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  • Emma Bolden

Three Poems


When you call the man sure better play

pretty. Hold your lips like a yes, ball all

your bad beauties up in the lungs until

your breath is all you are. Don’t let

the sweet scare you into confessing

the body as a place you know better

than a stranger or a stethoscope, than

a plan bricklaid goddammit by God

almighty himself. Be a pretty girl, be

a gentle girl. Be a horse of a girl spooked

by her own mane. When you call the man

better be a baby holding limp the slip

of your two-steps behind the strongbox

of his back, the small of the cabinet

in history that fits you and your ribbons,

your white suit women, your wishes

to one day take your goddammit to god

almighty yourself. Be a sky of a girl

stripped to blues. Be a lawn of a girl

shaved up all the way. Be a beauty

of a girl stuffing the silences down

sister’s off-switch of throat. Learn the art

of switching in codes left red/purple red/

purple red/purple up the unpantsed glory

of a leg that called its steps its own and set off

grit-set on stomping its own grassed grave.

Here the man is first

class. He demands a beverage, he demands (in his

presence & colleagues & colloquial dress) his ice spherically & not

squarely. He is as outraged as orange, as what did he money

all this pay for anyway. He brands your list of bourbons, your last

long-scotch lovers, your breast left baldly weeping. He would like to wife

every woman (a Cornish hen kitchened, barestep footing) & every woman

once wed (he deepvoiced, he baritoned by command) should her wildness

fold, a napkin polite as a dinner party. He is both banquet & boss, he is

if anything what an animal dreams of electricity so (a canon of business

too casual to assist in emergency) he tiles every ceiling, glass-worshipping,

he’d pierce his own ear (& happily) for drumming she-sounds into words.

So Blessed

All the good mamas get saved, bathed

by the water washed by the blood

of Jesus, all the sweetest mamas are saved from their mama’s coupons,

clipping fingernails before arrest

warrants they claw, warning you

get too close you’ll taste this pistol, get

too close these bullets are eyes. All the

good mamas better when they best the bullet, aim like the iron girdling the

girth of a house white as bread

sandwiched in the kitchen behind a cabinet stocked with canned men.

Every good mama is the parent calling

teacher keep out of your chalk, bored through with arrows every Gospel

lessens unless there is a killing, a field

for the grace of the Lord’s lambs pastured, crushing cud & daggers are

as milk-easy as teeth. All the sweetest

mamas love a sparkle, love a let’s little see you girl all smiling, keep your

secrets & your figured hour glassed

alleluia by the iced grace sweating sweet as tea. Mamas save recipes from

Revelations for the coming of the

Lord as a fire tied to Sunday like a school. Mamas save their babies &

bank loans. Mamas save their shelves

& selves. Mamas know whose sleeves slither the buttons over scales, whose

hair raises hackles, unholy as the first

fall from heaven onto sulfured horns. Jesus may have loved the weak, but

the Lord knows mama knows better.

The blood of the sinner is a balm licking love unwickéd, & those wicked

with the wrong loves inside slip out of

her comfortable & into something meat, queerhung from the closet hook

& hummed. Mama, hear that wolf

howl. Hear your god-gift tongue & watch that sugar maple shiver, mama,

shake the silver straight from the fruit

strange hanging in the trees.

Emma Bolden is the author of medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press) and Maleficae (GenPop Books). Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Best Small Fictions, Gulf Coast, The Pinch, Prairie Schooner, Conduit, and TriQuarterly, among others. A 2017 NEA Fellow, she serves as Senior Reviews Editor for Tupelo Quarterly.

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