2 Poems (Emily Alexander)

Ranch Vacation in Grandview, Idaho

All the cows here are certain I’ve wasted my life.

Among the tumbleweed and irrigation machines

I stake my momentary claim on these rented

square feet. I admit I was unimpressed by the pictographs

near the river, a couple dim squiggles I squinted at

in sunglasses, preoccupied by the distant dream of waking

pressed against another breath making faint wind,

a thing I haven’t thought about in some time 

though I think about it all the time. 

Now the goats are galloping across the deck

their hooves a kind of wrong thunder cracking up

from the ground, which frightens me initially. 

This is Southern Idaho a place so stupid I can’t stop

laughing I’m laughing so hard. There is a goat on my car.

There is an owl staring down the great joke of my heart. 

I guess I thought this would be fun, something to do

in the open empty range my life has become.

My life has become sitting very still.

My life has become watching the birds.

Smoke Closing In

the horizon and someone 

on a screen. Is this thing on? It’s okay 

if a million years lie between your hand

and its last light slap on a nearby arm attached

to a real person laughing 

those precarious days of pre-winter 

Jade said stuff like a model plane

you can paint any color you want

but it’d be better if it were different.

Then in the city when I lived in the city

I could’ve built a haphazard castle 

on a hilltop overlooking ferryboats 

and several funeral homes instead

I turned shy again

and it didn’t really matter.

Molly came over I’d choose two or three thoughts

I hoped would transfer the essential 

guts of a nameless near-feeling

from me to her or just from me

to say aloud. I hated it there too.

Now it glows unequivocally and Molly’s married.

Sometimes life seems like the moon

of some anonymous planet and I’m a reluctant astronaut

refusing to leave the spaceship.

Mostly it’s just these branches

stippled with ash and bent and the birds who talk

without hands and I’m late 

to send my little spreadsheets

count my little pennies.

Someone’s gotta do it people say 

and I like when they say it I like people

saying things and going 

to the movies to not say things 

in the eerie astonishing dark.

My dream is a freelance train conductor

with a beautiful brain.

My dream is a lover in a pair of red pants

and one good metaphor for trees.


Emily Alexander is from Idaho. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in journals such as Hobart Pulp, Penn Review, and Conduit. She waits tables and lives in Brooklyn. 


image: MM Kaufman