William Alton started writing in the eighties while incarcerated in
a psychiatric prison and found he could not stop. Since then his
work has appeared in Gloom Cupboard, Amarillo Bay and Breadcrumb
among others. He earned both his BA and MFA from Pacific
University in Forest Grove, Oregon where he continues to live with
his wife and sons.


She goes to clubs
and sits alone in the corner
with her drinks.
No one notices her swallowing
her pills one at a time.

Sax Man

I am the sax man sitting
in the corner playing for tips.
The girls are naked of course but
that doesn't mean much to me.
I'm blind as a mole in sunlight.
I see color and movement.
I see notes mixing with whiskey
at the bar.

I come home and can't help but torment
the neighbors with my horn.
They pound the walls, the door.
They shout my name but my name is unimportant.
Do you want a song? I say. Do like the music.
I settle in around dawn and sleep
until the sun sets over the mountains.
The sun was the last thing I saw before my eyes
faded to pale blue marbles.

I can walk to work and back without help.
I can make my way to the grocery store.
I can hold my own in a fight if I get in close
and hold on tight.


Hair finds collars like newborns
find their mothers' breasts.
They decorate blankets with long
narrow tassels, red, black and white.
The colors of a flag.

Young women make their way
to wells with urns balanced on round heads.
They leave their hair in the water
for the next to bring up and take home.

It is impossible to pass the day here
without learning what another's head
tastes like.

Dead Man Under an Apple Tree

A man kills himself under
an apple tree, the leaves impressed
one on the other. He lies in the grass
and swallows pills one at a time until his head
goes soft. His belly turns sour.
When he closes his eyes, he listens to himself
breathe and fades. An ant finds him, dragging
an apple seed across his cheek.

All the Way Home

Yesterday, Jesus found me
on the train. A woman brought him
over and they sat with me all the way
home, talking about my shaking hands.

All you need to do is ask.

I have asked.

I wasn't listening. I was busy
walking a toddler
through his cancer.

Did he make it?

No. They seldom do.

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