every word I speak is a word flesh needs

Life taking life from life 


Are you ready to read The Book of Life?

Ready means read

The adverb of books

The moments that have passed us by


Books make stronger moments

Demand a deeper bond with time


Do not rise up to me, fly away as the little wisps of dandelion


I admire the flowers but I am not a flower

I am an old woman who wants to be older than words


Older than time

Older than what stone invokes


Youth arrests me, photographs my fingers

Roots receiving sounds from an inhuman center


Core, I care

Ache of sky

My face a beach


Cloud words fall and say I love you





She kept on thinking she was wrong. Then, she thought she was right.  Then the rug said, “I am the nature of the universe.” The wicker stool said, “I am the nature of the universe.” The white orchid said, “I am the nature of the universe.” They all laughed together, as laughter was the nature of the universe too—but in buckets of being casting an underbelly for each one to embark into a light of uprightness; they would tomorrow sleep inside the witness of their names.


But what if tomorrow is a name too and tomorrow sleeps as we do? Is it still possible to meet inside a place that is asleep?


Yes, lulled tomorrow, even more so than the day. The door knob that is a cobra, the paper blowing on the sidewalk that is a dragon, the boy’s squinting eyes that are the words he can’t see in you, the dark woman who drives a great boat through small streets, the girls laughing, punching digits with their pinkies, the old man who comes with bags full of little books and gives one to everyone except you, and then he gives you one, a different one, a nomad eyelash one that blinks only when it has reached its place of pilgrimage—the nerves inside your body that are strings on her father’s old guitar, scarred—she smiles—and beautiful, she walks down the stairs, and then she says her name.