Alicia Wright

3 Poems

War Theory * 

A people’s way of fighting reflects a people’s way of thinking, and the lessons of fighting are very apt, in a kind of dialectical progression, to modify and refine the thinking. …[T]he pragmatic bias of American philosophy is not without significant relation to the encounter between the Monitor  and the Merrimac, the Confederate submarine, the earthworks of Petersburg or Atlanta, the observation balloon and field telegraph, General Herman Haupt’s use of the railroad at Gettysburg, the new use of mounted riflemen, Grant’s systematically self-nurtured gift for problem-solving, or Sherman’s theory of war. —Robert Penn Warren, The Legacy of the Civil War  (1961)







                          Enigma machine   submarine encrypted   is total war

                          initial ironclad encounter   river mouth clang   batter ram

                          mounting for to fire in   all directions   maximum clip

                          ships shooting  in equivalence no damage   existing circumstance


                          Target totality    every thing around   that resuscitated rust


                           failed fish boat   torpedo deployed inward   effort suffocating


                           floating tactic for final vision      defense hunkering down

                           allow detonation    of artifact alliance    artificial factual    

                           reconstruction reconnaissance   in bodiless narrative

                           text allegiance friendless foeless    tainted civilian implements


                           buckle rotting ornaments   corroded soldier redox mission


                           Battles fought for    the open field     rigging reenactments


                           Felled infernal contraption   feinting single shot   at event horizon


                           in Dickey’s dream   fragments reassemble   metal magnetized

* The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 31: How someone beginning this work should conduct himself in opposing all sinful thoughts and impulses.

Subject Matter Comes Winging Towards Them *

after William Christenberry’s Palmist Building with Camera, Havana Junction, Alabama, 1980

A cell, a small box

& breadth


In the light cast

on its chosen substance,

      others begin to glow


like a tripod silver

  stake marking grass

height & depth

            if that’s clear


We verge to a point

Patches grassless sparse

  green frame


Is that a rangefinder

  or a window   & in it

a grid gives balance


What the frame holds

Is it a house we can walk in


A looker looking a hand

downward   Is it backward

frontside or otherwise to be

            looking like that


Is that a tree-of-heaven

its compound spill of leaves


a netting fringe drawing

            the sideboards back in

the thicket is

            no sacred grove


We can tell you what

is leaving    color, order drained

            did you just

structure your sight

*The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapters 37 & 39: (37) The special prayers of those who are persevering workers in the work described in this book. (39) How a perfect worker is to pray, and what the nature of prayer is; and, if someone is to pray in words, which words agree best with the nature of prayer.

Human Bone, Worn Lyre


Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida


                       Sunk whole     in flesh        still

                       in a moment    water air      still

                       animate    still           currented


                       femur curve        backbone link

                       is it empty   the water touch   it

                       is dark & falls   away   white  to

                       black    shift    water  cinder  at

                       wave’s touch   pieces   pressure


                       curve  spine canal   brush uplift

                       dredged     path    dredged    to

                       sand trace   my hand    in shore 


                                                                                                                             I heard  it   shaped  in

                                                                                                                             thought I heard

                                                                                                                             it in the hand I heard

                                                                                                                             it reencountered

                                                                                                                             in the sound between

                                                                                                                             the hearers on the

                                                                                                                             beach      up     in     the

                                                                                                                             mouth       collected in

                                                                                                                             the   hand     forgotten

                                                                                                                             place         I heard

                                                                                                                             a      self   among    the

                                                                                                                             upswelled things

                                                                                                                             myself a fossil out of


*The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 51: We should be extremely careful not to understand in a bodily sense what it meant spiritually; and it is especially desirable to be careful in understanding the words IN and UP.