Because I could Neither Forget Nor Forgive

Emma Bolden


I gave my abuser gratitude & gift soaps
carved by the boundaries of every state
I traveled through, carrying her hands. I gave

my abuser duck feathers & goose bumps.
I called my abuser nightsweet, nightsweet. I told
my abuser I loved her angora & lavender

& angles & entryways & the uninvited chamber
of her music’d throat. I hated her throat & her
hands on my throat felt the words as I never

said them. In every state I traveled, carrying
her hands. I gave my abuser feather & fin.
I built a brass box & I lived with her inside.

I said that I loved her so she would lesson.
I said she had a mirror’s permission to learn.
I said that I wished she would die so I could

walk again. I slid myself under her
fingernails & I gave her god tidings & I ghosted
my face under her daughter’s in every
photograph. I wanted her to live with me
until I became the ghost she had to live
with. I forgave my abuser & I could not

forgive myself for forgiving her. In every
state I traveled, carrying feather & fortress,
a brass box inside which I never lived.


I Found Myself on the Edge

Emma Bolden


of an October & the ochre filaments of leaf & sun
& tree seemed a beauty beyond bone or breathing

in which kindness is a kind of home. & if I remember
carefully I can easel the sun he made of himself, I can eclipse,
I can make April an apology for its intermittent disasters.

There grew a cluster of questions, a clump of bone jeweling
the base of my back. I knew dirt & joy, I fashioned
my comportment after blood & I was contained inside

of the jungle, its voltas of rain. I turned & returned & was
not satisfied though a shift of elevation revealed the ship-
wreck kissing shore. What rich words the sky wrote for me,

what sordid pentimentos revealed as my own longing for nothing
but longing itself. Desire was a gown I painted myself into, stripped
my portrait free from, eiderdown, ostrich spine, the fine fuzz

surviving on the peel of a skinned peach. In this bare becoming
I became the beautiful, the outline of a body in bones forbidden,
broken to marrow a self in which my God can believe.


Emma Bolden is the author of medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press 2016) and Maleficae (GenPop Books 2013). Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Pinch, and Prairie Schooner, among others. Her honors include a 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA and the Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. She serves as Senior Reviews Editor for Tupelo Quarterly.

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