Three Poems

by Emma Binder

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from Country Songs for Alice




We’ll wait in the truck stop parking lot for the sky’s

                                    gluey torches to catch. They’ll call you a dyke. They’ll call me


a dirty bitch. They don’t know I’m not even

                  a girl. They’ve never known the sensitive, angry texture

of your heart. They’ve never seen you coiled

                                    against a bedspread, gold-cheeked

as if held to flame. Poor,


                  dumb things. No way am I going home over some guy

leaning out his Chevy window who’s never licked dust

                                    off an angel’s palm. He hasn’t even slept

in meadows. He doesn’t know


                  about the washed knives of light in you. He can’t hear

certain notes, like those slipped by mournful ghosts

                                    into radio static, or the whimpers that dogs make

when they miss home. We’ll padlock our names


                  to the soot-stained fence around this lot.

We’ll drive into that big-ass neon diner sign

                                    if someone says we can’t be here. We’ll break

its letters into rhinestones of ice. Are you ready?

                  Get in. Your eyelashes are haloed

in soft dirt and buckwheat. If this is a stage,

                                    you’re the actor who breaks plates,

burns the scenery. They don’t deserve

                  even to be burned by you.




You lived at your mom’s house for a while, cooped up

in the dark carpeted room where she piled laundry. Green lights

from the garage narrowed into ribbons through the blinds.

We tracked dirt inside to make a more perfect world. We watched

the same movie over and over, listened to the same songs. Weed, whites,

and wine. Sweatshirts, denim, and spit. You cut my hair with a straight

razor left in the bathroom by your shithead dad. In a cloudy jar

on the windowsill, light shone through rubble from the moon. I just

found this on the street, you said, holding up a dirty black boot. 

My eagle’s head welded to your hooves. Your mom shouted

through the door: Girls, she called, open up, I need my work clothes.

Small, blonde meadows of hair came ablaze. Every dog

in the neighborhood shivered and skittered to its feet. In the months

ahead, I heard alarms: Love isn’t everything. Can’t keep living

this way. But your voice was milk. That carpeted room

was a furnace in a snowbound country. Little strands

of my black hair clung to your coiled sheets. We’re different,

you said. So we played at mirroring one another. How close

could I get to you? How could the soft-finned animal of your hand

become mine? How many times could we raft through darkness

and survive? The moon rained down in sequins some nights.

When your mom knocked on the door, you put a hand on my mouth

to keep me quiet. The sounds that didn’t leave me spun

into small, silver comets inside my chest.






Alice, you got cool blue stones in the reaches of your fingers.

       You can fix the truck. My hat’s full of rain for you. I can count


on you to hop fences, stoke coals, rear the crooked sapling

       somebody left in a milk pail. You’re a field


lit by a velvet couch on fire. The way you nurture doesn’t mean

       you’re not fierce. You can nurture me, feed me,


and bruise me in a breath. Your blue-gray bruises hide

       candlelight and sugar. In the dark,


steam-thickened cab of my truck, your palms glow like half-dollars.

       Moonlight rubs against a wick of hair,


then slides into a Styrofoam coffee cup and sits there. You know

       what to do. When the guy outside the bar


in Readstown moves like he’ll kill us, you can burn a hole

       in his boot with that moonlight. You can


blind him for a fortnight. Cleave sidewalks

       with your salt-stained gloves. Birds will fly


backwards, eager to hunt mice and lay them

       at your feet. Soft red talon-marks


are proof that they love you, they listen to you, they’re watching

       that light as it drips from your hair. They hover


as they wait to see what you’ll do. I’m hovering,

       too. In the glovebox there’s railroad


spikes, candy, and crumpled maps. You toss your light

       out the window. When the guy outside the bar


raises his fist, it’s like a matchstick lost

       to prairie fire. We hardly even see it,

                                    amidst all that flame.