The Alchemist’s Prima Treatise by Joseph P. Wood

Mid-phrase line and stanza breaks are just one way that Joseph Wood creates a feeling of moving through archaic symbols toward new life. Mixing alchemy and Christianity on the same poetic canvas, he presents the stunning image of reaching for what lies beyond the “shadowy borderline.”

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Miriam Brummer, Kingdom, media not set, 8.75 × 23.75 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pierogi Flat Files.

The Alchemist’s Prima Treatise

Sure, death blackens the crow. Burn the earth

long enough, however, gold will burst forth

&the snow, forever squalling, will no longer be

a verified edition of grief. For now, Apollo’s Bird of

Paradise shit-smears your family’s coat

of arms, & your legs, hitherto intact, burst

into rivers the stillborn drift in sad, long circles.

It’s a shadowy borderline, astrology & the dead

you watch pyramided in the town square.

The cathedral bell tolls like it has

an extra appendage. Christ becomes

a hieroglyph, a tombstone’s rejected epitaph.

Joseph P. Wood’s first book of poems, I & We, is forthcoming from CustomWord Editions in November 2010. He is currently an instructor of English and creative writing at University of Alabama, and he serves as an editor for the newly launched Slash Pine Press and coordinator of the Slash Pine Poetry Festival. He lives with his wife, Amy Dayton-Wood, and his two-year-old daughter, Daisy.

For more from Miriam Brummer, check out her work at Pierogi Flat Files.

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