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EMMA AYLOR | Three Poems

Last night’s dream

is the size of a thumb. I woke with the print of it, an arc unexplained, imperfectly pieced,

the remaining mouth opening cold as a length of water in at the seam of a shoe. In the yard, white mushrooms tilt

to show the mauve you think is a shadow but is not. Like an apple in eighths, wedges of sun fall open in the palm.

But the women I’ve consulted all admit to believing a dream, even pressed to check,

is real. We wake to measure them; we measure to wake. Being reminded it’s not real—just

as being reminded you don’t believe— makes no change in the haunting. There are days joints loosen as you bend,

like dead ferns wet in the morning, turning, days that slacken what’s taut like the kiss of one good leaf on water.

First Freeze, New Moon

In shovelfuls, I move earth still warm somewhere under the frost stiff on its grass

like sleep webbed over waking.

This time of year, at this latitude, passersby go gold where low sun clings at their exposed skin,

and I choose to walk backwards uphill each night, to where the sky grows darker overhead. I say this even though, by the old ways, I can’t share my dreams before breakfast—

bad ones open you to evil, when told,

and good will never come true. To invite my own memory in this way is to see it grow heavy in me.

I who own no white wore white.

I admit that in sleep I met her again. Any cast-off part of a person can be used

to call them back, fasten them up

to the eyelid when closed, or turn their body away, the face past any knowing.

This is why they say to bury the baby’s hair and fingernails when cut. This is why Lang writes that

the ghostly is nothing but the experience when awake

of the every-night phenomena of dreaming. In all the years I’ve been away

I haven’t had one deep enough night.

Bath at Midnight

After a while here, my skin takes not the scent of shampoo or honey shaving cream or the milk of a cake of soap dissolving in its dish but what I imagine water alone smells of, untouched, a warmed mineral bend, wing shaken of blue— nothing human, or something like.

Emma Aylor's poems appear or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Pleiades, New Ohio Review, Cincinnati Review, and DIAGRAM, among other journals, and she received Shenandoah's 2020 Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets. She lives in Lubbock, Texas.


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