Tuesday, April 20, 2010

a poem by stephanie bolster

(from a book of poems about the relationship(s) between Alice Pleasance Liddell Hargreaves, Charles Lutwidge Dawson, Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland)

Portrait of Alice, Annotated

Who was it strung these footnotes
from her toes and scribbled
italics on her wrists, indicating perhaps
that only slim-wristed girls
were allowed to enter Wonderland?

They wound her with measuring tape,
noted the resulting data on her skin, figures
for chest and waist identical. To her mouth
was taped a parchment proclamation
detailing origins of those words she spoke

as if they were as intimately hers
as earlobes. But the evidence proved
those words had a long history of their own,
belonged to themselves and would
outlive her. Whatever she had said

to end up in this predicament
was not her fault, she was exempt, thus safe.
What could be done to her now? Even her breasts
were claimed before they'd risen; some said
he'd placed his nitrate-ridden hands there.

The critics overwrote each other
till all their words were tattooed black
upon her. Have mercy, she cried as they came
with the thousand-volumed weight of archives,
but those words were not hers either.

Bolster, Stephanie. "Portrait of Alice, Annotated" The Alice Poems. Montreal: Vehicule Press, 1998.