The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Alison Prine

Portrait of the Mother I Don’t Remember


Her brother told me she looked like a movie star
so that’s how she tends to move –
slow dancing with my father on a night
thick with honeysuckle, under flickering stars.

Not long after she died her mother
tucked me into bed in her South Side apartment
and sang me a song so sad
I forgot how to sleep.

The images slowly swaying
between there and forgetting.
All the bits collected
from the cutting room floor.

Smell of developer, stop bath, fixer.
The grain of the images rough as salt.
In the end every portrait is about light –
where and how you find it falling.

Somewhere in a white room
there is a an old notebook
with a portrait of my face
that I sketched with a soft pencil

so many years ago
it looks like someone
who could be my daughter –
only no one could.



Alison Prine



A blue peacock used to pace
the steel perimeter of a two story cage
in the skylighted courtyard
of the South Hills Village Mall.

I would stand and watch him
my mouth stained with sugared ice
as the silver escalators slid
in their endless loop behind him.

At 11 pm when the lights would finally dim
he fanned out his iridescent tail. Sometimes a bird
can learn to love the darkness.

If the next big thing I do is die
I know I will do it well.
I’ve practiced since I was a girl –

first the click of the latch
then uncoiling in slow motion
sweeping my heavy colors high
up through the open glass.




ALISON PRINE's debut collection of poems, Steel, won the Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in January 2016. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Green Mountains Review, Hunger Mountain, and Prairie Schooner among others. She lives in Burlington, Vermont where she works as a psychotherapist.



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