Stone Telling

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Surviving Wonderland

by Mike Allen

"I am the White Rabbit,"
says the creature in the mirror
that's neither rabbit nor white.
It speaks with a boy's voice
behind its loose-skin mask,
but you see no lips moving,
only a black-greased gear
turning amidst hoses
that pulse, misplaced trachea.
It raises claws to the glass,
clicks them on the silver side.
"I shall be late," it says.
"So very late."

Over its seething shoulder,
across from you in Wonderland,
an empty pinafore mimics
your nervous pose. Jointed pipes
slide out from beneath its hems,
tentacles from an anemone,
retract in again. "Don't look,"
the rabbit-not-a-rabbit-says.
"Don't look at her. The new Queen
claimed her head, and most
of the rest." Nails click the glass.
"Open this. Open this."

Wheeled into view
from outside the mirror frame,
a small form squirms in a crib,
except the bed is a flower,
the bars are Venus flytrap teeth
fighting to close, to squeeze
the life it holds into submission.
Rabbit Mask follows your gaze.
"Do you fear for it? Don't.
It's not a child, it's a beast.
If you help me open this,"
clickety-clack, "You'll see
I'm telling you the truth."

Alice never held a weapon.
She obeyed treacherous signs,
infiltrated deep, seized her moment,
smashed the house of cards,
grabbed the monarchs, shook them
into different shapes. So what
is that object gleaming
in your grip, fingers coiled,
knuckles pressed pale
around its steel handle?
To get what you want,
you risk opening the nest.
"Yes," it says, clack-click,
"I'll arrive right on the dot. Just
bring that hammer down. Please,
bring that hammer down."

Mike Allen works as the arts and culture columnist for the daily newspaper in Roanoke, Virginia, where he lives with his wife Anita, a goofy dog, and two mischievous cats. In his spare time he does a ridiculous number of things, including editing the critically-acclaimed anthology series Clockwork Phoenix and the long-running poetry journal Mythic Delirium. His own poetry has won the Rhysling Award three times, and his fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award. His stories and verse have appeared recently in Nebula Awards Showcase 2009, Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 1, Cthulhu's Reign, Steam Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, Strange Horizons and Apex Magazine.

Read Mike's discussion of this poem over at the Roundtable!

Photography: Modified from l'inquietudine è lì fuori, by Francesca Guadagnini.