Four Poems by Alice Beecher


In this long crooked summer 
our sweetness has turned 
thick as liquor
and rough as sap. 

It takes a long drink 
just to get a sip from you. 
Takes a long hour 
to learn the furrows 
between your brows, 

the whole histories 
you leave handicapped in the silence 
between cigarettes, 

all the hometown and heroin and hollers you have been once, 
all the radicals and radios and rain song you are now. 

I invent a story of you and you invent a story of me. 
You are cups and cups of weak coffee
and a strong breed of knuckles, a quick set of teeth. 
I am witch carved out of cello bones,
a bowl of wild cherries for your wintering. 

I think we are the sweltering of a hot September. 
I think we are the cicadas 
that crawl out from the topsoil 
only once every seven years. 

I think we are the coal-flame 
burning for centuries underground. 

When I first met you you were shivering, 
it was frost in October,
you said something about capitalism and boxed the mountain 
with invisible hands.
You did not bring enough blankets for the night.
You did not bring enough cigarettes for the day.
You had too much else to remember.

(we always have too, too much else to remember) 

It is something that feels less like a heart 
and more like a backbone. 
It is something that feels less like a mountain 
and more like a hollow, 
like a lacking that has ached and ached 
for something it cannot remember.

A Long Way

Hazard Kentucky offer fresh donuts 
frosted in ash-trays 
and gossip for the quilt makers, 
let you finish your cigarette in the gas station 
and sell soda pop cerulean blue 
outside the sleeping apartment buildings, 
under the heavy watch of holler dogs 
and the neighborhood saints 
(the ceramic ave maria beside a 
sudden chorus of dandelions, 
basketballs popping into dusk 
beneath the doughy hands of teenagers) 

Life shows up here in all the wrong places. 
In the graffiti under the 
parking garage 
("Before I die I want to...)
In the lamentations of the 
afternoon drunk, 
In the daffodils growing 
by the green river, 
by the railroads that 
carry nothing but the last cruel bits 
of old dead earth.


the forsythia shrugs a yellow shoulder and 
sharpens a wet tooth. 

a hungry earth growls beneath the ramps 
and the dandelions

and the tulips stiffen their tough lips, 
whisper a mighty prayer 
against the crimson wind.

spring always comes sharper 
than we expect it, 
she some slick flirt
she get cold just when you start to get soft,
just when you start to take off your clothes. 

we must swallow mouthfuls of snow 
before the soil cuts loose. 
we must braid our hair into the briar patches, 
bury our garlic at the root,
accept the sting with the sugar, 
the honey with the rock 
the long silence beneath the sweet talk.


the plane springs over the Shenandoah 
like a cackling throat. 

my hand unwinds 
from the small of your neck 
and braces itself. 

sometimes love is just a knife 
named home. 

If I were kinder I would not 
read such history 

from the stiffening of your jawline, 
the tightening of your thumbs against my shoulders, 
the broadening of the mountains against
this hard geography that holds us 

Alice Beecher is a poet and community organizer living in Whitesburg, Kentucky. Her poetry has appeared in Then And Now, Heartwood Literary Magazine, The Plum Creek Review, and States of the Union, a book of writing about the 2016 Election. She was the 2016 winner of the West Virginia Emerging Writers Contest. 

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