I came out of a beach
sex dream to doves cooing,
coaxing the moaning
I imagined spilling from you.
I imagine you—far from me,
far from the tall windows
of Calle Tabasco—
in your troublesome sedan,

I haven’t drunk from the tap
but I got strep throat
which made me small
and embarrassed. The fever
broke and returned
broke and returned like the sea.

The other night, I woke up
cold and slick with sweat,
my shirt soaked through and
clinging to me in the dark.

The next day, when it
had become hard to swallow
and the Tylenol didn’t work
and I was afraid and even
water hurt, I opened
my mouth in the mirror
like a wound and used
the flash on my phone.

I took a picture and everything
was enflamed, bright blood
vessels on my soft palette,
the gagging part engorged.
Diagnostic and pornographic,
I zoomed in inside.

I saw what I saw so I went to
a counter beneath a neon sign.
I said my rehearsed lines:
pienso que necesito amoxicillin,
tengo blanco en mis tonsils.

I try only to love people
and not objects. But I do love
those twin glass vials
of big yellow pills I brought
back from the pharmacy.
They are sitting by the sink,
so handsome and faithful.
I coo to them, I rock them.

I miss you. I haven’t told you
any of this. I don’t know why.
I try to be handsome and faithful,
an object and often a person.

I pull the bedsheet up over
my head to distance the light,
to feel my own breath
breathed back against my face
as if it were yours.

In the dream, I was asking if you
thought you could be quiet
in the warm and unprivate
umbrella shade.

Now the doves are overcome
by a louder chirping, by the ringing
bell of the trash collector,
the engine of car that must be
getting someone to work.

When I come, I come back
into my body. No one else
hears me moan or how low
my swollen voice is
when I say yeah yeah yes
to you to myself.

No one clings to me after,
not even my shirt. Not even my
embarrassment for very long.
In the bathroom I wash
my hands of myself. I press
a cold glass vial into each
of my hot eyelids.

When I swallow the big pill
it still hurts but I’m not afraid
anymore of the fever sea,
of being adrift in the dark.
I’m not afraid of being without
you or anyone, which means
I can come back.

Alicia Mountain’s debut collection, High Ground Coward (Iowa, 2018), was selected by Brenda Shaughnessy to win the Iowa Poetry Prize. She is also the author of Four in Hand (BOA Editions, forthcoming Spring 2023). Her chapbook, Thin Fire (BOAAT Press), was selected by Natalie Diaz. Dr. Mountain was a Clemens Doctoral Fellow at the University of Denver and the 2020-21 Artist in Residence at the University of Central Oklahoma. Mountain serves on the Board of Directors for Foglifter Journal and is a Consulting Editor at the Kenyon Review. She is a lesbian poet, based in New York City where she teaches at Columbia University and in the Writer’s Foundry MFA program at St. Joseph’s College. Keep up with her on twitter at @HiGroundCoward and join her mailing list for updates and offerings.