Alice Teeter


When we got to work the streamers were down
like they'd been snatched and dropped, left in a pile.
We’d made a birthday gateway and swished through --

we rustled iridescent strips all day.
The strands had twinkled -- festive pinks and greens
danced down into the space. We could see them

from across the room, above cubicles --
the only thing hanging from the broad white
beams of lights, tucked in a grid of white squares.

This morning they were on the ground, a heap
left carelessly like a snub, our pleasure
slapped down. We grumbled, so sure we knew who

had pulled them off, left them to be trampled
underfoot. Then we hung them up again
in a different place, where everyone walked,

would have to brush through those thin streams of light
defiant in their obvious placement,
more visible than ever, we struck back.

This afternoon they've begun to come down,
the black tape that holds them warmed by the light,
the streamers letting go all on their own.

Hard Knots

Like the rope pull you might buy for a dog
but shiny rigid coils upon coils vexing tight
your fingers bleed trying to untie it
your teeth ache you do not want to cut this snarl

throw it in the pond
let the ducks paddle over it
muddying the water
their tails twitching back and forth
webbed feet stirring up the mud
before they go bottom up to feed
their strong bills punching at it
several generations mistaking it for food

one day you will see it on the bottom
the different colored threads
the mass of it down in the green weeds
you’ll reach your hand in to pull it out

those threads will dissolve at your touch

The fast black ship

Your arms around me and myths come alive.
The sailors on that fast black ship
with the white billowing sails
all now vie for your attention.

There’s a lover who would cover you with kisses,
a tender hearted one who would massage your feet,
a shy one who would turn away
but hold a hand out toward you,
the one with eyes on the horizon
who would follow your every step
and breathe in your beauty,
an eager one who wants you now
and would leap overboard
to swim with strong, swift strokes
straight to you where you wait.

But now it is Odysseus, the captain,
who plugs his own ears with soft white wax,
thinks of his Penelope, and yours,
steers the boat away.

He orders his mariners to chores:
one is sent aloft to the crow’s nest,
eyes to search the horizon for the white peaks of home,
another is on hands and knees scrubbing the deck
with a brush until each crevice shines,
two are cradled over the sides of the ship,
told to scrape barnacles down to the waterline.
The ardent one has been tied to the mast.
Odysseus does not heed the furious cries for release.

He keeps them all busy and waits
for the feeling of your warm arms
around me to fade.


 Copyright © Alice Teeter 2012

Alice Teeter studied poetry at Eckerd College with Peter Meinke. Her chapbook entitled 20 CLASS A was published in 1975 by Morningstar Media, Tallahassee, Florida. Teeter’s collection of poems entitled String Theory won the Georgia Poetry Society’s 2008 Charles B. Dickson Chapbook Contest, judged by poet Lewis Turco. Her book When It Happens To You . . . was published in 2009 by Star Cloud Press.

Teeter is a member of the Artist Conference Network, a national coaching community for people doing creative work and also of Alternate ROOTS, a service organization for artists creating community-based work in the Southeast. She has led ‘Improvoetry’ workshops with Lesly Fredman, using improvisation techniques as poetic inspiration and poetry as a springboard for further improvisation. A founding member of the String Theory Cohort, Teeter and the company created dance pieces using her poems “String Theory” and “The Woman Who Ate Anger.” She is currently Adjunct Professor, Lecturer in Poetry, at Emory University.