The Cartography of Alice

I can almost chart the distance to her,
those tangled surface streets of vein,
this woman a starred city,
an atlas ring of interstate.

.

It is nearly too much,
the way she leaves each day—
hands fishing in pockets
for a thing she never finds.

.

There is rhythm to this loss.
Each autumn a mouth opening like a gate,
a month of mapmaking for states
I’ll never see.

.

Sometimes our stories are not
our own. The thumbed page
flipped down before a rapture
of quiet or cold or sleep.

.

This is how it should be, I think.
The last snow clinging to the windowpane,
the sun, distant and wary,
but raising its hand to speak.

 

Alice Re-Watches Garden State

What I know about moving on
is nothing

like how it actually works.
The movies never get it right—

there’s no groundswell of viola
lighting up the perfect pink ocean,

no serendipitous park bench
to come together to mourn,

where he would probably place
his hand onto mine like a parent would

the vastness of those palms
that hide my own stubbed fingers.

No, in the movies there are flights
of dishes always splintered,

but no one ever sees the sweeping up,
the shameful dustpan that weighs

in a hand like defeat. The snotty tears
that blotch the face are not kissed

away. We are taught to believe
that if you run, someone will follow,

if you swaddle your sobbing
with shower curtains and steam,

someone will open a door.
But in this world, our flaws are not

enchanting or delightful. There is no final
rainy embrace. The doorknob you watch

will never turn. And no one,
no one ever gets off the plane.

 

 

erin elizabeth smithErin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length poetry collections, The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011).  Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, and Crab Orchard Review.  She teaches in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serve as the managing editor of Sundress Publications.  You can find her online at http://www.sundresspublications.com/erin/

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