P & J Poetics, LLC, published MIKE ALEXANDER’s first full-length collection, RETROgrade, in 2013. His most recent chapbook, We Internet in Different Voices (Modern Metrics), was released by EXOT books. His poems have appeared in Rattle, River Styx, Borderlands, Bateau, Abridged, Measure, Shit Creek Review, Raintown Review & other journals.

The Salad Course

Single-handed, Don Miguel clears the dinner table,

sets his papers in order. The lone inkpot covers

where his wine spilled.

            Fragments of a telling

grind in his mill, like giants in a bad novel.

Start where real people start:

                        An olla rather more beef

than mutton, a salad on most nights,

the scratching of the ink, all the missing…

There’s an aftertaste left on his tongue.

The failed Crusades.

                                    Pirates, all the king’s

enemies, the king, all sit down to the same slop,

scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays,

a pigeon or so extra on Sundays,

lunatics, all, but the heroes are the worst.

Let there be Victories, but food comes first.

Gustave, striving to put all that pretty style aside,

lingers in the shadow of a bistro, studying

how others eat, keeps inventory:

making his way across fields, drinking

milk at farms, dancing with village girls,

finding out about the harvests, carrying back

stalks of greenery in his handkerchief.

                                                Jots down:

handing a lady his handkerchief, like some

gallant in an insipid romance.

                                    While the courses

followed, poule au jus, crawfish, mushrooms,

vegetables tossed in a salad, roasted larks,

many subjects were discussed: the best system

of taxes, agricultural advances, abolition of

the death penalty –

            Let the killing begin.

The Don, having finished off his meager repas,

dons his chamber pot casquette, retrieves

his antique lance from the mantelpiece –

& at length, salutes a damsel,

                                    whose breadth,

which no doubt smelt of yesterday’s salad,

seemed to him to diffuse an aromatic fragrance.

Many scratchings later, the Captive recounts

how he had asked for some herbs to make a salad.

Then, he affected his escape.

                                    By such affectations,

we digest the meat of our daily ergot.

In his Dictionary of Received Notions, Gustave

defines an émigré as one who makes a living

giving guitar lessons or by making salad.

Emma, undressing, adds the dressing.

The Hottest Ticket


          in the tophat

topcoat centuries   it was

the thing        to take

the ladies          to the Specola

to see

what they were made of         the body

parts   the kitchen bones    utensils   condiments

essences     the muscle mass

                       after the glass eyed

hair suits    of mammalian strata

the fish the flesh the foul        remainders

from tape worm to madonna with child

dissected twelve ways to Sunday;

                         bring the smelling salts.


                       if she survives

the nerve net                       offal truth

blood batter                       embrace of the body

corridors of display cases                        latinate names

                       there is one

more test                       of your lady’s heart

in the last room                       (just as she thinks

you are going                        to collect her wrap;)

                       the last room

forces her to look                       on homunculi of dead

mothers with children                        of the plague

(we are civilized                        enough to think it

                       a colossal joke,

that the anonymous                       die in such numbers)

refuse heaps blanched                        white with lime,

pockets full of poesy.                       The dead, the dying

                       litter the streets like

a plague of locust-husks,             while the angel

of waxwork swings                       his palette knife

through foetid air.                                 The artist

                       follows stories

of the outbreak spreading                       through all the cities

of Cartesian Europe                       to see first-hand, to show

the blotches, the scars,                       the tell-tale signature.

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