Poems by Emma Bolden

December 15, 2023

The Girls

Look at our teeth, sharp as urgency. We are humming,
the pack of us, ready for the strike, the heel or the palm,
ready for ignition, for the ash inside our mothers’ cars,
our mothers’ mouths. We are serious about our pink.
We file our nails to points because we know preparation

is the point. We walk barefoot with house keys
between knuckle and knuckle. We’ve tasted pool water,
sea water, blood against our teeth against the edge
of the sink. We understand every angle and execution
of bruise. Together we are a fence, bright with secret

electricity. Together we are able to forget what it means
to live as a link. As the nothing in between. We untie
our bikini tops to tan and only rarely have our sisters
allowed us to sit up bare-chested or to fall asleep. To burn.
We understand how danger rays its way between

the blinds, how every heel’s point is to double
as a weapon, how to aim directly at the black O
centered in the eye. We are getting good at this.
We are giving up on giving up. Hear the howl
we loose, bright as the balloons that dot the sky

every time the sun turns back to anniversary
the day the girl went missing. The girl came home
in pieces. The girl met the bridge and heard it say jump.
We know there was never a home to go home to so
with our tiny brushes we name each others’ nails.

Heartstroke. Wine with Everything. Too Much Fun.
We promise, we’ll keep watching, like a light
programmed to stay open until sunrise. We know
that when the closed door says it’s safe inside,
it is, like everything, a lie.

Screaming Crying Throwing Up

My jokes are always best when nobody
laughs, which just makes it funnier. It’s always
a man walks into a bar, never a bar walks
into a man. But in my mind the bar has

such autonomy, enough to assume the blame
for whatever stupid sentence I committed
my tongue to. When I say LOL I am never
laughing. I am always so fucking serious.

I am trying to teach myself the lesson that is
my own face. Speaking of the bar, have you ever
looked in the mirror and not recognized the face
it tried to tell you? You don’t have to be drunk,

just conscious. A man walks into a bar then
he’s crying. Ouch. Every mirror has its conspiracy
with time. Every window becomes a mirror
when you’re least expecting yourself. The joke is

that the punchline is an actual punch, that there
are never enough words to make it funny, the joke
we’re all inside of, to make it good, this grief.

About Emma Bolden

Emma Bolden is the author of a memoir, The Tiger and the Cage (Soft Skull), and the poetry collections House Is an Enigma, medi(t)ations, and Maleficae. The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, she is an editor of Screen Door Review.

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