Wednesday Feb 21

BoldenEmma Emma Bolden is the author of three full-length collections of poetry—House Is An Enigma  (forthcoming from Southeast Missouri State UP), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press, 2016) and Maleficae (GenPop Books, 2013)—and four chapbooks. The recipient of a 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA, her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Best Small Fictions, and such journals as the Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, the Indiana ReviewShenandoah, the Greensboro Review, and The Journal. She currently serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief for Tupelo Quarterly.

Menopause at Thirty-Three

After my body had been turned into a place
where what I knew as body could never
return, I stood in front of my doctor

as blank as any sheet of paper he asked me to lie
against. I was no longer a marvel, a record
of efficiencies. I was an echo existing solely

because of my own persistence
towards the possibility that there will be
beauties. Still. Sack-flat. Slicked empty. My doctor

defined me by my blanks, at my center a space
he filled with the word absence. I tasted the uselessness
he told me to own, tin-tart, acrid as every night

that brought a blessing with its blankness. Still.
I couldn’t stop myself from seeing, starred,
pin-pricked into every whiskied darkness,

the small light of something that waved
just a little like a wind, like a hope. I wanted
nothing more than more.

Hum City

“... several residents of Hueytown, AL, began hearing what they referred to as a mysterious sound. This sound, which became known as the Hueytown Hum, was alleged to be so disruptive that one resident claimed it made it impossible to hold a prayer meeting in his house.”
-- T. Novak and S. J. Vitton, “A Case Study of Acoustics and Vibration of Mine Fans”

When the god of whatever finished his map
of Alabama, he blew pollen that settled it,
sent yellow dogs to paw at the doors of mines

that locked black lungs into Baptists. Bosses
hushed canaries then hustled hard to the bank
where coal, when planted, grew green as a dollar

leaves the hand of a worker, cold as coin. There,
Hueytown citied itself. There, men coughed,
hate-hangered. Lard-liquored, they swore

their lives on moonshine by and by
Lord as their wives swore the city’s stills away
and with them dancing, bade that song stay holy,

safe as a Sunday serviced by the good preacher’s gaze.
In church parking lots, the women gathered
calico, flowered through the gathers of their skirts.

By nails bared, they slicked matches against their heels
then gave fire to photos of the four mop-topped apostles
their daughters followed, throat-hollering, losing all

their lovelies to march by blasphemy’s beat. At last
every exiled radio took its rocking, rolling away.
Silence stayed, blooming in victory like a garden

armed with okra and ugly tomatoes. Then they began
to listen: there, with their own breath, their own lungs
winged raven. The children hushed and their hush turned

into the direction each road rumored with its arrows—
it sounded like away— and because the law can’t reach
through the throat to the heart, to the center that stayed

steady, souled, in its new stillness the whole city
heard it. A hum. Steady, unhurried, lush and long
like a lingering touch behind the barrier of a church

pew, loud as the silence that lit the night and stayed
stuck even in the shaft of the holiest throat.

A Croning

There is the desire I remember wanting
before being built for me a house
ghost-lit, lulled and lovely with the hush

of a thousand longings laid down
like long wet leaves. Fall. Into the unders
and overs. Into the whats I expected

when I was only expectation, when I
believed in body as a verb, as afternoon
not evening, as the low line sun races

into and out of and into again. Let
there be stillness. Let the stillness be
beauty. Let there be if not beauty prayer.

Let prayer be silent in the space past word
where song thrums light, heavy, light, until
it grows into bones. Let that song be light even

when the flesh that dresses it heavies, hides
behind memory like the stranger whose lips
I once wanted, once avoided, after diamond

and tonic, rockslide and vodka, all evening
mapped towards the bed where I found
what I wanted, which was only to be

alone. Let alone be alone and not
lonely. Let alone be the holy my young one
never dared to dream of as whole.