Alice Said

Max Stephan


…but Alice said she watched you

worm your way

back to that West End rabbit hole.

She said she heard you

                                                whispering to ants,

knew why your glossy eyes

were shying, shying, shying from the lights,

the vilifying sounds,

I beg of you, you must not tell!


the hookah-smoking caterpillar

perched behind your eyeball,

chanting gentle hymns about

the beauty found in alleyways,

the altered shapes,

the dancing lights,

the feel of vocal chords

                                                still screaming

of smoke,

of silence,

of freezing rain.

And Alice said it wasn’t just

the ‘shrooms directing what went down,

but mescaline and opium,

the letting go of cadence, space,

                                                of time –

though all the while keeping tabs

on those who sought advice:

A heavy conversation with John Lennon

illuminating how to craft the world of Lucy’s dreams;

with Nabokov, the Wassons,

the grace in Grace Slick’s voice,

backstage with the Allman Brothers

before the Hammond B-3 went to work.                                                       

Oh, Charles.

Charles.  Lutwidge.  Dawson.

We all were told that you just fancied little girls and story time,

your public image – clean, complete, correct.

But Alice knows.  She knows about the voice

behind the coded trips in double-talk,

the intellect of insects in the underground,

the poker cards, the pain, the pints.

Oh, Alice knows.  She knows the reason why

you made,

            you made her,

                        you made her say:

                                    My head

                                                is free

                                                            at last…


                                                                        My head

                                                                                    is free

                                                                                                at last.




Max Stephan’s writing has appeared in Appalachia, the Christian Science Monitor, the Broad River Review, the Main Street Rag, the Wayfarer, Kestrel, the Rockhurst Review, the Kerf, Slipstream, the Potomac Review, Blueline, the Cimarron Review and the Louisiana Review. Recently Stephan was awarded Fellowship at the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, noted as a finalist in the 2019 Rash Award in Poetry Competition, the 2019 Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Contest, and invited to write the featured story for the upcoming issue of Appalachia honoring the work of Mary Oliver (Winter, 2020). Currently he is wooing publishers with a manuscript entitled “Alice Said” – the first book-length collection of poems solely based on mycology by one author. Stephan teaches at Niagara University, specializing in Contemporary American Poetry; runs a poetry series on campus entitled “Western New York Poets;” and hosts “Second Stage Writers” – a monthly reading in the city of Buffalo, which brings together both young and established voices. Learn more about Max Stephan at: