Poetry by Emma Bolden

Read More: A brief interview with Emma Bolden

A Gun is A Gun is A

freeze     circling the circle that napes her neck               where once she felt
the steel of his lips is the steel & the lips     is the red laser walking     a target up each step of     the spine
on the back of a boy     because the skin on his bones is brown     is the body as its bones

hovered up & walked through air     is the bloom we use     as a metaphor to excuse
the bruise     is a shock of purple     is the broke blood     vesseling through the body
the idea that forgiveness is     compulsion     is forgiveness as command     is the child

dead     is the child dead     is the song of my country anything but     the song of a mother
calming her child before firing      is it      precious in the eyes of the lord     the death of his
beloved? is     a zero righteous between two eyes     is nothing             like a hammer or a nail

is a machine made to hasten the production of corpses     is a machine made to drain
the name from the body     is a machine made to make a body into a number then multiply
by exponent     is the mouth of a god the shooter created     to bullet himself into god

is a blue shaking fifty stars loose     is anger & incisor     is wolfbane is hemlock is     sewing a voice
to the void     is a sentence unworded     is a needle ticking the distance between blacktop and coffin
is a pine forest felled to build     boats to ship our babies down     is

poison as passage      is a pennyless eyelid    is a pupil watching the river widen
into an unwished eternity    is foot severed from step is child- severed from -like
is the flag shaking off its stripes     is the boy’s mouth made into absence a country

unnamed by its silence     not its rage

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The Prodigal Daughter

We knew she’d become a stranger by the hints in her perfumes.
Neroli’d, irised, she streetwalked a rumor through the market,
wrong-noted, strung out by the braid spining down her storied back.
Bought nothing. Sold for nothing. When pinked and little we warned

the child she was that beauty dangers, that desire when verbed
diagrams a sentence unto death. What could she teach our daughters
but to flee? Even the moon determined to silver her and so we refused
ourselves every wish to look. We wanted her whittled down to whistle.

We honeyed her body, threw it afield and prayed she’d be wolved
clean as any cry against mercy, mistaken as a god. Ink-scrolled her name
across stained linen. Sack-clothed her parents and with them stoned the river.
Told our daughters the bridge fired up into ash. Told our girls the far shore […]


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untitled

American Eschatology

After we lost our sun, the birds broadcast
their rumors, rough as a sky. We were never satisfied

with what the bottom of our boats said
we owned. Beside us rowed the white mess

we called winter. We called home to say
the fish grew teeth and ate the wires […]


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Access this and all our bi-weekly publications (and submit for free).

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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.

Read More: A brief interview with Emma Bolden