by Alexandra Kostoulas
At the rehearsal dinner, the day before
my wedding at Cold Springs Tavern,
the man cutting prime rib said,
“Where’s the bride?”
I was pushed to the front by a stream of hands.
A short, Latino guy in a Hawaiian shirt
cut the prime rib and smiled at me.
“The best piece,” he said, “is for the bride.”
I watched him as he cut off a slice.
My life – the next chapter
lay on my plate.
What if I couldn’t eat it all?
Up in the Sierra Mountains
the mackerel swim upstream, exfoliating themselves on the rocks.
Sometimes an old woman sits at the top,
turning the hand-crank of time,
lives beginning and ending at her feet.
I went to the funeral of a great man:
a Chumash medicine woman wove her arms in a circle, poised mallet over drum,
and welcomed him
to the spirit world,
wailing goodbye in her language.
His daughter sang ‘Amazing Grace,’
her voice warbling to the corners of the cold room.
She was the iridescent blues, her silver-shoed feet, the cross on the altar.
When she sang, the stars shone brighter,
even the stairs knelt for her.
The door to the outside world swung open when she began,
banged shut when she ended.
I wonder, suddenly, if he found himself
standing under a blue sky in Montana
under a jazz shack as her voice called to all corners of the ceilings and floors.
And I think of my own father, detached retina loosening one day,
sending him to the mirror to examine his
going to the doctor,
coming out the next day with a death sentence,
somehow cheating his way out of it this time – throwing the fortune telling
into the water,
standing on the blue altar, denying the logic of its existence
* * *
Alexandra Kostoulas grew up in Los Angeles where she started writing as the youngest member of the LA Poets and Writer’s Collective in 1997. She now holds an MFA in English & Creative Writing from Mills College in Oakland. She received her B.A. in Literature from the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. She writes non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and is working on a novel that weaves themes of the immigrant experience, stolen artifacts, and the Persephone myth. Her poetry has been published in numerous magazines and journals in places like Berkeley, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, the UK and Greece. While at UCSB, she won the Keith E. Vinyard Memorial Award for her short story, “The Albanian” and used the prize money to buy a rail road ticket to travel across Europe. The Society of Professional Journalists of Northern California gave her an award for journalistic excellence for her reporting on Eminent Domain in Oakland, which aired on KALW 91.7fm in San Francisco. In 2006, she was accepted into National Public Radio’s next generation project and aired a radio piece on San Francisco’s Greektown. She has read her work at the Santa Barbara Book and Author Festival, the Los Angeles Festival of Books, UC Berkeley’s Morrison Library, Beyond Baroque Bookstore in Venice, CA, at Mills College, and Poetry for the People in Berkeley. She was the editor-in-chief of the Mills College graduate literary anthology, CRUX. She has worked with editors for 580 Split, at Mills College, and did a brief stint as an intern for City Lights Publishers in San Francisco. In 2007, she was awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Foundation for California Community Colleges for helping high school students from underserved communities succeed in college. She teaches English, Creative Writing and ESL at Berkeley City College. She has also taught a workshop at 826 Valencia in San Francisco last fall on Jack Grapes’ Method Writing. She is the founder and advisor to the Global Voices Club—a club that brings global voices in literature to Berkeley City College. You can contact Alexandra at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her blog! http://www.wildguppy.wordpress.com