Hotel Sisters & Other Poems

Emma Hine



Hotel Sisters

We listen to each radio station drop

    off the edge of its town,

         then buzz in the dark stretches,

and we take turns scrying the dial

    for a clear tune to dance to. Our way

         of saying, look at us,

we’re all grown up. But each time

    we strike gold in the airwaves,

         I picture our car overturned

on the road, one wheel

    still spinning, the speakers flooding

         that same eternal pop song


over the asphalt: we love each other,

    we lose each other, we can’t

         let each other go. All the bargains

of the universe on loop

    in the static and grind. In secret

         we’ve always called each other


by the radio alphabet signs for our initials:

Echo, Sierra, and Juliett Hotel,      

names to flare above bad weather.

Our mother has pulled us each

separately aside and said,

Your sisters will be with you

for the long haul, meaning, learn

    to hold on to these guttering girls.

         What else could I ever do? Someday

one of us will be the last one left.

    Until then, each blaze of approaching headlights

         shows me their faces, live and gold.

Figure-Ground Illusion

Sometimes I want to say

the rest of our lives, but what if

he startles like a rabbit in the brush


want to say that together

we could be two words

the sort that hold hands

but still keep their original meanings

like life and boat


and sometimes I’m the whole

observable universe

the rest of the map uncharted

except for my face in the mirror

whose lips could always be saying

the opposite of mine


but when we’re walking in a field

and see an eagle

I don’t say anything like this

just talk about its eyes

how it can readjust to focus

on the animal, not the ground


human eyes have more trouble

he says, I read that article too—


and I say yeah, it’s like

the figure-ground illusion:

we see two facing profiles

then, blink, a vase to fill

or empty, drop or hold

Scenic Overlook on the Rio Grande Gorge

The ground is flatlining.

He walks to the edge. From the car,

I pretend I’m a statue

in a roadside altar, minor saint

spun backwards into clay. My job,

always, to watch the supplicants

through their motions of grief: nails torn

at the roots, hair strewn.

Someday my parents will want

to have their ashes scattered here,

which is a strange thing to know.

He’s standing still, and I jolt again—

my geologic pang,

my mile-deep rift with joy

at the bottom, flash of river

between the sharp rocks. We say

I love you all the time, text it, spell it out

in fingertips on each other’s backs.

I can’t think of the common phrase

for let’s-never-leave-

this-parking-lot, we-can-rest-here,





Emma Hine.png

Emma Hine

Emma Hine’s poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Copper Nickel, The Missouri Review Online, The Offing, Painted Bride Quarterly, and The Southern Review, among others, and her prose is forthcoming in Guernica Magazine. Emma is the author of Stay Safe, which received the 2019 Kathryn A. Morton Prize from Sarabande Books and is forthcoming in January 2021. Originally from Austin, Texas, she works at the Academy of American Poets and lives in Brooklyn, New York. She can also be found at