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About this poet

Emma Bolden is the author of three poetry collections, House Is an Enigma (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2018), winner of the 2017 Cowles Poetry Book Prize; medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press, 2016); and Maleficae (GenPop Books, 2013). Bolden is the recipient of a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other honors, and serves as the associate editor-in-chief at Tupelo Quarterly. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

Mama, I'm in Deep

                             again, been trailing
behind my lace                

                                       again, been

telling all my suns they need to hold
a holy but even summer’s a slicker,
mama, a wash,
                           & another thing is

thunder, I may wish
                      for the sword but I’m soft
in the skirt when I see

 

                                     the girls soft
in theirs, I know, the unknown
                                                  parts

 

from them, & then it’s a fury in the
May my mind lost

                         as if the garden God
pruned His men out of
                                    fed the fire out
from under feeling

 

                          what I feel what I tell
myself to remember

                        sulfur, smoked between

 

her lips I heard
                                  the coming of
the Lord but couldn’t loose
                                myself, mama,
couldn’t burn my bad

 

                                old beauty down
to the cherry topping a tube of paper
rolled around then licked, livid,
                                                 was her
tongue dried
                       honey, burnt marvel,
the slats of a barn raised up
                                          hallelujah
the hands

                 said they feared a Lord with
ugly lips, I know

 

                       it’s not right but I
don’t

            know what my left is doing,
mama, under
                        the hunger I found my
self in half
                   a mine & half
                                             a her

 

bodied, cold as cut grocery
                                roses, a bloomed
sickness all pink smelling, mama, & I
don’t know if it’s my

 

                               self or your God
I should blame.

© Copyright 2018 by Emma Bolden. Used with the permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Quarterly West Issue 93.

© Copyright 2018 by Emma Bolden. Used with the permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Quarterly West Issue 93.

Emma Bolden

Emma Bolden

Emma Bolden is the author of three poetry collections, House Is an Enigma (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2018), winner of the 2017 Cowles Poetry Book Prize; medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press, 2016); and Maleficae (GenPop Books, 2013). Bolden is the recipient of a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other honors, and serves as the associate editor-in-chief at Tupelo Quarterly. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

by this poet

poem

Though I didn’t know how to begin or believe, I held in
myself expectation. Awareness. A palpable fit. Every garden

a window through which I petalled off hopes. There was nothing

so alarming as a sky. Who knew if an elegance walked invisible
beside me or on stolen feet. Or if all elegance is

poem

If the saints are to be believed, if this body is a dress
we slip into, out of, if each day and night is the mantle
we tie around our shoulders, fabric thin as the time it takes
teeth to flatten the end of a thread and lead it through

an eyed needle, then what am I to make of the gorgeous