Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Descent of Alette ["I walked into"]

"I walked into" "the forest;" "for the woods were lit" "by yellow
street lamps" "along various" "dirty pathways" "I paused a moment"
"to absorb" "the texture" "of bark & needles" "The wind carried"
"with a pine scent" "the river's aura—" "delicious air" "Then a

figure" "appeared before me—" "a woman" "in a long dress" "standing
featureless" "in a dark space" " 'Welcome,' she said," "& stepped into"
"the light" "She was dark-haired" "but very pale" "I stared hard at her,
realizing" "that her flesh was" "translucent," "& tremulous," "a

whitish gel" "She was protoplasmic-" "looking—" "But rather beautiful,"
"violet-eyed" " 'What is this place?' " "I asked her" " 'It would be
paradise,' she said," " 'but, as you see," "it's very dark," "& always
dark" "You will find that" "those who live here" "are changed"

"enough" "from creation's first intent" "as to be deeply" "upset . . . "
"But you must really" "keep going now' " " 'Are those tents" "over there?'
I asked" "I saw small pyramids" "at a distance" " 'Yes, these woods are"
"full of beings," "primal beings," "hard to see—" "because it's"

"always dark here" "Most of them" "need not concern you now" "But
wait here," "someone is coming" "to show you your way' " "She stepped
back into" "the shadows," "turned & left me"


From Book Three of The Descent of Alette by Alice Notley, copyright © 1992 by Alice Notley. Used by peromission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


Alice Notley

Born in 1945, Alice Notley received the 2007 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her book Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970–2005 (Wesleyan University Press, 2006).

Date Published: 1992-01-01

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