An Engagement with Alexander Scalfano

by Kathryn DeFranco

“I am nothing / use my body as a bridge” writes Alexander Scalfano in “Unification”. By way of sharp self-proclamations, Scalfano develops a prominent sense of self in his two new poems “There’s No One Here” and “Unification,” published in the online journal Jellyfish. Scalfano’s visual imagery and short lines create a frantic need for self-awareness and desperation with the speaker’s persona. Although the issue of finding one’s identity is often associated with confusion and denial, Scalfano has the speaker of both poems approach life through the lens of other living creatures to help find their identities. Alexander Scalfano’s strong theme of personal identity and method of pursuing it are strikingly similar between both of his poems. 

Indirectly showing his true self, the speaker’s visual imagery reveals color and shape to his evidently feigned persona. This is especially relevant in “There’s No One Here,” in which he starts off with “in my fox suit / no one knows why I am red,” giving the impression that he appears one way to all who see him, but this is just a mask. The animal he uses as a metaphor is not the one he associates himself with but rather the “suit” covering himself. This is clear a couple of lines later where he writes, “I am cloaking my color.” At the end of the poem the speaker emphasizes this idea, writing “when I meet a fox in human skin / he will say hello empty animal,” juxtaposing his “fox suit” with “a fox in human skin.” The speaker is fully aware throughout the poem that the person he plays is not in fact the person within him; the suit is empty of its natural contents. The end of this poem is interesting, as Scalfano writes, “I will say yes to false yes to poor tailoring;” the speaker acknowledges that a true fox would know this poor tailored suit as being untrue. Scalfano ends the poem with “and from my mouth the devil will / bright his eyes and leap away bushytailed,” portraying the speaker’s idea that as soon as he admits taking on his false self, the evil that got the best of him will be revealed and leave his “rearranged…prism” with defeat.

By way of associating the speaker with a different embodiment again, Scalfano has the speaker of “Unification” use an ant’s lens through which to find his identity. The speaker expresses his acknowledged deviation with the world around him saying, “I want to build a house / where only an ant can find me”. Scalfano uses this tiny insect as a metaphor most likely because the speaker seems to identity himself as something small and insignificant compared with the vast world around him. He is aware of his place in the world and brings himself down to the size of an ant to bring awareness to the reader of the significance of life to any living thing, “carry the drink / prince of wings / queen of child.” Scalfano gives an ant’s life regal adjectives such as “prince” and “queen” while noting their regular activities which makes the insignificant all of a sudden very relevant. Scalfano emphasizes this idea as the speaker directly compares human to ant, “we are ant for we are many.” This need for association with some similar identity is enhanced by his purposeful lines, which are structured to leave an impression, as they are quick and declarative with Scalfano’s frequent use of personal pronouns.

Scalfano’s structure, point of view, and punctuation very clearly aid his ideas toward his identity and self worth in the contrasting world around him. In both “There’s No One Here” and “Unification,” each line is short, lacks punctuation, and holds a purpose. This gives the poems a frantic feeling, which evokes each speaker’s need for an understanding of himself and the world around him. The speaker has a first person point of view in both poems and only uses capitalization for the personal pronoun “I.” This functions not only to emphasize the importance of his self-identity, but also to show that the speaker is not physically the creature he relates himself to, rather he directly compares himself to it from an outside being to convey his sureness in his own individuality. This brings a lot of self-awareness into the poems, which brings the speakers to life.

Alexander Scalfano uses both structure and reoccurring theme through his two poems “Unification” and “There’s No One Here” as he delves into the usual confusion and doubt of one’s personal identity and how it relates with the surrounding world. One can almost say the two speakers are one, or at least a representation of every human’s journey through self-evaluation and reflection.

Kathryn DeFranco is currently a first-year student at Boston University. This is her first publication.