Three Poems

Emily Alexander


Considering the year I thought
bad year
the river hemmed in
a fur collar of snow
my coat blown open to reveal
another coat to no one
distinguishable behind the leftover frost
cross-hatched on windshields
I miss being miserable the old way
everything terrible kind of funny and Liv
and I in the rhinestoned cage of our hangovers
watching wannabe skyscrapers poke holes
in the darkening firmament
like our whole lives came down to this suburban balcony
then just kept going
now the internet is full of pigeons in cowboy hats
and I am lonely as a cello
or a fossil flung from itself
in the ancient dirt of a drunken empire
I guess I’m glad I’m not a bit part
in a shoebox diorama
and the little loophole of afternoon
for drinking coffee without fear
of a future sleepless night spent staring at the ceiling’s stick-on stars
and how everything is also another thing
that great strange abstract relief in connecting
what appears at first distinct like the cashier’s earrings
were also miniature exit ramps this far from any freeway
there are no freeways here
I wanted to tell her but I was halfway home
my life having arranged itself to this particular pattern
of overstatement and elbows
and those secret codes painted on roads
without anyone asking permission

Barely Audible

John laughs in my real ear near
the Arctic he wears a giant coat
and sails through the blue dark
I wake to here where
fish in their secret rivers
are my best friends and the buoyant
globes of light on the ceiling.
I am trying to be fine
with the whole bad world.
I watched a series of spotlit
twirls and became older, overwhelmed
by a body briefly balanced
on a big toe. Standing
in the strip mall’s obnoxious
halo I don’t tell John I say I was going to
say something and think of birds
dying by the thousands and evenings
before anyone else
came over a kind of sanding down
barely audible between us. I forget how
to tilt my head that particular way
I think or something
shifted. Still the stars
make me goddamn all over
the place and John is walking
through his little town of snow plows
and restaurants, the single skyscraper
that’s really a silo
telling me something brand new.

This Part of Life

Everyone here loves the outdoors and I love the stranger
brushing his hair in a thrift shop window. I love little
bouillon cubes and castle-shaped houses and house-
shaped hot air balloons. At dawn the city screws
its skyline in everyone
walks one way until the designated hour
they walk the other—stockbrokers’ silent troves
of moneyed grief beneath the marquees of cheap
motels missing all the letters
for sleep. I’m in the part of life
where you say this is just how it is
I guess to derive something maybe a little noise
from these intermittent flashes of light.
The fountain keeps babbling and I keep loose
track of the ocean’s dwindling oxygen
and the at least I don’t know
fifteen real human beings with a passion for fracking.
Then at the museum I was distracted
from the art by the art
students’ easels, the slight disfigurements of thighs I love
the beholding and shuffling on
of everyone. Outside it’s five
hundred years later and I’ve become an ancient
conflation of vacancies
and inarticulable confusions who cares
about only a few words
in a certain order and one person talking to another.
Emily Alexander eats food and lives in Idaho. Her work has been published in Hobart Pulp, Puerto del Sol, and Penn Review.