three poems

by E. Kristin Anderson

In the Sun I Am Alive and In the Dark I Am Alive
(after The X-Files)

Show me your teeth they say bodies wet and pink
hands thick when they reach for what’s mine. They take off
coats and shoes trail their mud down my legs into my bed
shake me until I spit out the words they want to hear. Doctor

Scully puts her hands inside men and disassembles them
bloody weighs their livers and hearts and pulls every secret
from their guts. And everything is red her hair is red and her hands
are red the intestines a falling rope of red everything except

her lips a soft salmon to remind you she could kiss you
Goodnight— Goodnight forever and my lips are red and full
of teeth and my tongue is red and my manicure the perfect
red to remind you I could reach inside myself inside yourself

at any moment the clock ticking that thin slice of red to measure my
heartbeat the seconds I collect inside my womb as the doctor reaches
inside me to pinch away living flesh an oozing diagnosis a scream
and I cannot tolerate any more hissing at the door another gift to test

and you show me your teeth and they are false and I am
alive— I live elbow-deep in my hemorrhage the cavity of your
demands the ache of paranoia and here is a wooden stake and a cup of tea
and Scully’s scalpel and here I let myself rest clean of your grave dirt.


How to Empty a Boat and Eat the Landscape Raw
(after The X-Files)

There’s a silence that arrives on the road after a certain kind of story—
it can be so hard to breathe in cars. This is disappearance— I become
a cloud of fog if briefly. You can’t turn your back on nature.

Find me, for a minute, a lake. And the frogs sing in the evening
an amphibian chorus as if to affirm their survival. I believe them.
You believe them, too, Scully. The sound kisses your ears a reminder

of our liminal status as human women. But pity the photographer who cannot
look up from his camera so determined to catch the impossible. I’d rather
leave my own impression— even if it’s just in the mud. Some nights

we are all fated to capsize. I might be an emergency the way obsessions
pull me under eat me like I were a fish. Some creatures never stood a chance
and Scully I know you know that. The whippoorwill sings a small comfort.

Be sure to bring a coat and a lantern when you leave. Tonight is a night
to believe in the hunger of God’s wild things. At least you can see the stars.
Nature has no respect for you and we know that’s as it should be. Even

stranded on a wet rock menaced by our own desires. And there’s a song
for that, too. (Not that one.) Perhaps it’s okay to let it consume us
just this once, for a night. There’s something in the water between us

and the shore. Dana, it was never your fault. Find your righteousness in
the birds and frogs that survive the teeth in your mouth that bite as well as
those of any monster the possibilities you can open with your bare, delicate hands.


In a Small Town I’m Always Red and Always Leaving
(after The X-Files)

This is where the spirits find us— passing through every American
wasteland rain hanging in the air like teenage malaise and I know
the song of the strangers the sweaty strangeness of the self outside

the body the sheen of paranoia and affliction on pale skin hands
scraping at the rich dirt. This morning Agent Scully examines a girl
found lost in the woods, hallucinating. Sometimes I miss the woods—

the quiet of pine needles underfoot. The softness. This girl wears
only forest floor and the message she is one. I wear the residue of
medical tape. And Scully finds nothing unnatural in either of us.

We trust strangers to keep our soft bodies safe. To hold secrets. Scully
has photos. Data. She knows earth violence from alien. Among
the strange we find that the only thing more human than an act of evil

is perhaps kindness. But we inoculate ourselves against easy truth. Flirt
with conspiracy. Wait shivering like autumn leaves on the pavement.
And the red of our slaughterhouse is a museum and the museum

is as red as a pomegranate stain on my lips in the afternoon sun on the days
that I turn myself over to the gentle spirits among us forget retribution
put the ghosts back in their stories and enjoy the petrichor for what it is.

E. Kristin Anderson is a poet, Starbucks connoisseur, and glitter enthusiast living in Austin, Texas. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture (Anomalous Press), and Hysteria: Writing the female body (Sable Books, forthcoming). Kristin is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including A Guide for the Practical Abductee (Red Bird Chapbooks), Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press, forthcoming). Kristin is an assistant poetry editor at The Boiler and an editorial assistant at Sugared Water. Once upon a time she worked nights at The New Yorker. Find her online at and on twitter at @ek_anderson.

Artwork by: Nik