Listen:

Like a wrapped gift I had put off opening because the shake of it said
I got right answers in me. And I have been holding the map
in a fog so thick I can’t see the length of my arm.
So this cosmo quiz of income I’m counting on to make sense of
how we were never married, but I dream more than I sleep now.
Of how the fire alarm went off for twenty minutes at midnight,
hungry for a nine-volt, and hitting it with a broom handle
felt like shaking a baby.

My neighbor drives his kids four hours one way
to see their mom and she will still be locked up for years.
Someone abandons a wheelchair in the snow in front
of my house and somebody else shovels a bent path around it.
When they test my blood they ask have you ever exchanged sex
for drugs or money or something that you needed?
There must be a write off in all of this.

In the number of boxelder bugs trapped against storm-windows,
in the growing mole on my left breast, in the way a woman
puts her hot tongue to it long enough that I forget
my grandfather’s melanoma, my Aunt Barb’s mastectomy,
in who claims each of us and how they do it, how the tattoo
won’t come off, how we are so many dependents,
how one headlight will do for now.

We expect a tear-away check in the mail some weeks
towards summer, those of us who didn’t stack enough
in the black. I recycle the magazines wearing strangers
names that I don’t call to cancel because I am alone
enough already. And when the check does come the
watermark reads leave this town, leave the state altogether,
like a receipt stamped no returns, no exchanges.
You can’t undo what you have done.

Alicia Mountain

Alicia Mountain is a poet and PhD candidate at the University of Denver. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Witness, Zone 3, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. Alicia's work was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. She won an Academy of American Poets College Prize in 2014 and was a 2015 Idyllwild Fellow. Her unpublished full-length manuscript was a semifinalist for the 2015 St. Lawrence Book Award and a notable manuscript for the 2016 BOAAT Book Prize. Alicia received her MFA at the University of Montana in Missoula. She has also worked as a case manager for people living with HIV.