Julia C. Alter


O make me a vessel, make me
more boat on ocean than hollow
container. Contain the thunder-
gray ocean. Make me more ocean
than shipwreck. Wreck me less.

Oblong green, stop my blood-
stream from emptying
the glitter out of my brain,
like so many mornings after
the rave is over. The rage is over—
sticky dizziness, an eye’s
bewitched twitching.

O make the ache
stop snaking through
my bleak thoughts and I
swear I will bow down
to every earthworm, and finally
learn the names of the flowers.


Even/after/all this time/ the sun never says to the earth/you owe me/look/what happens/with a love like that/it lights the whole sky

When I burn a photo of myself
in too-pale makeup, red nailed
graceful fingers laced
around the long neck of a bong

When the baby comes, I am purple
butterfly wings, pinned

When I burn a letter to my maiden
self and give the girl that would slink
into cars with strange men to the fire

When the linea negra recedes
and my belly is bone
white again

When I dance and don’t think
about the baby for two hours it feels
like fireworks. Not blowing
something into oblivion,
but making a darkness
sharpen and pulse

When I learn that fireworks were invented
in medieval times to ward off evil spirits

When thoughts about the baby are evil spirits

When thoughts about the baby light the whole sky—
a love like that

When I give him the first blowjob since the baby
that isn’t for him, but for me—a love like that

When I feel my mother’s colon
cancer already a phantom bee
that won’t quit buzzing in my gut

When I learn to step away from the mirror
to see myself more clearly, my own breath
no longer smudging up the glass

When I can’t get my mother to quit
buying shit for the baby. I see her mind
tricks her into thinking she has nothing
else to offer, and she buys it

When my mother becomes a mirror
I can’t step away from

When she told me you don’t have the body
for short skirts
at twelve years old, and I didn’t
put one on again until this morning

When my therapist asks, does your mother love you
unconditionally? and I say of course, but…

When my mother becomes clear glass
I look through

When my mother becomes clear glass
I shatter

Julia C. Alter lives and writes in Burlington, Vermont. Recent poems have found homes in Rogue Agent, CALYX, and SWWIM Every Day.