It is often said that great art is created during troubled times, so it should come as no surprise that Barnard — well-known for its alumnae writers — has seen this trend continue as the “twin pandemics” of COVID-19 and a renewed focus on racial injustice and violence sweep the world. In this new limited series, Barnard community members share poems and songs that speak to this unique moment in time. (If you would like to contribute, please email

Today, we feature the poem “Rewinding the Lesbian Sex Scene on a Flight from Denver” by Alicia Mountain ’10, who is the author of High Ground Coward, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize. She is also the author of the digital chapbook Thin Fire from BOAAT Press. After graduating from Barnard, Mountain earned her Ph.D. at the University of Denver, where she was a Clemens Doctoral Fellow, and a MFA at the University of Montana in Missoula. She is a lesbian poet and writing coach, teaching writing seminars and workshops online and in New York City. Keep up with her on Twitter at @HiGroundCoward.

This poem was first published in the American Poetry Review.

Rewinding the Lesbian Sex Scene on a Flight from Denver

There were years I feigned sleep to close the eyes of desire.
Years I tried to see truth only in periphery,
years I tried to look anywhere else.

           The entangled couple beside me,
           their sock feet,
                                   the cloud
           caught in their small view
           of the open sky
                                   whisping itself apart.

There were years I stayed a satellite far above the earth.

I am still looking over my shoulder
for whoever whispered my shame to me.

I am watching them walk down the aisle,
I am trying to keep my elbows and knees
           out of their way.
I am reclining my seat every inch
                                   of unconfinement
                                               it will yield.

            Which is not much.
 So I am held close to this reflection.
            Spit slick lips and
            hands in hair and
            reaching inside and
            what I know well—
            head out of the frame.
My gaze held unbroken,
                       by their bodies.

Who said you can’t drag your finger back across the screen of what you want?
Who said you can’t do it over again? And again?
Who said you can’t ask for more?

Who guilted my fingerprints into anything but a caress
                                                         smudged across our surface?

Whoever you are—whoever you were—look over my shoulder.

Watch me fall in love, seeing myself.
In economy, in the thin air,
            seatbelt at my waist
                         like I am something
                         to protect for this duration,
                         like her hands on my hips,