Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


The Descent of Alette ["The water" "of the river"]

"The water" "of the river" "was mild-temperatured," "the current
gentle" "I soon began" "to swim—" "in a moonless," "starless darkness"
"The sky held no clouds—" "no luminous" "spheres existed here"
"Yet the sky was" "a sky;" "for the river air" "was fresh & sweet"

"Then," "as I swam," "the others I contained—" "my companions
from the subway—" "weightlessly" "emerged from me," "looking
shadow-like," "& quickly" "solid-bodied" "began to swim with me"
"I never really" "saw their faces" "We swam quietly," "concentrating,"

"our motions almost synchronized" "In the distance sat" "small yellow
lights" "where presumably" "the other shore lay" "Partway across"
"the river," "something else, a substance," "a state of being,"
"a thick noxious" "distress" "in the form of" "a gray cloud,"

"welled up within me" "& left my body" "from a point along" "my spine"
"The cloud" "hovered near us" "& so we turned onto" "our backs to
watch it" "It was full of" "ghoulish faces," "phosphorescent" "death's
heads;" "one skull grew large" "& open-mouthed" "It had long" "glowing

hair," "screamed as if" "in terror," "then spoke" "to me:"
" 'We are dying" "You are killing us" "killing us'" "The cloud exploded"
"into greenish flame" "which was soon consumed" "by darkness"
"We turned over" "& resumed" "our swimming"

Credit


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.

Author


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

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/descent-alette-water-river