Symmetry: earth and sky / Tobi Alfier


Symmetry: earth and sky

poems by

Tobi Alfier

ISBN: 978-1-59948-804-2, 104 pages, $15 (+ shipping)

Release Date: June 3, 2020

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominated poet whose poems have appeared in Arkansas Review, The Chaffin Journal, Chiron Review, Coe Review, Gargoyle, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Los Angeles Review, among other journals in the United States and abroad. She is married to poet and photographer Jeffrey C. Alfier. Previous work was published under Tobi Cogswell. Tobi is also the co-editor of the San Pedro River Review. You may contact her at

Reading this collection is like driving a long, full day through the desert, scenes from here and now flashing past in sharp details, the radio “ghosting with notes of remembered music,” with a chorus of voices telling you stories so familiar they might well be your own. Then, near the book’s end, you pull off the freeway, your mind filled with all the memories evoked by the stories and miles, and settle into the one bar still open, where “the bartender’s son/ does homework in a corner,// hidden from the girls/ and the occasional inspector.” And Tobi Alfier is there, your dream bartender, the one “with sympathy and an overpour,” who will help you mark “the difference/between what was lost, and what never was.” Which is all to say this is a book built of simple, necessary things that grow rich with Alfier’s lyric rendering, that Symmetry: earth and sky is one hell of a good journey. ~Jessica Jacobs, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going


After Rolf Jacobsen


I am the knot
that keeps the sail full and strong.
The compass guiding safe passage
as you turn toward home.

The hand of the angel you turn to,
who reads the braille of your face,
holds you with grace and mercy.

I am the leaves of the trees in winter
that float in the cool evening breeze.
I kiss your hair, shelter your shoulders
as you walk gently in the shadows.

I am a fleeting image, always fond,
ever near. The way you loved your children
the moment they were born, smooth stones,
or the color blue.



The Old Country


Trains sit snug and tucked together, like row houses on Flatbush. Rust, green, squarish and rounded, lovely to think of them traveling city to city, clacking away, delivering families home or aiding those running away to new lives, hopeful and exciting. It’s doubtful they’re as comfortable as houses, built for sturdy secure immobility, especially in winter. Still, a sleeping car is made for sleeping, while a barrel full of branches can be stoked for heat.

Some of our great grandparents came from one to the other, memorialized at Ellis Island. Stories passed down in languages forgotten, spoken late in the night so the sleeping young ones learn English, remain mystified by a life they will never know. All history here is resigned to its scars, some travelers more fortunate than others.

Will you ever go back—to the air heavy with the scent of coal, the twisting massacre of awkward language on the tongue, row upon row of silent trains, deep and angry February wind rushing through broken windows, announcing winter in the cruelest way. Let’s remain in Brooklyn— a brilliant compromise, like the muffled chant of boots through snow that needs no explanation.



Mornings at the Stadt Café


The waitress knew:
he took his coffee light,
and he took it early.
This visitor, boots muddied,
neck turning brown with the sun,
strolling the cobbled streets
through fields to the roads
of his imagination.

A broom smelling of cinnamon
on a wall every texture of brown
takes him back. The next
village over in any direction
has that same smell, those same textures.
Mutter’s cottage. When as a boy
they went on break from school.
Now a bakery. Still, the fragrance
the same as the underside
of Greta’s hair, Her farm-girl beauty
fragile as a wilting wildflower,
her embroidered apron with pockets
holding kuchen wrapped in handkerchiefs,
one each.

He could write his whole story
each morning at the Stadt Café,
but ventures out instead to read
the next chapter among the grasses
and crumbling sheds, the dark soil,
the remembered earth.



The Story of Remembered Light


In one version of this story
you daydream of women in summer silks—
they sit poised at outdoor cafes, check
aging faces in cracked compact mirrors.
They look at the lines around their eyes,
sip on cappuccino with biscotti in the slowly
dimming sky. They have no room for you
in any version—

you, a man who softly pads along the backstreets
of seaboard cities like a feral cat, whose shadow
never leaves. Your only conversation is with a “Diamond Lil”
of a housefrau innkeeper, who rents rooms by the week,
pistachio walls and lights like late hours enough
to beat down any rough sod, an ancient coat
more welcome than rooms that smell of coal
and last night’s booze and “roll your owns”.

In the room next to yours, a young couple
spoons exquisitely in the tiny bed like nesting doves
in the eaves of Our Lady of Grace. Their whispered
words a fog of hymns and innocence.
They have a window while you do not,
and they seek their naïve truths as the day turns
dark as fairytale forests. Bring them a kindness
in the gauzy blush of morning, a loaf of bread
that scents the waking streets, they will thankfully
welcome you to their version…of this story.