Forrest Gander reads and discusses Will Alexander's "The Sri Lankan Loxodrome"

from The Sri Lankan Loxodrome

in this fundamental sense
I am Mahayana & of Africa
both Sri Lankan & non-Sri Lankan 
in that
I am of a newly elected “Radial” width
comprehending my projection of rays
like faceless chromium at twilight
an absence
like “intergalactic hydrogen”
perhaps a complex of gravitons & lightning

I learned to speak when my solar journal first commenced
then I was magnetized at the age of 12 to a psychic form of fatherhood
& now I sail
never eating for days consumed by scalar neutrinos

I’ve been reported as expired at Jaffna
& have been burned in effigy for interminable wanderings
for the crime of emitting vertigo by movement
for inflicting the human spirit with a parallel genetic engenderment
comparable to a sun which erupts from the voice of the afterlife

a wanderer in a zone of fluctuating kelvins
breathing unknown dice within my schisms

perhaps for me
a Nubian catacomb in the nameless
a concealed adventure in the tourmaline
a powerful spectra of intangible chondrites

maybe as darkened transition
I’ll speak an aqua-Chinese
or as an Afro-Gujarati I’ll have a voice in Batticaloa
alive in Madagascar
as a combusted lemur sage

I develop moment after moment
with intensity as aloofness
allowing each destroyed symmetry
each ulterior symbology
to ignite its hazeless unicorns
to unbury spells amidst “black widow pulsars”
between equilibria & equilibria
aleatoric & unblemished
like a moonless endurance
within a “grazing occultation”
& each fire that I build
each clause of interregnums
amidst the rural dominations
of “Istar Terra”
& the “anomaly over Beta Regio”
like a brimstone fire
at the source of the instantaneous

—Will Alexander

Rights & Access

“The Sri Lankan Loxodrome” Will Alexander from The Sri Lankan Loxodrome. New Directions, 2009.

Reprinted by permission of the author.


Will Alexander’s “The Sri Lankan Loxodrome” imagines the journey of a Sri Lankan sailor across the Indian Ocean. The sailor, making contact with various transplanted African communities, is an immigrant from restrictive constructions of nationality and certainty. For him, migration is a mode and means of identification with others, and so, of self-discovery. At the same time, Alexander’s poem is about migration at a cellular level—the migration of cancer cells through a body. And it was written as the author struggled to survive his own life-threatening illness.

Commentator's Poem

Evaporation: a Border History

Paisanos they call 
roadrunners, brothers of the land.  A dozen 
Mexican corpses maroon
under desert sun.
In cottonwoods by the river, 
zone-tailed hawks squeal.  Visible
only from the air, the craquelure
of an abandoned runway
toxic waste and unexploded munitions.  
Bordered by purple and yellow 
bloomstalks, lechuguilla.
Volcanic chimneys up-thrust 
from barren flats.  Agleam 
in a basalt outcrop, fist-size 
feldspar crystals. The old raiding trails 
from Comanchería converge
in a path packed by hoofprints.  

Alarming ki-dear ki-dear of a 
Cassin’s kingbird on the 
barbed fence. 150 miles 
surveiled by a white aerostat 
shaped like a whale.  Between those peaks
sits Panther Laccolith.  Both vaqueros 
staked-out naked, left screaming on a live ant hill.
Female katydid waving her foreleg tympanum 
at the stridulating males.  The fine-
grained intrusion that veined the mountain 
also silled Paint Gap Hill. 
His horse quivers in agony, pinned to the ground by a lance.
Hovering over the field, a flock of crested flycatchers.
The border patrol dog lifts its leg 
at the tire of the Skywagon.  Coachwhip
fences parallel the dirt way.  Chihuahua
Trail following Alameda Creek.  They call it
horse-crippler cactus.

Vietnam-era seismic probes 
buried across private lands.  Lava rock rims the sides.
Give it a break, mockingbird.
El Despoblado.  Giant yucca and bunch grass.
And what ventures into the afternoon heat?  Only Pharoah ants.  
Only the insulated darkling beetle.
On either side of the pavement, magnetic sensors 
record movement and direction. Evening 
cicadas eclipse tree crickets.  
A thousand head of cattle 
driven below the trachyte hoodoos.  It nibbles
a prickly pear.  Cottontail at dusk.
		Human contraband at dusk.  Famous 
for their dwarf fauna, these fossil beds.  Depositions of
				carnage, catches 
					of light.  The legacy
				mission: contraband

—Forrest Gander

Rights & Access

“Evaporation: A Border History” Forrest Gander, 2012.

Printed by permission of the author.

  • Forrest Gander

    Forrest Gander (1956- ) was born in Barstow, California, and later attended the College of William & Mary and San Francisco State University. He is the author of over a dozen books, including collections of poetry and essays, several books of translations, and two edited anthologies. His many honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Library of Congress. He is currently the Adele Kellenberg Seaver Professor of Literary Arts and Comparative Literature at Brown University. Photo credit: Miriam Berkley.

  • Will Alexander

    Will Alexander (1948- ) was born in Los Angeles, California and received his BA in English and Creative Writing from University of California at Los Angeles. He is the author of nine books, which include poems as well as novels, essays, and plays. He has served residencies at the University of California, San Diego, Hofstra University, and New College and taught at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Photo credit: Mathew Timmons