EMILY REID GREEN’S poetry has appeared in publications including: Skipping Stones, Common Threads, The Font, The Linnet’s Wings, and Khroma Magazine. This spring, she will share her poetry in the Women of Appalachia Project’s “Women Speak!” performances. An unabashed bookworm and avid knitter, she lives with her family in Toledo, Ohio.
Suddenly Only Sculpture
Always the garden angel in our backyard,
always a prayer she speaks all season–
curled tongue for the leaves, vowels
diacritic for a sharp winter breeze.
Never a silent stone when barefoot breathless
I would stand enchanted to meet her eyes and
she would twilight whisper fireflies for me
to lantern love, palms clasped, a different way
to say amen when gratitude rested in my
hands, when I could wake and chase winged
blessing, only to meet again in flower beds and
fur-trimmed sleighs to become slumber friends,
eyes curtsey closed– another grace we gave
She is still singing Ave Maria but I am sensible
shoes and flashlight interrogation, demanding
an answer to a question
I grew to forget.
Hardly can I bear it when every instinct says
to turn away. This sun and I feel no kinship, only
obligation. Butterflies beckoning, I am tasked
with seasonal joy, all manner of checkered play,
of picnic tables and beach blankets. No longer
acceptable, this window sill seat reserved for
raindrop tears and overcast sighs. No time to
mourn stormy weather, for I am beholden to
blue skies, a captive of bees buzzing over my
excuses. The summer day demands an answer
and struggling student, I am head down,
back corner silent.
If I can remain floor gaze,
if I can persist heels dug in,
if I can wool sweater myself–
Surely others will claim the forecast,
take up ice cream cones and hula hoops,
spin themselves dizzy. Surely they
won’t mind my curtains drawn and
candles lit, praying for the freedom
of a winter gray.
Puzzle pieces don’t fit here where edges and gaps cram
a wall, a sanitary corridor, not for keeping clean but for
keeping out our kind by way of highways and railroad
tracks, a distance built with steel resolve. They stack us,
watch us, wobble a house of cards. They stand ready to
collect our diamonds, grab our spades, bury us for we are
only temporary residents, pretending life under tin roofs, rain
pounding funereal rhythm, drilling gunshot remembrance and
that hole pouring veiled despair. Yes, our cup runneth
over and we have had enough. No, not dead yet. Do not
presume to know our music– a battle beat we thunder drum
encircle. The difference between drowning and swimming is
intent, so arms striking, legs kicking, ready to resist: Let us
write our story, not fiction but maybe fable– Learn the blood
lesson. Maybe myth– Monuments hero the graves. Hold
a mirror so you can see fear and conquer it. There will be
falling. There will be rising again.
Then what are we to do? What wisteria
are we to climb? It wasn’t garden delight
that kept us, brought us to our knees
when weeds choked an ending and throats
clogged with scent. We stood too close, breathed
too deeply, the hanging clusters now gasping blue,
now sculpture stone. Your story fixed me and
finding myself only character lingered along
the plot line like braided trellis lost among liars:
a lullaby singing a century, bruising a promise.
I dry up every time
we touch when your red-hot
burns me in that same spot.
I should have learned but
branded I return to you,
this silent animal who cannot
find your language (loud
is all I call it) who cannot
Maybe mountain or tree–
Makes no difference,
still a landing still resting
under the cover of
night among the rusted moths
where we tent ourselves
If we could trade feather
for silk, spin safety, escape
your flame fingers yet
we are drawn and come up
powder dusting your white sheet
ghost. Nevertheless we cling.
His lead sigh breathed
my back broken shaded my
edges. Fingertips brushed the
dirty/ mark it. Important
this muted violence.
beds not doorways
never an entrance
exiled to rest another kind
of exit born of
silence. We sewed ourselves
a blanket statement to
hide under. It covers:
I’m sorry your fault never mind doesn’t matter
Muffle strangle the sleeping
sorrow. In death maybe
reborn ant egress
elephant its ivory
Like Mother, Like
Bedtime bends to the will of leaking light
as uncertain Earth stumbles toward darkness.
And you will braid her hair out of habit–
Her offering is unconditional.
Your fingers map the gift, this tender head,
hands trace a shared journey begun in womb
so nightly spun this gauzy happiness.
Never the chosen one, you followed footsteps
and finding you could fit yourself inside
moved in her marked responsibility,
snug in the comfort of learned precedent.
And she will braid your hair out of habit.
She could teach you the courage of living,
how to grow limbs and branch the years ahead.
