A POEM FOR EMILY
I don't know what to call a field
of black telephones ringing,
but I know what to call the terror
of a mouth that is wet
and maybe a hand on breast.
I know that bravery is what's left of the body
when its organs are removed for donation
and the heart is drained and packed in ice,
is the tender pink of its homemade yearning
to produce blush after blush after blush.
You think me alone
but I am only alone when I watch you make ridiculous
gestures with your arms and legs and call it dancing.
When you call it that, I feel alone
because I call it the stealth assassination
of dignitaries about to break ground
on land designated for a new industrial park.
I call it the eavesdropping and interrogation of suspected conspirators.
I call it the boarding of their water and I call it the dogs.
I call it the hiding of this spring-loaded blade in my robes,
the clinging of me to the inlay of the mosques
and cathedrals and synagogues that surround
the ground about to be broken.
A field of black telephones ringing.
I wait to strike.
I wait for the golden shovel of the first dignitary
to prod at the pre-softened earth,
to uproot the first black telephone,
its body and cord, its frantic vocalization.
I wait because there is an arctic timing necessary
to build a giant mess with tiny tools.
I wait because I am alone because you call this dancing.
I wait because I need information
and a field of black telephones ringing
only has a name once it's gone.
I tear the styrofoam packaging of our new year
to pieces and make rickety angels in its drift.
What else is there to do?
Shame is a caucus of unblemished skulls
objectively critiquing the intentions of my mouth.
I’ve started a new entry for it in my portfolio
of grizzled, midwestern industries.
I bag flecks of the carbonized skin it’s left ashed in my arm hair.
I note its uncommon talent for gristle, the slurry
of human noise and grip its made of my one true sledding hill.
No matter which atlas I buy, the same body’s remains.
The floral and faunal decals peeling from the exposed rebar
of this guilt that doesn’t erode
like the community of endless laundry and light that surrounds it.
Don’t know about you.
I’ve spent my winter filling the rooms of this house
with mobiles, ferns, the restorations of prairies.
You wouldn’t believe what my heart smells like right now
abraded of that glorious stench we cobbled together
while all around us the concerted fields of Wisconsin
were being classically trained to erode into sprawl,
that glorious stench of us eating wild blueberries in the mountains,
destroying indestructible cars in the snow.
"A Poem for Emily" is a response to the beautiful poem "Red Wings Collapsing" by Emily Pettit and owes something to the video game Assassin's Creed.
"Balance" is, approximately, what shame feels like to me.