Recent Work By Alexander Maksik

It’s always good at the beginning. You get over the shock of waking up early. You settle into the routine. You’re grateful to be out with the street cleaners. It feels good in the cool morning. You’re one of the first at the boulangerie, the pain aux raisins is still warm. Once you drag yourself out of bed, it’s good to be back.

The other night at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, a few local poets read some poems aloud. The store was crowded. Those who came late had to stand, or sit on the floor.

Because I live in Iowa City, I should point out that by “local poets” I mean Dora Malech, James Galvin, Mark Levine, Cal Bedient, Robyn Schiff, Christopher Merrill and Jan Weissmiller. The event was organized to help Dean Young whose heart failed him, and who in April, thanks to a donor, received a new heart. But now it turns out that it will cost approximately $50,000 a year to keep that heart beating. $50,000 a year, out of pocket, to keep Dean Young alive.

Thank you for coming.

It’s the least I could do.


What’s the most common question you’ve been asked lately?

What’s wrong with you?


What do you say?

I just shake my head.

That morning Jackson woke with an erection like an iron bar.He lay in bed with his eyes closed feeling it throb between his legs.He imagined Céline returning from work, unbuttoning her blouse and pulling the red regulation sash from around her waist with a practiced flick.She’d step down out of her shoes, unclip her metal nametag and toss it onto the kitchen table where it would land with a clatter. He could see her fingers sliding the zip down the side of her skirt, the fabric falling to the floor with that sweet familiar swish and then there she’d be, thin legs and her hands reaching up behind her, leaning forward, unfastening her bra the way she did.

These arrangements of empty chairs are what’s left of celebration, argument, meditation, sleep and revelation.  They huddle together like still animals in the cold.  From a chair beneath a plane tree, the round tracks of a cane disappear into the gravel.

The single chairs are absent of their poets, readers and afternoon philosophers.

Those side by side and face to face are absent of their lovers, their chess players, the soon to be married and the just abandoned.

The great groups of circles and strange half-moons have lost their lecturers, their students.

The first I gave you was Farewell, My Only One by Antoine Audouard, a novel written in French, translated into English and shipped across the ocean where I found it on a shelf in the mountains. I lay it in my suitcase and took it back to France where I put it in your hands.

Raffaele says those home for the summer never order water at Il Fosso. Instead they ask for empty bottles and take them out to the spring where the water comes cold and sweet. He says it reminds them of their former lives.

He says in the evening serpents glide across the road, that there’s snow in winter, that here it’s not people you meet but characters.