A Haiku Duet in Objects
my shoes have thick soles
armor for the days ahead
kicking glass ceilings
my mattress is offering
I cannot attend
Isn’t it funny the way light plays,
how hiding it inhabits other faces and
sheds like skin, clings save for my skeleton
shell. I am left with scraps only,
the dripped leavings of ancient candle.
Maybe I could fight for morning light.
Maybe I could filter the blue hour haze,
rearrange my gaze beyond empty glass,
even momentary glimpse another ending.
Would I own the outcome? Recognize
this quality of light? I fear blindness so
downward glance to spite the dawn.
Still sun will rise above hurt feelings and
leave me shadow slouching, let me to
my work, my private war waged over
tabletop, elbows stabbing. Silence another
casualty– I am not immune to sleep
walking, to nightmare games.
I could hang myself on this hand,
surrender to solemn requiem, fingers
finding prayer in the starved darkness.
A Haibun- The Red Barn
It all started and ended with the red barn. I came to know its roadside significance one late summer worry. My hair twirled concern as miles melted toward arrival, toward expectation. They had plans for me that lived just beyond that red barn, just past the edge of comfort. Signage was insignificant: I knew the writing on another wall, so high I could never hope to reach, fingers stretched for stardom. There were no constellations. There is no consolation in this dark obsidian, my foreign future. Only return lights the candle, halos possibility.
the red barn beckons
omen becomes almost there
the promise of home
You are more than door held open and chair
pulled out, more than stand up for entrance or
exit. When words leave your mouth it is
not escape. It is packing list and planning:
The world approves of your message.
Not a shirt shouting profanity over pajama bottoms,
the line between bedroom and buying groceries
barely visible. When did we start seeing a different kind
of acceptable? Or rather when did our vision impair?
It wasn’t always this way, wasn’t always middle finger
and glowing screens. Once upon a kindness
there was decency and it wore white gloves.
It dressed for dinner. And face to face it would
build conversations but only after proper
introductions. Can we ever meet again?
Let us please and thank you a place
where courtesy is common, a public space
where private is another room and nobody knows
late last night drama but you. Let us inquire after
our health, tip our hats, curtsey our dresses.
If I could wish you out of hiding I would. If I could
tip you from the yellowed pages of yesterday’s
novel I would write you a letter in cursive.
What If Avarice?
When want seeds your stomach,
its hard shell a promise
When must makes a habit
of white noise for waking
When green teeth give puncture,
the pinprick a black hole
When looking is longing,
the window as storefront
Grow some other garden,
the petals a velvet answer
Find a jukebox theme song
and midnight some flute strewn lullaby
Brush the decay away
to climb into pearl white smile
Know a friendship bracelet
of braiding that can’t be bought
Then monster defeated
Then paradise found
The Wonder Command
We’ve reached capacity and even our lashes
know it, the weighted damp that heavies our
eyelids, the tremble that fringes our fury stare.
We are possessed, broken frames and picture
paints everywhere but canvas only
a smattering, only the artist spilling over.
There is no harm in it but hazard, this
unburdening something gothic. Do we
bloody our hands acrylic? Do we
chance amongst the carnage? It is
not always violent venture but cave
mouth and legs stretched beyond breaking.
It is always frontier, a border we escape
daily, a limit we live to ignore. There is no
choice in it, not really.
The flower you placed in my palm, a single
Baby Blue Eye, small and profound, a century
gaze– It must be pressed to page since
ink cannot residence where love resides.
It is always and every place a home. So the poet
places hand over heart, buoyed by cadence,
pulsing on an ocean, writing the waves.
As always a hesitation at the hem of
cityscape meets country sky. I exist at
the fringe though some would say frayed
the edges of my fabric. It’s not what I want,
it’s not that I don’t dream in color, my red
the kind that arrests, screeches stop, never
rusts. Morning blush finds me sitting high
on another bridge for there are thousands
stitching pavement and patchwork fields.
From this height landmarks are scarce and
difference is only a compass and its magnet
doesn’t deal in inclinations, doesn’t know
trees, doesn’t care for traffic, only a pivot
to serve the North Pole. Still there are other
reasons to turn around, to sample stars and
billboard signs. I will not apologize for
my second thoughts. It is my right to revise
destination or rather choose itinerant tourist.
I will inhabit every monument, get lost in
every corn maze. It isn’t cold feet that gives me
pause, toes touching borders– They are warm
enough with the memory of yesterday, with
steps already taken. The world told me tread
carefully, pointing to signs and signals and
all manner of manmade cautions. But I heard
only music and one foot in both worlds and
all that is left to do is dancing outside the lines.
Like so many hearts we cross ourselves,
fingers first at foreheads, pause perhaps for
an audience, some for permission. Can you
see my faith? Can I follow the path? Then
fingers proceed to ladder, descend and rest
at the chest where urgent a pulse beat
rhythms the mystery,
the sacred among us.
