Tag Archives: Penel Alden

Cadmus gazes at Thebes in ruins

By Penel Alden

Horror held me in place 
Held my arms at my ribs 
Wide thirsty nostrils clutching for the air 
Throat and soul gaping and parched 
As the ash rises and falls like dark feathers 

My daughter, in the palace of her son, 
The shadows on her face falling terror, all wrong 
Her eyes shaded glass gazing towards heaven

Already the great city had begun to burn 
Not even Thebes can grow bones strong enough 
To wage war against fate 
And the ivory structures of our grandsons 
Are now mere offerings to flame and carrion bird 

Behind me the cool breeze from the forest 
Is the last of the breath of the Maenads 
Their hymns offered to a void I cannot see 
Their torn flesh the body of the trees

Now the smoke is punctuated by crows 
And in their frenzied piercing prayers 
Is the song of the gods in their violent ecstasy 
Gloating over the vanity of man


Penel Alden is a mediocre and degenerate academic living on California’s central coast. Her recent poetry has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review, California Quarterly, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and in her forthcoming collection, California (Kelsay Books, 2021).

County Road 18

By Penel Alden

A piercing cry cuts through the canyon’s stillness

A hawk

Whose aerial circles are seen only in fragments

Elevated above the mountain’s old oaks

You’ve seen their beginning
At first sparse punctuating across the hills
West of the highway
But have you seen their heart
At the center of veins
Dirt marked by the tracks of
Tires and coyotes?

Thick in the ravine trees eager to scrape
Their dancing limbs against
The sun sweet marbled sky

Inaudible is the cry that cuts through the canyon

The curve of my eyes leaned up to the pastel firmament

The vulnerable pink skin under nails

Pointed upwards between sight and sun

My limbs are also dancing


Penel Alden is a mediocre and degenerate academic living on California’s central coast. Her recent poetry has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review, California Quarterly, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and in her forthcoming collection, California (Kelsay Books, 2021).

Tracking madness

By Penel Alden

I asked Leslie Hunter
If any of the old miners
Could describe the darkness
The way they could describe their trucks

Warm familiarity
Ambivalent hostility
Caressing the machines
Tracking madness through stone’s marrow

She said their hoary beards
Smelled of things that their eyes
Knew should remain buried

What the proletariat will achieve
By expelling the excrement
Through the pipes of our collective nightmares
Is no clean exit
No flight from the Minotaur’s labyrinth
Each of us still Pasiphaë

And perhaps our only salvation
Is enveloped in the violent
Chaotic crashing of the submerging ocean


Penel Alden is a mediocre and degenerate academic living on California’s central coast. Her recent poetry has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review, California Quarterly, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and in her forthcoming collection, California (Kelsay Books, 2021).