Aliki Barnstone & Corina Dross

Selected Talisman Poems

Aliki Barnstone & COrina Dross

SElected Talisman Poems

These ekphrastic sonnets by Aliki Barnstone are in dialogue with Corina Dross’s card deck, Portable Fortitude: 54 Talismans for at Home and Abroad.

Walking With Jorge Luis Borges

City of cafés, alley
ways, cobblestone that winds
below vine-hung balconies,
labyrinth where his blind
gait rhymes with his dim white
cane and murmuring from windows—
his memories remain
awake, restless on his pillows.

He feels me take his arm,
hears my voice as fog,
beside-the-point, his charm
doesn’t name whom he walks
beside. He sees dream streets,
lamplit for us to read.

Protection from Structural Collapse

Maybe our malady
is structural plunder,
the ways involuntary
servitude underlies
the gold bangles the First
Daughter wears when she Tweets
her wares. A bright white purse
costs two months’ rent. The streets’
air fills with poison, pain
she pushed daddy to order:
“Those pests infest our reign.
Off with their masks! Protesters
choke or they’ll thwart out plans:
forced labor for our brands.”

Protection from Narcissism

Erase him trending, viral
orange-crowned idiot,
whose Greek root is his title—
not of the city but
private, self-idolizing—
idol meaning shape, phantom,
false god. His brutalizing,
rifle-bearing cult—damn dumb
toadies—worship their whiteness,
grind shoes into the spine
of George Floyd. What unites us?
Say his name, her name, chime in,
defy killers, endure,
and rise loud for our cure.

Protection from Indoctrination

Not a buttermilk waffle,
not toast, not bowls of candied
pecans. You’re meant to falter,
to confuse candid with rantings
and blow-hard charismatics.
Don’t eat that damn white food.
Drop your spoon. Democratic
spice sears away imbued
hatred. Cayenne for sharp
ears. Cinnamon for sweet
unity. Pomegranate
and garlic will relieve
your appetite for lies
and curse the evil eye.

Protection from Authority

I want to say no knee
crushing a black man’s neck,
no main arteries wrecked
by bullets. No SUVs
police drive with sick ease
through protesters to break
their bodies and brave campaign—
wipe out racist disease

I want my no to protect from
those who serve and protect,
milk of kindness to be stronger
than brutal hands, dissent from
power’s story to collect
us all and end this slaughter.

Protection from Being Led Astray

Attend to miracles—
the lame suddenly jumping,
the healing gift of King
Yahweh, the criminals’
denials, syllables
designed for maiming, numbing
principles, and succumbing
to hate. Keep your ear muscles
complex. A topography
invisible to tyrants,
where turtles and violets
topple kleptocracy
and clean green welcomes migrants,
makes home from non-violence.

Aliki Barnstone

Aliki Barnstone is a poet, translator, critic, editor, and visual artist. Among her publications are eight books of poetry; the most recent of which is entitled, Dwelling. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Missouri and served as poet laureate of Missouri from 2016-2019.


Corina Dross

Corina Dross is an artist, writer, astrologer, and activist best known for her illustrated card deck, Portable Fortitude. In 2018, Corina Dross Artwork merged with Abacus Corvus, the illustration duo that includes Corina and her sister Jo Mosser. Since 2014, Corina has been working as an astrologer at Flax and Gold. She also writes horoscopes, teaches classes, and makes art inspired by astrology. As of 2021, Corina lives on Lenni Lenape land, known as Philadelphia.


Selected Talisman Poems

Aliki Barnstone & Corina Dross