It is more sign, more tactile than myth
for we are ready to receive grace. So
fingers floating upwards and side gliding
like so many ghosts we wait,
necks craned and eyes trained, certain
a miracle. The performers seek pyrotechnics,
the world set ablaze while the meek bow
heads, hope for hands outstretched–
It is only conflict bridged by
a shared legacy of wanting, blinded by
spectacle or our own feet. It is only
after sacrament we save ourselves,
only after prayer we climb higher.
My thoughts don’t need the wind
to drift. They carry themselves to
unopened books and stones unturned
and roads not taken. They shape me
a stationary sculpture, not art but
artifact existing only behind glass.
I spent a history in preservation, in
collecting myself and all I’ve gathered
is dust. Not even fingerprints author
my existence. I am only anonymous,
arms heavy from holding the world
at a distance and now lost to me.
For all one knows a seeping sadness
at fault, for all one cares a sloth, maybe
different slopes, certain a shared descent.
It’s not for me to say which sin weighs more.
It’s not for me to hold the body of
what might have been.
if the truth were made from facts
at the intersection of cold and light
this is how we find an ending
how we shed shadow selves
Whether carved initials cast in ancient
roots or tea-soaked journey set by
sandaled step, I inhabit love, that knotted
fire in the chest burning away inhibitions,
pluming guarded fumes. Breathe carefully–
It’s toxic, not only intoxicating. It takes
tangled root deep in the chambers, heating up my
underground, sometimes secret smoldering
in suspicions or peeling away restraint and
power unleashed– an antidote. I will keep you
in my walls. I will sit you on my window sill and
when hardened skin enough, sweeten you up,
boil you tender, drown and dry you out,
sparkling crystal stranger friend, only
to consume me, conjure spirits to
season my wanting. After all, I know
you. We will tangle taste again.
face aflame and it’s time again to
make amends when scorn smoothes
itself not soft but tolerable when
resentment is a weight no longer
there is little grace in it
pocket size not lace but tissue
kept wrinkled and wilting shoved
for shame buried under so many
bruises there is tenderness born of
walls not sentiment so we beat on
ceaseless in our resolve
to right our crooked selves
to stumble into arms open
they will fold us in
if we let them if we
warm whisper our foolishness
there will be butterflies
their kisses pardon a flutter faint
forgiveness felt like home like
hushed breath against our ear
blush blurs the sky,
brushes cobweb worries,
carries the sacred heart
tickling my right ear lobe,
an exercise in sitting, still
The Page Turner
There is no suspense unless I
shadow myself, step outside the space
I occupy, the seat not bench but
folding chair, seeming insignificant,
seeming secondary and by the hour
billed dispensable. They have no idea
who I am, if I choose to darken distance
under someone else’s spotlight, if
my mind wanders and hand too
hesitating over corners bent for speed, for
ease. I could unnerve them, press pause
so only evening gowns shiver, strings
silent still. I would rise. Then the knowing
begins, my leaving reverberates. It’s an absence
that pressure pulses the stage where music becomes
a question then unanswered, an impossible
mission, not even the apostles could chorus
this lost cause, not even St. Jude could bring me
back. I would not turn, having taken my chair
and their notes, all that remains a recipe for
disaster. I could stir up trouble, humble
this tuxedoed hero’s fingers, halt Italian arias,
live inveterate villain if only I would not
page turn. And sigh. There is relief in
breathing out expectations, in poise predictable.
So I save the story for another unfolding, so
I secret smile my private triumph.
Autumn arrives strumming golden skies
grown amber as apple orchards embroider
the horizon, their venerable limbs reach
down earthbound to sweeten the soil where
I sit worrying the grass, stuck in the past.
I cannot reap the harvest for
I remember the planting
for fear I will find the same.
Across the universe
another soul occupies as little space as
legs and arms and dreams allow. So
we shrink ourselves, hide in nature’s
pocket huddle in shadow’s closet, keep
the cold comfort of staying still.
after digging what then? Will we gather
brooms, sweep it all under mossy carpet?
Maybe disappointed it is what we expect.
Maybe heartbroken it is all the old ghosts.
They pile stones at our feet in lieu of a greeting.
At least we can still speak. We can still
stand at least. Let it be staircase– these
stones, not a grave. Let it carry us out,
carry on. Let us gather how we have grown.
