Emma Binder




I said I'm gonna paint flames on my truck and drive back to Wisconsin, TONIGHT.

I'm sick of this world where there's one kind of twilight and it's green.

Like marshlight through the pane of a transparent mirror.

My eyes pink with the quartz of a trapped spell.

While your heart is a whetstone on which to sharpen rock.

Alice you could make my hand a blade, a pebble, quick or slow, a lightswitch, a lighter, a pen.

I wanna waste my brain on a dream.

Burn up in a temple of flame and never recover.

I don't care if I get hurt is what I'm saying.

But I say that now.

Soon my hands will be haunted with the darkness of imagined purpose.

I'll wake up and groom water over rock with aimlessness.

Scouring a road.

A road wide enough for truck tires and crossbones, spit and the rain of an entire year let loose.

At the end of this road will be the bright technicolor twilight that I grew from a single chord into a staircase.

There is the twilight of your one eye and the other.

There is the twilight of your mouth, your voice.




An acre of me burned red, another gold. I was waiting on the porch

for you to recognize me. A car-crash when you did, like diamonds

in a kiln. Easy ride the interstate, stallion oh

stallion, midnight blue with a crescent

on her snout. A birthmark on your shoulder. Hurtle

down the dead end, your hands chainlinked

in mine. The pain in my muscles sang like mules

for their mothers. Remember the Angel we heard

on the radio? If only I could remember how the song

unspooled, simple

but a rodeo, all whiplash and wonder. Like the joy of watching

you misbehave on purpose. In the shade of a cottonwood

tree I cupped your gloom and braid, clutched


in the fist like reins and stuttered. I didn't know how to 

do it right and convince you. Boiling with the hearty

blood that meant to survive you, in the park

or in the bed, gripping cutlass or Old 

Crow, one of us throwing our head back while the other

peered down at heaven. 




These come from a collection called Country Songs for Alice, which are country songs and poems in equal measure. I love the artifice and melodrama of country music, the sequins and soot, the big skies and long drives. As Scott McClanahan says: “Music from outer space full of men wearing sparkly suits and cowboy hats.” My favorite country song right now is “Give Me a Ride to Heaven, Boy" by Terry Allen, which is about being carjacked by Jesus.