Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Descent of Alette ["Presently"]

"Presently" "we neared a pale beach," "narrow" "with trees behind it"
"thick & blue-black," "& lights" "many lights" "deep inside the"
"wooded land" "I touched bottom" "& walked ashore" "Then I saw"
"a final entity," "airy image, pass" "out of my body—" "from my

forehead" "A small shape," "perhaps brain-shaped," "that seemed to"
"contain in miniature" "the cave network" "where I had been"
"I saw the rooms—" "the caverns—" "streaked with color," "dotted with
lights," "but all tiny" "as in a honeycomb" "The image" "receded,"

"gently floated" "away" "on the wind," "like a flower" "a hibiscus—"
"all reds & darks" "& yellow glow—" "Or like a lantern," "paper
lantern" "Then was gone." "The others" "other swimmers" "had not
walked ashore" "with me" "I turned to find them" "I thought they

must be" "still floating" "in the water" "But they had vanished,"
"I was alone" "Myself &" "alone" "Yet emptied" "of much, it seemed"
"I felt unburdened" "& even buoyant"


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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