On Meeting the Horizon
Lilac didn’t know what to do, didn’t know
how to darken the days. She would spend
the faded hours dizzy and trembling,
moved by first love’s spinning, marked by
spring’s imminent arrival. It would
rain down like it always did then drizzle
and drip and dry her eyes. There’s no use
crying over violet, that shaded moment
made remedy, made love that will last for
all seasons, for leaves like so many hearts
on her sleeve. She will wear what was
lost– a meadow. She will find what was
left– a fragrance they both can keep,
the garden memory like bound bouquet.
Ribboned chatoyant silk trails a field
of yesterdays tinted not tainted by
the path they painted. She is not afraid
of dust for lilac owns the dawn. She is
not shamed by twilight for colors cast
in every light and though night velvet
drapes a shadow, she will morning make
a mauve advent, brush blend the edges
of fear, scatter splendor a legacy of mirrors.
Coming of Age
It was moon splashed face and
body summer splayed silver
seeping secrets she only dreamed
to weave. I could trace the fabric and
hear our shared history harbored
among the stitches. Another midnight
we slumbered there under familiar
blankets breathing Saturday morning and
spiced giggles. I should have scented
our conspiracy bottled the moment I mistook
for ritual. It was sacred to me.
toes twisting fingers twining
to tangle us inseparable.
Mother and daughter she would
claim us. She would name us. Every kiss
a dedication a daily affirmation. She was
mine. I should have concrete carved the days
instead devoured without aftertaste. I wish
the past would linger on my lips not leave
behind a future of closed doors
slammed shut by single syllables.
She used to story the space
our home. Now silence
now nothing to tell me
how to know you again.
When the cold light spills I am
drowning in our memories. Your
shimmer self shines me back to before
we were strangers tilting toward separate
before eyes closed to capture
the girl you left behind.
Assume normal and keep your stare
still looking straight ahead. You will see
chairs and tables and people and all signs
of the everyday you inhabit for now.
Assume sitting you could stand if you
lacked the discipline to remain unmoved
by the temptation of the certain unknown
that periphery of warped reality you could
begin to bend the edges close the gap and
come closer to familiar or maybe fright
because bravado could not know what was
left behind all manner of remnants.
Begin to sorrow sort bodies from bottles
empty and dry and used up and broken
for sharp edges they will always be
weapons brought by years of neglect.
Suppose not looking you forget the borders.
Suppose not caring you forget the afterland.
Balcony gazing on a summer day and wondering who composed the silence. My eyes already headache heavy, lead laden by the exercise of undressing the scene. I seek a naked mess, create chaos with my morning cup of coffee. There is satisfaction in what I uncover: a street vendor hoarse-voiced hawking almost genuine treasure, teenagers hunched and huddled making trouble or maybe not. The homeless couple on the corner is arguing again because the husband won’t stop singing. The wife will lose by force of habit, by force of nature. Music will have out the hours, will muddle melody the pavement and scatter sing the sky. And I will sit smiling, unsettling layers of looking. And I will wipe the sweat from my brow or paint from my brush. Colors cannot hide forever.
like leaves eddying
so my skirt
so my self spins
windswept wonder that
I am a blessing at first
to be borne by breeze
spilling secrets like
so many seeds
scatter my thoughts
already fairy flying
outside reality it is
no sin to stray from
the path for the harvest
is not mine this home
where only hovering
I hesitate over citrus
the clean scent of
unattached once a blessing
now revealed as a loss I am
lost and but for the prism
light I am all gray so still
the swirling silk my soul for
I wish to stay
Silence is a gateway drug.
We tried it once when words
couldn’t lift us, when platitudes
left us red-eyed, staring at
the ceiling we couldn’t climb.
There was a time when sound
signified substance, stirred us
up and so shaken together we
stayed, waging war and spring
cleaning and so much to do. We
cluttered ourselves a symphony and
tuned out until cymbals too loud,
our error apparent, we ended
the orchestra. We passed the baton
to some other couple seeking
spectacle. No longer our mouths
open and eyes and ears and
everything a wall. We changed
the passage. We built ourselves
a new habit. Suddenly silence
beating our hearts, holding our
hands, fingers twining our fates.
I could get used to this. I warn you,
you are my addiction. I sing you,
you are my strength and if I could
ancient our love I would pray
a temple, or tunic-draped I would
make us mythology.
We start with sunrise only
on ordinary rising and shining
when moonlight meant eyes
closed, a mystery we couldn’t see,
when dreams resting on pillows
resting on promises we chose
to sleep away.
They were buried not broken,
not like the day, these promises.
We can dig them up, remember
how the colors brush the sky blushing,
paint ourselves a silver dawn tarnished
and treasured because the world
We need more sunrise endings
on weak light window gazing
when midnight glow gloried us,
waltzed us waking through early hours,
when fairy tale unfurled once upon a time
upon a yellow brick road we chose
to pave the way.