January 18, 2021

José A. Alcántara


He has flown headfirst against the glass
and now lies stunned on the stone patio,
nothing moving but his quick beating heart.
So you go to him, pick up his delicate
body and hold him in the cupped palms
of your hands. You have always known
he was beautiful, but it’s only now, in his stillness,
in his vulnerability, that you see the miracle
of his being, how so much life fits in so small
a space. And so you wait, keeping him warm
against the unseasonable cold, trusting that
when the time is right, when he has recovered
both his strength and his sense of up and down,
he will gather himself, flutter once or twice,
and then rise, a streak of dazzling
color against a slowly lifting sky.

from Rattle #70, Winter 2020


José A. Alcántara: “Through a strange set of circumstances, I have worked both in Prince William Sound, site of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station. I write poetry to keep out of trouble between catastrophes.”

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August 2, 2020

José A. Alcántara


No one has ever done it before, no man
has ever got all the questions right; no woman
either. It’s hard to believe, but I saw it on TV.
Amazing! That’s what the doctors say. A genius!
I’m not making this up. They caught it on camera.
In all of recorded history, he’s the first person

to correctly identify an elephant. The first person!
Goddamn! He’s smarter than that guy who led the Man
hattan Project. And how good he looks on camera!
Has there ever been a sexier man? If I was a woman,
he could grab my genitals. Oh, to be groped by a genius.
And to think, he spent so many years on TV

being laughed at, made fun of. Did you know that TV
is an acronym for “Terribly Virile”? Person
ally, I can’t imagine a more stable genius.
And I can’t understand why the fake news man
gles everything he says. So what if he a paid a woman
hush money? So what if the Russians hid a camera

in his hotel room? When you gotta go, you gotta go, camera
be damned. And don’t believe everything you see on TV.
Except those test results. Thirty-five right! WOMAN.
MAN.       CAMERA.       TV.       PERSON.
Wow! I probably have the wrong order, but, man,
that guy is fucking brilliant. I mean, I’m no genius

but that doesn’t mean I don’t know a genius
when I see one. I wish they had the part on camera
where he counted backward by sevens. Man,
that must be incredible. And in HD TV!
100 – 93 – 86 – 79 What kind of person
can even do that?! I once heard of a woman

who could count backward by threes, but that woman
ain’t nothing compared to this guy. He’s a genius’s genius.
I’m so glad we have the greatest, smartest, best-ever person
leading our country. It’s a damned lucky camera
that gets to record such powerful and intelligent TV
footage of this once-in-a-millenium Superman.

He must be the first genius ever caught on camera
showing a simple person like me, with only a TV,
how to dazzle a woman, how to be a real man.

from Poets Respond
August 2, 2020


José A. Alcántara: “It’s almost too painful to contemplate the idiocy that currently occupies the Oval Office, but when I heard Agent Orange bragging of his ‘person, woman, man, camera, TV,’ I decided to add a word and write my first ever sestina.”


Join us this morning for Poets Respond Live! Click here to watch …

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May 2, 2020

José A. Alcántara


When I take my morning walk now,
I am Pancho Villa. I am Che Guevara.

I am an outlaw in a mask and dark glasses.
I am starting a revolution.

Power to the peonies!
¡Vivas to the violets!

We would rather die on our knees,
sniffing at a flower,

than live, standing in line,
waiting for toilet paper to arrive.

Quivering, I throw my heart out,
six feet in every direction.

All that creeps, crawls, slithers,
or flies, I love.

I lower my mask.
I fling wide my arms.

I kiss death full on the mouth.

from Poets Respond
May 2, 2020


José A. Alcántara: “As the lockdown continues, I continue to venture out, wearing my mask. When, looking in a mirror, I tie my bandana around my neck, I see how my look looks like a look most people wouldn’t like. And so, as is required, I embrace that which I previously avoided.”

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February 1, 2019

José A. Alcántara


We put him outside;
he claws the paint off the door.

We put him in the crate;
he howls.

We close the sliding partition;
he busts through.

We take no evasive action;
he’s on the bed, wagging his tail,

shoving his nose
in the most noseworthy places.

We’ve tried the hedgehog, the squeaky lobster,
the double knotted rope.

And though these may sound like sex toys
they most definitely are not.

from Rattle #62, Winter 2018


José A. Alcántara: “I have worked as a bookseller, mailman, commercial fisherman, baker, house-framer, studio photographer, door-to-door salesman, and math teacher. I like lemons and refried beans and jumping naked into ice-cold lakes above tree lines. Poetry keeps me sane or at least what passes for it.”

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May 29, 2018

José A. Alcántara


At six seconds,
you are an unknown object,
a lamppost or a linden.

You are a problem to be solved.

At four-and-a-half seconds,
you are a vehicle,
a rickshaw, a go-kart, a horse-and-buggy.

You are a stream of interpretable data.

At three seconds,
you are a bicycle,
a ten-speed, a fat-tired cruiser.

You move according to well-researched algorithms.

At one-point-three seconds,
you are a person
walking across the street.

You are a cause for alarm.

At time zero,
you are a dent in the fender,
a stain on the road.

You are a dip in company stock.

from Poets Respond


José A. Alcántara: “This week, the report was made public that described the accident in which a woman in Arizona was struck and killed by one of Uber’s self-driving cars. I was intrigued by the speed with which the identity of the woman morphed from inanimate object, through a couple of animated identities, and then back to inanimate object.”

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May 28, 2017

José A. Alcántara


If we must have violence, then let it be
the violence of violets, how they burst
into spring, before most anything else—
vanguard of the voluptuous—
unravelling their petals, their leaves
to attract whatever will love them.

If we must rant and rave, then let us
do so as they do, inconspicuously,
close to the ground, in all the wet places
until something with a stinger comes
and mounts us, turning us inward
where we learn what it is to sweeten.

from Poets Respond

[download audio]


José A. Alcántara: “I wrote this poem on a hike the day after the suicide bombing in Manchester. The poem is not a response to the tragedy, though the suffering and potential responses to that suffering were lurking in the back of my mind. This poem is more of an alternative for than a response to. ‘Violaceae’ is the family name for the group of plants containing the 500 plus species of violets.”

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