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Watermarked by Alyson Kissner

After Alyson Kissner

I order root beer floats to act like I’m exploding

the way a child might find beautiful,

shadowing the borderlines between liquid and foam,

between nostalgia and actual preference.

How typical. All night I’ve been begging my hands

to collect me—please, won’t you pick me up

after school?

We’ve been learning fun facts about King Henry VIII

and responsible government, the ways to strip scabs

into nebulous stars. Like potholes or syntax, like rain

racing rain down a window-locked car, I have fallen

for another’s false promises.

I believe my cooled reflection when she tells me I will swallow

8 spiders a year, that penguins find stones to make homes

and not in survival.

Propose to me, I ask of a crystalline moon. Do you not understand?

I am 29, but I’d trade all my wasted time for one good pebble

to prove I am loved.


In every wet dream I remember, I refuse the blue pennies

men spit in my mouth. I live alone on a boat the size of an icecap

although I know I won’t surprise my own destructions, the heat

of your heavenly torso correcting my spine in the night.

Can you tell me how much of my courage is only in poems?

Like a freeze brand, I can imagine clipping my one body

into syllables, each ah a constellation, each hair a vanishing fume

—I answer Alyson Alyson Alyson Alyson

when I am so tired of my own self-obsessions.

It feels too close to reporting the weather.

I made this story up.

I will you the truth about myself

in all the wrong places.


Alyson Kissner is a Canadian-born poet completing her doctorate in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. In 2022, Alyson was co-winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award for Scottish-based poets under 30, as well as shortlisted for the Rebecca Swift Foundation's Women Poets' Prize.


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