Downhill in dusk past the derelict school
whose margins the city keeps spraying
with a pesticide that wiped out a hive
in the community garden. My girl clipped
pepper spray to my keychain, saying
tough guy, when you take the alley behind
the motel, at the end of the day you’re still
a girl. At the end of the day the empty jar
of my soup lunch. The Ziploc bag that I
will sponge clean and turn inside out,
undignified on the kitchen counter. Formica
is a trademarked word. Formica was developed
as a replacement for mica. I don’t want to be too
literal when I say that whatever could be mined here
has been mined. Shiny and crumbling, flaking,
fish-scaling, dislodged. The other kitchen deceit
is how aluminum foil dipped in water brings chrome
to a luster. Brings the Craigslist guy’s wallet out
when you can’t keep on paying insurance on the bike
but, rustless, it runs like a gunsight. Crossing
an intersection on the diagonal, I miss my mom. I miss
the Austrian neighbor-lady I called Mrs. Terminator
Grandma. But only in my head. Embarrassed
at having given her enough thought to love her.
Nocturne at Parting
And when she said goodnight she meant goodnight.
Do not confuse it. Step and step again.
The gray dusk settles, silty, into its
now powdered leaves. The heel that you will drag
until you die is muffled, is made good.
And when she said goodnight she meant good night,
good boy, good dog, belly up for a love
that scratches. Night so good when left alone
it tore nothing to shreds, it made no mess.
And you, who want for mess, left with a nod.
And when she said goodnight she named you night,
a gallant darkness. You are everywhere,
the shadowless owl, the bright hunted eyes.
A fearsome gallop, back to the east wind,
wounded and sanguine and mercenary.
Alicia Mountain’s first collection, High Ground Coward (Iowa, 2018), was selected by Brenda Shaughnessy as a winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize. She is also the author of the digital chapbook Thin Fire, selected by Natalie Diaz and published by BOAAT Press. She is a lesbian poet, PhD student, and assistant editor of the Denver Quarterly. Mountain earned her MFA at the University of Montana in Missoula. Keep up with her on twitter at @HiGroundCoward.