alicia lai

Fossil Record
or extinction


biological escape

kingdom, Animalia
phylum, Mollusca
class, Cephalopoda

climb the spiral staircase
to Nautilus’ sun-spotted chambers
a Latin-named honeymoon

drape an offering in the crescent phase
a logarithm in pearl

a brute skeleton the sole
proof of her existence


shame is untitled

before we realize there are accusations
behind the eagle’s case, eyes glassy

vulturing with a way to reduce
survival into a do-it-yourself handbook
pick up at the museum’s front desk

we hope you’ll return to visit us


Sunday confessions

the day I kneel
in front of the altar with a praying mantis
I lose the pulse in my palms,
pressed together with all the insistence
of reviving the forget-me-nots


Guide: how to finish
a genetic drama

there is no good way
to recreate history with an engine
of cicadas and one dead bird

the threat of unknowing, of migration:

somehow, they are fascinated
with this state of decay—the boys with
their hands, eyes pressed against
the glass, spilling in like locusts

Fossil: a reprise
or a surprise discovery


my dear Taxidermist

we are living in his antiquity, under his wide-rimmed microscope
the marbled hallway an armada of orange sprawled lazy
in a confession of helplessness before the curtain call

final acts: the scientist still needs to retain fragility midflight



in the exposed heartbeat of Iowa’s bedrock

genetics: replication of a baroque staircase, down coughing
the laws of heredity working best under the cataracts
of a moth-winged butterfly

all eyespots


the falcon can take the last dance
if you may, a body broken in plaster

back then, the wind had hunger pains in its eyes
no energy left to teach me to fly
put the catharsis in the first plummet
down the sycamore but

how did we remain how did
we remain preserved

Being sixteen and a poet, Alicia Lai‘s worked hard to cast off the societal assumptions that sappy poetry originates from this certain age group. Named a NCTE Promising Young Writer, she is the recipient of a scholarship from Kenyon Review’s Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize and first-place winner of the 2012 Penn State International Writing Contest. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Acclivity, The Kenyon Review, and on Pennsylvania’s Dreams Take Flight mural. Recently, she attended the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio.