Monica McAlpine


Specimen

Pale fins tipped with midnight
flutter against glass walls,
a cerulean torso glides,
flexes, glides. Your skin—suede
brushed to a velvet nap. And all is
blue answering to blue.

Behind the scenes at the Aquarium,
no label with name, species
pins you down, sums you up.
Ignorance purifies my gaze,
frees me to wonder at
exceeding beauty unconscious of itself.

Yet what exotic waters you came from, what
multitudes of your kind you swam with, how
deep you dove into what caverns
 of green light—if green it were:
questions I cannot repress
as I stand before your dimly lit tank, its tubes,
filters, wires humming monotonously.

Your turquoise eye flashes,
a gem set in a living socket. 


Her Girdle

I don’t want to begin.
Those metal ribs, stiff cloth
will rasp my knuckles.
It’s pretty, though—
its ribboned wings
pink like my doll’s flesh,
unfolding above the alarming
grey-white of her thighs.
She lies face up,
her spine against its spine.
Her doughy belly–I know
it won’t flatten. I know
it will mound up the more
I try to squash it, strain to
make wing touch pretty wing.

“Let go, start over,
try again.” The hooks
move closer to the eyes.
To fit one into the other—
not a task for her palsied fingers.
One. Two. Now it’s easier.
A dozen to go, all down
the front of my mother’s girdle.
Hook and eye, hook and eye,
she and I, hook and eye.


Monica McAlpine

Monica McAlpine is the author of the forthcoming Winter Bride (Main Street Rag Press, 2021). Her poems have also appeared in Ibbetson Street, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Aurorean, and Poetry Quarterly. Professor Emerita at University of Massachusetts Boston, she has published two books and several articles on medieval literature. She also exhibits her paintings with local art associations. She and her husband live in Brookline and have two grandchildren.