Alice Friman

Alice Friman

Alice Friman’s newest collection of poetry is Vinculum from LSU Press. Work appears in The Best American Poetry 2009, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, and in the forthcoming 2012 Pushcart Prize Anthology.

Professor Emerita at the University of Indianapolis, Friman now lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is Poet-in-Residence at Georgia College & State University. Her new podcast, Ask Alice, can be seen at Alice Friman@Georgia College.

Stumbling on Paradise

How much were the stars that night,
Down like lanterns green-swinging,
The moon creaming the water
Dancing naked in all that shining.
In Kyparissia the sun sets into the
Middle of the sky before it hits the sea,
Tucks like a nickel in a slot
And everyone goes up the hill to
Sip ouzo and watch it drop.
In Kyparissia the apricot tree
Mingles with spearmint and bursts
Golden in the glare of the Greek
Sun streaming of Alekos in the
Red truck going for roast lamb and
Wine and bread. Lighting his cigarette,
Drinking the smoke like a thirst.
And only in Kyparissia tastes
Like that, smells like that.
With the sand white and the
Stars rising over his shoulder
And me wrapped to him and
Saying his name, saying his name
Beyond wondering why or how
All the lines could come together like that.
Like the arrows in a tulip’s throat
Or the needles in a rose quartz eye.

From Alice Friman’s book Reporting from Corinth


Heraclitus said
stars are bowls of inverted fire.
In Delos, yes, where they hang from ropes
or Kyparissia, holding up the soft-backed black
like buttons in a love seat. Here
the world’s infection makes them dim.

I remember a Greek night,
counting the spread of stars above my head
plus the two broken in his eyes—
a Peloponnesian beach and me
clinging to him, Alekos, saying
Alekos, until the moon rose
bleaching the sky tame. Even I
turned alabaster. While behind him, the waves
hunched and groaned under their fallen cargo—
the gleaming crockery of the drowned.

Now, the sky is filled with ghosts:
ashes in the bottom of their bowls
too deep even for the winds
that prowl down the skies sniffing at rims,
howling for a wildness that burns.

First published in Poetry

On Florentine Beauties

You see it still—that Quattrocento mouth
Pedaling down the Via della Scala
Or shopping the Ponte Vecchio
In jeans and painted eyes.
On school girls and madonnas suburban
With pasta who roll their flesh
To market every day, squeeze a melon
Poach a fish—that mouth.
That same mouth blows trumpets
From frescoed ceilings, is visited
By Gabriels in quiet corners,
Gasps and drops her book.
Or hot in the next room
It leans against a frame and waits wet
For Adonis in a world of drapes and peeping cupids.
Why else do you think Filippo Lippi diddled a nun
And Leonardo started writing backwards?

First published in Blue Unicorn

In the Summer of Cathedrals and Titian Reds

I am studying my iconography,
while Bruce, rumpled as a paper bag,
sleeps through the conductor’s rounds.
And except for two girls from Düsseldorf
killing the miles to Rome over Yahtzee,
no two people look together at the same thing,
not in here or outside this train window
where Leonardo’s wind-whipped hills rise
spattered with the blood of poppies
stuck in their stories, babbling in tongues.

If in a cart she’s carting around
her spiked and bloody wheel, you know
it’s Saint Catherine. Holy Sebastian
if he’s tied to a post, quivering in arrows—
the human pincushion. Pale Agatha—
Lamb of God—if she’s serving up her breasts,
cut off and cute as two gelati on a plate,
her eyes heavenward, piteous and drowned.

How persistent these saints
groaning in the oils of their burning,
driven to show & tell their page
in the church bulletin—skinned, crushed,
raked by carding combs, roasted alive.
Hooked by martyrdom, each one surrendered,
knowing it would take that running on the knife
pleading, Look at me     Look at me. That much.

So imagine, in this summer of saints
and second-class compartments, the mystery
when my lunch tomato squirts, splat
on a stranger’s newly pressed pants—blood
splotch and sacrifice, John the Baptist’s
gusher of spurting neck. And I, doomed
and typecast by the fact of it, find myself
up and twirling in my last clean T-shirt, belly

bumping the good news to the blind:
Look. There’s this bakery in Sorrento—
morning rolls hot-tucked with olives
and prosciutto. The nectar of blood oranges
in Agrigento. And a proprietor in Firenze
on the Via dell’Angelo who knows how to place
a swirl on a cappuccino in the sign of the nebula,
the mystic spiral, seal and covenant—cinnamon sweet
as the whorl in the ear of God or the seventh veil
dropped lightly on the froth of heaven.

First published in The Georgia Review

Poetry in this post: © Alice Friman
Published with the permission of Alice Friman