Alicia Mountain


In the season of great triumph and worry
I feared swallowing my sutures
          and did,
kept toggling between pro- and anti-
          biotics, coughing and snotting.

The wet Portland night of many opportunities and successes, many-headed joy,
drove myself toward urgent care, behind the wheel with breath pain
          aching not to hurt anyone else on the road as I went.
Told the dispatcher I think it hurts where my heart is.

I was taking a lot of vitamins
          and things that couldn’t hurt.
And that wasn’t the problem
                    except for the way they held telescope
                    to my ableist fear of age and decline.

After searching every remedy page for solution,
          for assurance, I find
the closest diagnosis of all the ache at my center:
          there is no superfood or supplement 
          to cure your sprained thinking
                    that your body should be under your control. 

Days earlier in panic
I insisted my sister explain
every symptom of bile and gall
that foreshadowed her extraction.
          Even if something is wrong, she said,
                              it won’t be wrong always.

The general practitioner told me,
I can only prescribe these to you 10 at a time, without refill.
          Do you understand why?
And I understand why,
          which is enough to make me to worry
          about the addictions I don’t have.

And that version of me that sits, gown open to the front, alone at emergent care,
          not having told anyone I’m there.
That body with a wire to each ankle and wrist, six at my left breast
          to read into my chest.
She knows without being told
          that the EKG is fine—
                    that the phantom grip beneath ribs
                    palms sweating the steering wheel
                    sun-hidden skin under overhead light
          each owes much of its debt
to my cumbersome refusal to fall apart, even in small embodiments.

The new pain was the obvious certainty
that this graph of voltage and time would show no trouble.
Nothing to be fixed.
          That the attack acutely striking where my heart belongs
is my own incommunicable fear
of losing a life I have only just begun to love.

Alicia Mountain is the author of the collection High Ground Coward (Iowa 2018), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Thin Fire (BOAAT Press 2018). She is a lesbian poet based in New York and the Clemens Doctoral Fellow at the University of Denver. Keep up with her at and @HiGroundCoward.