Alicia Rebecca Myers is a poet and essayist who received her MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. Most recently, her poem "Winter Solstice" was selected by Kaveh Akbar for inclusion in Best New Poets 2021, and she was a finalist for the 2022 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize. Her writing has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Gulf Coast, jubilat, Threadcount, FIELD, and The Rumpus. Her chapbook of poems, My Seaborgium (Brain Mill Press) was winner of the inaugural Mineral Point Chapbook Series, and she is currently at work on her first full-length poetry manuscript. You can follow her efforts at writing, parenting, and open water swimming on Instagram @aliciabecca.
Our cat Girlfriend came back after going missing for three and a half years. I found her sprawled beside a caged tomato plant—
the circular wire and her matted body together forming some forgotten hieroglyph:
grail or luck or voucher. In the dark recesses of a cabinet, I located a can of salmon originally intended to help our family survive pandemic spring. I emptied its contents into Pyrex, but she refused the oily mound.
I crouched down. I wanted a better look at her forehead lump the size of a camera on an underwater drone sending photos back of trenches to the surface. Her eyes bored through me—
it was clear she’d returned for the known quantity of yard or the last say or both. “Stay,” I coaxed, as if I retained any power. I walked to GreenStar
in a daze to purchase cat food, thinking how strange it is to suddenly be doing again a thing you’d assumed kaput. When the cashier ringing me up asked
how my day had been, I told him the story,
speaking it aloud for the first time, leaving out the lump, and he started to cry. We both did.
It’s impossible to extract reliable details from you. Are kids really licking lollipops under their masks on the bus? In gym, does everyone wait evenly spaced beside the only balance beam? I sit you down with the printed school lunch menu and start asking questions: first about the Fiesta Wrap, then the West African Greens, then the Power Hummus. Have you at least tried the carrots? I want to conceptualize three feet of distance. Maybe six cans of stacked tomatoes or the length of a halved doorway. “Wait,” you say, “there is this one thing.” Your eyes look mischievous. I’m expecting to hear about last Tuesday’s entree: Chocolate Chip Pancakes. “So, we have this red line running through the cafeteria. It’s a piece of tape. Part of it might be green, actually. My friend Alex sits on the other side of it. And every day” — this is where you pause to smile — “I move my chair the tiniest bit closer to him.”
his is one of the many things you learn about mourning when examining it at close range: It’s idiosyncratic, anarchic, polychrome.
The crimson feathers of a departing cardinal
The black cap of a chickadee that lands on a feeder at a rehab facility (the man’s family can’t
visit; his daughter stood outside, attached it to his window)
The polypropylene mask’s pale yellow, the electric golden of the unicorn horn print meant for a
The clear tubing of a ventilator, the denim sky
The bright lime of the nozzle held by the eighty-year-old woman who pumps gas for the very first
time (her husband in the hospital)
The murky brown of phlegm, the white of halogen, the pine of the waterfowl decoys to be
auctioned off at an estate sale
The purple of fear, the currant of cloister
The gray of denial like a bedside rail
The light blue flame at the center of burning, the violet anger, the color behind shut eyes.
PARTY IN THE U.S.A.
You say you’re ready: you’ve lined up your new pair of red velcro Adidas by the door to the mud room. Instead of books at bedtime, you ask if we can watch the video for “Party in the U.S.A.” During the opening guitar riff, Miley arrives in ripped shorts at a drive-in, her swagger neighborly. Your hands shoot up from underneath the covers. “I love this song!” Another closeup of cowboy boots, followed by footage of Miley leaning against corrugated tin intercut with scenes of an even bigger crowd. “I don’t understand what’s happening!” you shout, now out of bed and moving your hips. It all feels very meta, this idea that music comforts the singer who comforts us. By the time the monster American flag unfurls, you’ve asked me what she has to be nervous about. For a moment, I consider telling you how in my twenties, I dressed up one Halloween as Miley Cirrus: performer on top, clouds on the bottom. How tomorrow, when you wave goodbye to me from the front steps of a school building I’m not allowed to enter, I’ll wave back encouragingly, stumble home on wisps.
The way to play the theremin is to never touch
the instrument. Interference creates melody. Even
swaying can alter the electromagnetic field.
Our house shakes from the vibration of trucks
on the deteriorating highway. I mostly feel
these tremors in the bedroom when I set out
to write, distracted by the sound of a circular
saw or the shadows made by moving hands
in videos of theremin players. I prefer not knowing
what will come next. In fifth grade, when I got
my first period in Morehead Planetarium,
it suddenly made sense, the way a curved mirror
gathers and concentrates light. The distance
between what I intend to write and what
I actually do is a kind of confirmation
and faith in prospect, in span, in air.
MOTH SPOTTED SIPPING A SLEEPING BIRD'S TEARS
Barbed straw lifted and plumbed the double lid, pilfering salt from secluded corners.
Talc wings rustled in night reconnaissance. Air attuned to what the mouth tasted, slip- stream of sipping. Feeder, sleeper, watcher:
their configuration stirs a reader in her distant kitchen. Insomniac
at the counter, she searches for the last
jalapeño, remembering the dream
of lightness, of becoming a maiden-
hair fern whose variegated fronds repel wet. Wide awake in shadow, she finds it:
takes a knife and removes the fibrous stem, curved proboscis, unsure if she’s more bird,
moth, or scientific observer. Flight
feels like a foreign and improbable
essential. Even the quieted dream
of shed droplets attaches itself to subterranean rhizome. She intends to slice the pepper as a topper for peanut butter toast. How her family balks at that! More remarkable to touch stem to the moistened inner triangle of her right eye while seeing for the first time her reflection in the blade’s luster: feather, powder, woman.