Three Poems by Margot Douaihy


It started the way all great things start—by accident. As I danced to your heartbreak, Alanis, the house caught fire. Pittsburgh, 1996, dancing on the sofa, my fists coiled in rage, feral as a child running through Red Rover, bodies fighting for space, & my lit Parliament fell. I was the most closeted kid with the most tragic style in that busted lip of a Rust Belt town. My thrift-store skirt
was unfortunate—the matte-black crust of the scorched sofa, the acrid echo of my lit cigarette falling, falling, still falling, into the past-stained future. Time is the original magic trick & fire is the only science, Alanis. I was so lost then & less lost now, but I still feel that girl rattling inside me like a skeleton key. Do you ever close your eyes as you dance & imagine being someone else, anyone else? Once, in dark gay bar, a boy mistook me for you—“It’s Alanis Morissette!” His eyes delirious. Instead of saying “I’m not Alanis,” I smiled & lit his cigarette with mine. I stole you that night, Alanis. I’m still stealing pieces of women to see myself. At least I quit smoking.



Crushed it! Killed it! Nailed it!
I’m tired of certainty—
lexical combat
every day. What I want
to say is unkill it. Let
the boat float away.
Lose the trail & stay
in the forest.
The unfinished is the only
story worth starting.
Pine needles stippled with rain.
The tiny beat of the cardinal’s
heart. What a lightning
bug thinks of lightning.
Your first crush
who moved to Beirut
before you could
tell her she was cute.



It’s not right, the wind
these days. I stop
the idling car
& think of stronger
trees to plant.

It’s too late,
says a radio voice,
the Earth is too hot.
Mars is our best bet.

More birch fell by the riverbank.
Branches like arms outstretched,
the devastating choreography
of a stomped roach.

It doesn’t matter
& it’s all that matters,
the way I scan
the ground for pennies
to flip—from tails
to heads—leaving
some good luck
& money
for strangers to find.

How many wishes
do we get in this life?
What would they think—
the angels or aliens sailing
past our blue planet—
if they saw me, you,
all us, one by one,
kneeling silently,
out of fear or hope,
turning tiny faces
towards the sun.


Margot Douaihy, PhD, is the author of three books, including Girls Like You (Clemson University Press), a Lambda Literary finalist. Her work has been featured in PBS NewsHour, North American Review, Colorado Review, Madison Review, South Carolina Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Adirondack Review, and Wisconsin Review. She is the editor of the Northern New England Review.

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