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Alysse McCanna ’07

Alumnae Poet

Alysse McCanna

Alysse Kathleen McCanna’s poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from Poet Lore,TriQuarterly, Nimrod, Pembroke, CutBank, Lunch Ticket, and other journals; her reviews have appeared in American Book Review. Her chapbook “Pentimento” was published by Gold Line Press in March 2019. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and serves as Associate Editor of Pilgrimage Magazine. She is a PhD candidate in English at Oklahoma State University.

Select Poems

That summer, I stood naked in front of the window air conditioner,

all shame of my awkward body slicked away like so many drops of sweat.

The blue carpet of our first apartment was rough but I loved the lines it left

on my husband’s thighs, and I loved drinking beer and holding the glass 

against my cheek, then his. I cradled young visions of joy in the offing, 

before he went off to war and stayed, before armies took their stand 

inside me.


After the divorce, I stood before hotel room windows and surveyed 

each new city’s distorted lights, the air conditioner’s steady stream 

against my knees. The man I’d chosen instead sometimes combed 

and braided my hair, sometimes pressed me against the glass. 

His temper was tropical but I loved the lines it left 

on my back, and I loved taking the grief of his ravaged life 

and holding it against my cheek. I harbored hope thin and strong 

as spiderweb, before he went off to another’s bed and stayed, 

before my armies laid down their weapons, 



This summer, 

August seems just so much feverish tenderness,

a suspicious hallucination full of eyelashes and fingertips,

this large night impersonating oven as I lie on sweat-soaked sheets

and feel alive on an ocean, surprised that I’m awake and the man

beside me brings ice and wildflowers, so much true and undeserved 

sweetness, and I take it—drink like a starving convict, as fast 

as I can bear, in case it runs dry.

About Alysse

Personal Website
Poetry Center Reading Dates: August 2019