Alison Prine


peonies in bloom
remind a woman
of the best sex of her life

at night I cut blossoms
from all the neighbor’s yards
to honor my mother’s infidelity

she holds a cigarette to her lips
in the last photograph of her
before the accident

every week I take one cigarette
from the pack and smoke it in homage
to all women who try so hard to be good
until they can’t


the path backward is made of quicksand
and the heavy breath of horses

my mother’s lover is back there
a mosaic of other people’s stories

it is hard to distinguish each element
locust blossoms falling from high branches
a full ashtray on the kitchen table
the smell of hard rain

posture of a woman ready to step
from one life to another


I was small when I got lost in a pasture
somewhere close to home yet unrecognizable

I try to calm this memory of horses
and grasses as I survey the trail

I hear my parents fighting in the distance

the heart of a larger animal
beats in my small chest


you can see my dead mother
in the language of my hands

here the grass is wet
with spittle bugs and dew
a pasture with three horses

it is very early in the past


I wonder if she felt heard
or only seen
in a certain light

I wonder if she wanted in
or wanted out

at the end of the backward path
there are sparks and shards
and an accordion of steel


the shadow of the locust tree breathes

the surface of the lake breathes in the darkness

sheets on the empty bed

the mourning dove resting on the pavement

sand on the backward path breathes

the bramble at the edge of the pasture breathes

the dog anxious at the door of the past

snow at the scene of the accident

the child I was

asleep in the wreckage

was breathing

but my mother

the other woman of a stranger




Alison Prine’s debut collection of poems, Steel (Cider Press Review, 2016) was named a finalist for the 2017 Vermont Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Five Points, Harvard Review and Prairie Schooner among others. She lives and works in Burlington, Vermont. Visit her at