Birds on a Wire

by E. Kristin Anderson

(after Prince)


What would you say if I told you tonight that half a Klonopin

isn’t enough? My toes are shaking. My piano is possessed

and my eyes will not stay closed. I open my mouth so you can

see the colors on my tongue. Look at this false start—

ink smeared on the page, dirty fingers curled around nothing.

My guitar is a gaping maw. My printer consumes toner

like a struggling addict. Watch me affix postage stamps

to melodies. Shout into the vapor, curl around telephone lines.

My dad called to make sure I wasn’t having an emergency.

I told him I was afraid of falling down and running out of money.

He had to pack a suitcase. It rains and the cracked dirt soaks it up.

It rains and I hear my name in the echo. Jokes make my friends

comfortable and I sink deeper into a pillow, twitch like a shadow

on the wall, yell at the TV. I am afraid to watch you. What I hear

is its own real. That real, with half a Klonopin, is enough.

I email friends. I switch on lights. Curl my whole body into itself

until I am invisible, except not, because there is no such thing.

There is only beauty and emptiness. Watch: I will empty myself.

Give me a tambourine, and I’ll dance as it all leaves me—

every birthday, dream, death, try, do, fail. It lands in a puddle

at my feet and sinks into the sand. What is your truth? This is mine—

the one I can’t tell my father while he’s on vacation. I ate

four cupcakes tonight and now I’m awake, looking for America

in a solid oak headboard, strings falling over me as if I

could remember where they go on those black and white lines.


E. Kristin Anderson is a Pushcart nominated poet and author who grew up in Westbrook, Maine, and is a graduate of Connecticut College. She has a fancy diploma that says “B.A. in Classics,” which makes her sound smart but has not helped her get any jobs in Ancient Rome. Kristin is the co-editor ofDear Teen Me,an anthology based on the popular website. Her YA memoir The Summer of Unraveling is forthcoming in 2017 from ELJ Publications.  She now lives in Austin, Texas, where she works as a freelance editor and is trying to trick someone into publishing her full-length collection of erasure poems based on women’s and teen magazines. She blogs at and tweets at @ek_anderson.