Size / / /

CONTENT WARNING:



TO THE ALIENS, LETTER #1
                 (after bingeing Alien and its sequels, with popcorn breath, greasy hands)

In the film version they’ll say I was hypnotized.
They’ll strip me
                                                                                   of autonomy,

lend it to you like a payday loan.

In the film version you’ll be uglier
than you are and I more
                                                                                   beautiful—my hair, its dull shade

of wet sand brightened, lobbed into a hip, asymmetrical bob.

In the film version they’ll give you an articulable
reason and they’ll give me
                                                                                   a disappointing father,

an abusive ex-boyfriend, murky background

trouble to suggest you rescued as much as
ruined me
                                                                                   for everyday life. No, they’ll cut

the latter—no one wants to see how small

their lives can become when no longer isolated
from the universe’s
                                                                                   wealth—today I saved

a wren trapped on my screened porch. I told no one.

One screen is ruined. I do not care. I love
it now, the word, ruin,
                                                                                   I will not give it up—

it makes a history, it makes a maw of history

                                                                                   and eats and eats and eats me up.


TO THE ALIENS, LETTER #2
                 (with violets in my grandmother’s vase; first April after—)

What then, of your needs? Nothing
excessive about your skeletal limbs, your eyes
that seem to cast starlight, the light rain
catches as it slips from a curl of birch skin—

what little sleep you require settles over you
like dry snow. What you dream I do not
anticipate understanding though once—
                                                                                   with your vellumed hands—you
                                                                                                                    drew your visions on my forearm

as if my skin were sand, as if all you wanted
was to be an ocean.

                                 ~

Each day without a thought of you is a forest
where I do not recognize the trees.

Each day without you so arbitrary I keep
a calendar, assign each date a color

to force myself back into the world where
things happen: votes are cast,
                                                                                   storm windows shut,

my rooster’s voice clattering all day like a glass breaking again and again.

Electrons blur and clarify their positions.

Violet. Maroon. Cerulean. Pink. Orange. Tan. Black. Beige.

Eventually I run out. Eventually the softness of gray—

                                 ~

Not once did you appear angry. Not once did you appear
                                                                                                                    sinister, bulky, awkward,

ill-conceived, uncertain, filmy, reckless, ardent, restive,

imaginary, aggressive, transitive, bleary, or rooted—only

a lustrous capacity, your skin gray

but the gray of a glass of water in a dimly lit room,

how it contains and brightens it—here I am,

all that you are not. You’ve infested me

with a ruinous desire: I want you to have been made
less by your contact with me.

                                                                                   But it would appear
                                                                                   you’ve become, strangely, more.


TO THE ALIENS, LETTER #3
                 (midnight, glinting with what could be star-song or rain-bent—)

You’ll like that I noted the fender, its dent
the size of baby’s skull, silvery as moonlight, before
I said yes to the black woman asking me
to buy her five dollars worth of gas.

You’ll like that when I saw her face
I didn’t think of you or anyone—besides her
and me, our black and white bodies subject
to vast power structures, two people

wanting the same thing: to get away.

                                 ~

That she drove an old Dodge Ram, that there was an empty
car-seat in the back, that the windows were glary with bug-splat
and her shoes had holes in them—you wouldn’t care,
though you find shoes satisfying metaphors for the human
condition: one of many foolish armors we place
between ourselves and the world that diminishes us.

                                 ~

Her face.
Call it back for me, as I know you can. As I’ve seen,

in your witness room. In your hall of mirrors.
In—what should we call it?

That undercroft. That austere womb.

                                 ~

You’ve refused my questions
about interstellar capitalism, alien hegemonies,
collective consciousness, refused
to translate yourselves:

All of it a single hair balanced on a fingertip:
yours, mine. Your breath blowing it away.
Then you snap (I taught you that) and it
comes back.

It comes back.

                                 ~

She drove away and stole nothing from me.

But how small I felt—you say you can’t
bring change or take me—

why do I ask, when, like a child
requesting permission to stay
up past its bedtime, I know the answer.

What does it hurt? She asked me

and, as certain as my body is, I wanted

to say, no, sorry. Or better: nothing.



Amie Whittemore is the author of the poetry collection Glass Harvest (Autumn House Press). Her poems have won multiple awards, including a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and her poems and prose have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Nashville Review, Smartish Pace, Pleiades, and elsewhere. She is the Reviews Editor for Southern Indiana Review and teaches English at Middle Tennessee State University.
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