Tobi Alfier – Five Poems


How to Dream the Desert


You’ll know where to search
this bold cathedral of sky—
graceful dive of the hawk
as it soars so high overhead,

it could be Venus in an alternate
universe of color,
not this endless flood of blue,
the wildness heavy with light.

Be content in your silence; listen
to the ceaseless wind, the coursing river;
be attentive to cloud-sorrows destined
for other terrain. Have empathy
for the familiarity of that sadness.


Moonshine so brilliant, it lights the snow.
Insistent sun insinuates shade
in a luminous sea of stubbled sand.

The only change in hue—a lizard,
scurrying away from you, toward
the perception of cold canyon stone.


There is no yellow here, only
the bruised reds and blues of twilights,
and what used to be green.

This walking, waking, living dream;
carry it always—soft as the sparrows
that flutter through your attic.

It will teach you to be
what you were meant to be,
as you gaze back along the highway’s edge
of this windfallen world.


South from Alicante

Mornings I stand at the bar,
a glass of café con leche warming
hands frozen into another country.
A language I don’t know swirling
rhythm around me, these fishermen,
hard-working class welcome me
to their lives, as they start their day

with song, their version of prayer,
their version of the world loved right.
Their wives in church as the sun rises,
They pray for a net full of fish, pray
the lace of the lines hold tough,
pray their men return without loss.
They pray as the window-light

glides across the feet of the Madonna,
then they turn home to their work, difficult
as their men’s. Wives get to speak though,
while their now-silent men watch the sky,
the water, the bait ball summoning
birds and summoning boat after boat—
skiff, trawler, each man, hands

roughened raw by rope and time, they teach
sons to be men, all song left back
at the bar, left back with me. I am
the honored curator of their lives, all talk
eddied out, replaced with rusted iron
railings wound with fishing line
for them, trumpet vine for me.


Alternator, Generator, Voltage Regulator

Pretty much sums it up—
Sherwin Grade,
late at night,
new moon dancing dark
between the slow cadence of cloud,
summer leaning into fall,
smoke in the air, dust devils
quietly whirling grit, altitude
thin as gossamer,
not a light to be found—
on the roads, in the valley.

Our talk chopped,
strung on a low trellis,
whispers barely heard
above shadows,
jagged and still.
Smell of sweat, and cold,
lock the doors,
pray in silence.

We’d not yet learned
what brave meant,
only knew a dead engine
doesn’t click as it cools,
it just stops.
Even now,
as we let the hours
turn to pale pink,
the sleepy family,
dad at the wheel,
window open to keep awake,
warm tea in a plaid thermos
and a ride down the mountain—
places no veil of ease
across the scene.


Unheard Music

Neglected piano in the neighbor’s yard
in back of their Oxnard barn, the old brown
upright.keys dappled like aging teeth,
dotted with leaves so dry, they cracked
of their own accord ages ago.

No bench, no music, not even
a wobbly old bar stool
doing double duty—
forgotten—out of tune—
a landing pad for cats and crows,

never to play at weddings again.
Like the piano sitting front and center
of an empty ballroom in a Detroit hotel.
The door red-tagged, only light
shushing in through dirty diamond panes

onto the black and white floor.
A lace handkerchief dropped, lies in silence.
Grace for the spirits that play both
instruments on moon-shadowed nights,
melodies climbing, meeting among the stars.


Workday at the Joyous House

The smell of spice
in the kitchen, the sound
of love in another
language, the flavor
of saffron and roses,
the warming sky.  The cat
brushes your leg, a hand
touches your arm,
a voice turns you into
a knot of skinny nerves.
Wind gentles the trees.
The lights flicker, the flag
ripples, sprinklers
turn air into chewable
syllables. You sip
coffee the beige
of flesh-colored stockings,
cream measured out
with jeweler’s precision,
listen to the man next door
retune his bass.
The paper slaps on the porch—
reminder that soon you
must leave this enchanted arena.  
Braced by touches
and tastes, you negotiate
the cracklings of the day,
lean toward home.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Kate, my favorite hippie/artist aunt and uncle have new beautiful grandbabies. My husband commissioned his daughter when she graduated Officer Candidate School. He looked gorgeous and proud in his dress blues; she has a smile that would light up the sky. I have a couple poet friends who’ve been bullied in their workshops to the point where they thought they should stop writing. I encouraged them to ignore the bullies and egomaniacs, and keep trying. Their emails to me when they get acceptances are as proud and happy as a brass band! When my son was in his first year of college, on the weekends he cooked for his roommates. Two of them are vegetarian. Besides going to classes, doing his homework, playing Final Fantasy 15 whenever he could, he researched vegetarian meals, cooked for them and baked bread. His heart was so full when he made them happy. I am so proud. My arms are around all of them. That is beauty to me.


Tobi Alfier’s current chapbooks are The Coincidence of Castles from Glass Lyre Press, Romance and Rust from Blue Horse Press, and Down Anstruther Way (Scotland poems) from FutureCycle Press. Her poems have appeared in The Chaffin JournalGargoyleHawai’i Pacific ReviewThe Los Angeles ReviewSpoon River Poetry ReviewTown Creek Poetry, and other print and online journals in the United States and overseas. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (