This Is A Test: Poetry by Alicia Mountain

This Is a Test

Do you recoil like you should
when the boy says clean
to talk about his body?

In the crook of your arm
you cradle a bruise
like a gray-blue quarter.

Yesterday a nurse asked
how you do with needles—
fine as long as
you don’t see it go in.

When we lived in the city
it was swabs in our cheeks
and the longest twenty minutes
between us.

Now we have days of dreaming
slow symptoms into ghosts.

You know the phone call
will say you are fine.
But if it doesn’t?
But you know—

Cowardice is using odds for comfort,
though the center of your fear
is the selfish death you want
made noble.

You imagine friends with film cameras
posing you in good light.
They sit with you for hours,
praise the work
that went unpublished,
confess that if you’d ever been single
long enough, who knows.

The seizures, the lesions,
the lymph nodes that throb
against what’s left
don’t get you off the same way.

Give up the pathetic hope you’ll die.
Say clean and get inside him.
Wear your tiny fading bruise.

—by Alicia Mountain


Alicia Mountain is a poet, educator, and activist at the University of Montana. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barrow Street, Witness, and Cactus Heart. Alicia is the recent recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. She is an active volunteer with the Open Aid Alliance, serving Missoula, Montana, and the surrounding community.