Emma Bolden


There were always colors. He wore his war
wound secret as a kindness, as a jewel

that I could never define. Perhaps peridot.
Perhaps the way a diamond feels against

a mirror. The way a pearl feels against
two teeth. The way two teeth feel

to the ear between them. There were two
sentences I kept confusing: I fall away from

you/I finally found a you. There were such beautiful
excuses. I could identify as jewelry wrought

by love’s harshest geometry, a chain on which
one hangs the lock that hides itself as a key.


I could not remember in any direction
when had my body become a country

whose borders I mapped as a path
to betrayal. I treasoned & traitored.

I robed myself black, I walked over
the signature of the bridge I saw

under the outline of my own hood.
I blackened & blanked, I arranged

my own face to face-down the platform
under the guillotine, its prize

& sparkle. I would not wake. I would
not stand up startled, I would not

walk away as if it wasn’t my own
gun nuzzling the start of my spine.


Emma Bolden is the author of medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press) and Maleficae (GenPop Books), as well as four chapbooks. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Best American Poetry, Poetry Daily, and The Best Small Fictions as well as journals such as Gulf Coast, StoryQuarterly, The Rumpus, The Pinch, Prairie Schooner, Conduit, and Copper Nickel. 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.