There is a clearing in the thicket of the body where you’re safe to make your own pleasure, to own
pain, to hide from those who love you enough to hunt you, animalled. Every forest is its brambles,
a collection of thunders specific in their warnings, in their reasons for wanting your head plattered,
your hands a souvenir of all and even the smallest ache is an act their Jesus is said to bless. But God also lives
with you, in you, in me beneath the spring-lit trees under which I can almost breathe. Remember. Yourself, personed,
and the ones you love as the pleasure of knowing before its uncurling. How sweet the blood will taste. After all, it is your own.
SOMEWHERE EAST OF BIRMINGHAM, I HUNG UP MY HARP
The car ran through a thousand sets of miles and when I felt well enough, I said the words. A sunset. A shibboleth. Mentholatum. Petrolate. Love in-bedded beneath the milk moon, between two choices. Cyanide or perjury. I will not capitulate. I will not teeth these seed pearls, these small pinks of hands useless against the gutters, heaving rain. A chemical nimbus. An acre of angry planets reflected somewhere aboveground of oil, unrefracted. Sin-lit. Unchained. This is the house that fear built. And all of its furnishings, feathers, keys that promise the protection of locks in a night where my face is held between palms. Where I sleep under the helm of every sodden decision. Where nothing is sweeter than screamed, than the dense electric hum, a life of wires toed by the line-walker. I catch a cold. I catch a virus. I catch the edge of a conversation about a girl. About what hands can do to a girl. She was fourteen and I was fourteen and we both learned about men. Hands. How they are always shaking and we are always shaken. I catch the edge of a news report, which is its own poison. Afterwards, commercials: how eight eight-ounce glasses might not after all be enough. Be a spell. Be a magic to health all that sadness away. Which is also true of a body. A landfill. An earth. All my dreams dwell in the justbefore, the clear moment of acknowledgement, an explosion that will ravage all wills. Always. Even when built by the sturdiest definition, a nation is nothing like a home. Raze it. Raise it. May my right hand remember who kills.
Emma Bolden is the author of three full-length collections of poetry -- House Is An Enigma (Southeast Missouri State University Press), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press) and Maleficae (GenPop Books) – and four chapbooks. The recipient of a 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Best Small Fictions, and Poetry Daily as well as such journals as the Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, Conduit, the Indiana Review, Shenandoah, the Greensboro Review, Gulf Coast, The Pinch, and Guernica. She currently serves as a Senior Reviews Editor for Tupelo Quarterly.