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Wyvern Lit

Four Poems

Poetry by Emma Bolden



(one day I’ll have a face     beautiful enough for music
one day I’ll have a beautiful      place to sleep he called  

my beauty but not me     I get it       there are wonders
that aren’t me              I’ve been grinding the wheel &

the whetstone       against the comfort      I call     why
should I be expected      to care when midnight smells

like good leather who’s going to jump inside my body
when I leave it to the lost garden that earth is   I don’t

wish or want to walk further         so what if I became
a house so what if I closed       my own door   crawled

the hallway long into an oblivion             smelling raw
chicken & hand soap       there’s no point      in return   

there’s no reason                to blame the disaster when
an apple’s peeled evenly by any set of teeth   you have

to honey if I tell you I love you you’ve been throwing
up every desperation     every girl        you dream of is

skinnier than you I’m already drunk & blood’s talking
a basement crawling with the glitter      of every dumb

beautiful thing   I said I was    sorry I said       I was so
what is a body    except a bad party      no matter how  

good you are           you can’t be alive when you leave)



(What’s the fastest) (feeding speed to race the car) (behind
            the will of a love) (syrup & whistle) (an admirable man
                        can get away with it) (dripping with mirrors) (his grown-up  

body an accomplishment that thrilled) (a crime
            tucked in the corner of a quintessential community) (dead-
                        headed, rose-pruned, grass thumbed) (a mother wheeled &  

humming) (gaslights & food stamps) (the front
            lawn a butcher’s apron) (& a pretty silence
                        on the phone) (pristine as money, an honorable  

homicide) (here murders are likely, what if
            happy happens) (a beauty meticulous as any
                        vendetta) (it tore me apart, I couldn’t have  

stayed) (red meat & motor oil, every fingerprint
            an argument against public interest) (he agreed to sleep, I was still
                        working) (when I woke to the children with Christmas  

in their teeth) (it was palpable, a pistol is
            its possibilities) (a pocket full of Vicodin & silence) (power
                        being a form of anxiety, water an excuse to  

become unrecognizably seen) (I’m having a terrible
            time, I can tell you) (a house let its snakes loose
                        from the high beams) (I went to my empty, my honest  

to God) (washed scene & shoe leather, changed
            the calendar to absence, fell off
                        into asleep) (an admirable man truths

the telling, sharks the loan, aways
            maps & dustrags) (& time is the one weapon
                        we’ll never get clean)



He said put the gun down and she said bang.
You’re dead. Guillotine rooted, an ancient tooth
churning up the roots of its own tree. How justice
is a form of blood. How money is. How a diamond

sharpened lines across a mirror, cocaine focused, a gold
band counting time with each flick of a finger. Inside
the evening lived a palpable awareness, hard as the bones
stuck inside of a mink. She stole whole ages, the gilt

gilding up the left side of a portrait. Who knew what oiled
the night. And even if escape had been optioned off
with the movie rights, nothing under her damn hands
would matter. A skirt’s silk, wormed. Nothing like a landscape

spilling over canvas, edging out a suggestion of eternity.
That brutal option. To her wrist, champagne felt the same
as a tennis bracelet, felt the same as a razor feels her forgiveness.
What other word was supposed to find her tongue.


This is a family   its father
            a gun   mother of blue
                        hope bagged up   legs  

dangling   she was wearing her last
            Christmas   a dream of another
                        side   he reclothed her body 

bagged & forced   a trash inside   he had planned
            a history of the discarded   every proof
                        a bargain   every confession a beginning 

easy as a knife   as a television is
            a warehouse of extremes   demanding you
                        learn   to clean up   like a lady  

is a challenge   that speaks murder
            the crimes you’ve acquired   sterling
                        & serious   a number of decades

 granted then attacked   a girl
            is a traitor mumbling   about her own
                        victim   the spirit is   no help

 the story of struggle as the only   witness
            little doubt   critical as the body   we can’t
                        put together   the difference between

to kill & to murder   to watch
            & to interrogate a system   of watching another
                        woman’s body   inside a story of the dead


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. She received a 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A Barthelme Prize and Spoon River Poetry Review Editor’s Prize winner, 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, Feminist Studies, Monkeybicycle, The Journal, The Pinch, and Guernica. She currently serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Quarterly.