Three Poems by Alexandra Mattraw

by: Alexandra Mattraw

The power of Alexandra Mattraw’s poetry comes from its concision and compression. These poems have been whittled down until we are left with nothing but the bones of poetry: word, phrase, intention. While eschewing simple narrative, they resist by recognizing our shame, and perhaps even our complicity: “to admit we/ are the colorless/ problem,” because “ all violence against/ bodies is premeditated/ in violence against/ language.” 

FILE - This May 1, 2014, file photo shows irrigation water runs along a dried-up ditch between rice farms in Richvale, Calif. In Santa Cruz, Calif., dozens of residents who violated their strict water rations take a seat at Water School, hoping to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in distressing penalties waived. California is in the third year of the state's worst drought in recent history. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)


I run from the mountain / caught in my throat / my country illusion / turns to pirate / my voice rips / across crowds fuming / streets whelm stories / promised before birth / assassinates

an I / for what

we fight / long grass / sway bottoms of feet / face the sun / unmoving / bloodshot / women and children / grow smaller than / recognition / I chant backwards / from zero I hold

cords / metal

++++++clamp a warm gun / flick happiness in wrists / switch off the brain / through the iris / navy
++++++suits cut / a ditch / mutilate a hillside / to moaning I / watch a flag / click seconds between

person / prison

++++++++++++++fires roars from / city windows / run my mouth / to fists punch out / a pig
for office / a sheep needs bullets / a ballot takes a pen / and draws / blood between / tiny bones

shatter / our family tree

+++++++++++++++++with barbs / tunnel each body / bannered with stars / to story what’s
stacked / and flown back / to the mountain we run / for what / for what we /do we

/ gag the night



wetter in sun-
lifts than what sets
mushroom blooms

in my chest : feet
whisper and splash
: the pulling forth

of genes in remission
you cannot help
becoming aerial

: clean : up-flap
of laughter so in-
voluntary robins

snicker : chime
muddy bark
and spool sage

to know well
how droughts need
awakenings :

a flood
to taste


The issue she said with intersectional resistance is that 

after Mario Savio & Solmaz Sharif

to fit in unwanted
kneeling we divide
by teeth : hold
near comical fault
lines with redundant
chant : resist

all violence against
bodies is premeditated
in violence against
language : machines

we create these
: turnstiles : hours
that demand we must
spin : gender : names
arrow to arrow
until union shams
a low blow I
didn’t but should’ve
seen striking gold
from each tower
or flashing dumb
from white pickets :

here are we
leveled : dis-
honest as wheels
that themselves
listen for the cheat
the twist tsk
of rims caught red
in our eyes
too late arrived

to admit we
are the colorless
problem : arrest
the gears write
back parts fall
into Moloch’s

: lit in this

word war :
so sick at heart

so passively
: un : free


Alexandra Mattraw is an Oakland poet whose first full length collection of poems, small siren, emerges from Brooklyn’s The Cultural Society in 2018. She is also the author of four chapbooks, including flood psalm, forthcoming this spring from Dancing Girl Press. Her poems, reviews, and interviews have also been featured in places including 1913 Journal of Forms, American Letters & Commentary, The Conversant, Denver Quarterly, Eleven Eleven, Fourteen Hills, The Poetry Project, The Volta, and VOLT. A Bay Area Correspondent School member and former Vermont Studio Center resident, Alexandra curates an art-centric writing and performance series called Lone Glen:

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