Poems by Emily Reid Green 2018

emily reid greenEMILY 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.

Next of Kin

Your death-knock
keeps me bound,
guarding a peephole.

My head angles,
ear bent to breaking,
afraid to forget.

Impossible to lose
the slope of a neck,
the spine distance.

Still every attempt
to deflect a reckoning:
I am not home.

But you insist,
orphan on the other side,
demanding a door:

Remember when?
as if there exists
any other answer.

Ode to Doubt

Not even gift-wrapped–
heated and rapid heartbeat
Doubt pulsed in my hands.

At first I feinted,
figured I could slip away
or worst case play dead.

But even floorbound
there is no escaping myth,
the oracle curse.

Centuries tell the tale:
To live is a backward glance,
so we stumble step.

God bless Doubt perpetual!
The world keeps too many cliffs.


The vandal
will confess a crime
when walls won’t
wear the name.
Shouting at bricks, tunnel dark
her evidence gone.

The tattoo
declares her body:
She is known.
When the world will not preserve,
bleeding ink endures.

A Maze

I want to return to the toil of being lost
when it was work
to disappear, wending my way among
aisles, burrowing to the back shelves

to shiver in the company of cottage
cheese, of creamers,
marveling at variety and how we all look
the same:
skeletons under fluorescents.

But you knew my bone self, your jaw
clenched, teeth grinding a worry. You found
my hip and reattached every time,
finger wagging bad manners. Oh yes,

I remember your lemon sour mouth. Still
you could be sweet, searching purse
and pockets for fruit snacks or coins,
whatever was fit for the palm to cherish.

Nowadays I’m empty-handed, hiding
in plain sight.
I miss the challenge, the chance
to surprise your path, to

The Biggest Lie

When I unpack Tomorrow, array the contents
of not quite yet, first order is to remove
every wrinkle only to force new folds.

How can I occupy a crease? Live in the safety
of a shadow when the slew is tumbling
a patchwork negligence
How can I contain?
a toothbrush waits in every corner

Such is the business of counting buttons,
of sorting what is light and what is not
light enough.
my smile for instance

When searching pockets, grim
handiwork. There is no pride in it,
no acknowledgment save a sinking
mattress. My heart ticking on, tallying
minor disputes.

Oh god, it knows.

First order is to swallow the lump
of coal, sketching disaster all the way
down. When I arrive
still standing in the map, lost
to a point, miles from knowing:
Sweaty palms will search
empty pockets

and that’s okay.


oh how we swoon
underwater as angles open
skin unspools and silk too
how we diamond strut
our glass craft
glow from within and
without is not mirror display
rather the eyes draw out
every syllable of ourselves
unwinding word song
so muscle releases and releases
and I am still singing limbs
for centuries
my soul suspends seaweed clings
as I descend
swallowed whole
the earth sputtering showers
in my wake

Jeanne Hebuterne

If the feet are invested
then why a bed? And who tied
her hands? Did she fold
body and fingers both the same?
Lacing delicate all the while
intending to break away?
Or is she already

Can we weigh the difference
between a pause and ceasing
altogether? To what end?
Perhaps fractured bones,
a shattered spine? Will we bear
the splinters alongside, our toes
too finding root? How do we
commence? When the law
is gravity, where do we find
the heart?

Is it any wonder she’s gone
cold, building a fortress? Is it
any wonder with so much
at stake?


Let us pretend Dear Optimist that we mid-sentence and already acquainted. That I am already swept up by your rose scent. Already your head bent gentle tending sunny glaze to scraped knees. As if you can hear my bone complaint. But something is lost in translation. Instead of grumble bass you are humming birdsong in my hands. And what am I to do with feathers? Only stinging shame when you wave. Look up. I could pray. Tell myself that talking to heaven is close enough. Not nearly. For we are strangers still. So bending to tie my shoelace and knotted again. Relieved to find you gone.


Too much:
The old soldiers disperse
but there is no fooling.
They dapple a midnight vigil
until my valley is almost illness
and even insomnia cannot blink
a dormer.

So what does it signify?
Am I under siege
or simply overcome?

Despite fingers splayed I remain
unconvinced, certain a gun
in every crowd of glories.

Reckless to wade the hollow
while my undead drift among
and lonely sits upon my lips


Only she can roll up her sleeves, punch every
consonant and carry the bruises inconsistent
as shallow stars ghosting a fist. They flood the rivals
intent on every wish until distracted, it is empty sky.
She has swallowed every knuckle, avoided
every button. So loose and unfitted no one decent
would claim her and to conceal is a lost
secret: always in danger of obvious, a stone’s throw
from transparent. Funny how she hid behind
a veil of sweat. Shouldn’t be this hard.

Against Nature

If eyes squint is the puzzle contained
in its narrower frame? Does applied pressure
burst a truth?

When the red fox roams an open woodland
it is of little consequence. Only against all odds
are we impressed– When skirting the schoolyard
dodging laughter and rainboots. By the shed
the red fox forages for what we grudging grant.
It thins to solitaire under our gaze.

Meanwhile the student in mountain pose
still holding her breath learns to live without
making a sound, becoming blue
and statue.
Why the red fox in the schoolyard?
Why a restricted space?

Perhaps sensing a kinship.
Black-tipped ear to the ground
the animal seeks others who survive
in spite of.

Sure enough
the slightest tremor:
A children’s chorus trembling
too scared to sing.


Too much:
The old soldiers disperse
but there is no fooling.
They dapple a midnight vigil
until my valley is almost illness
and even insomnia cannot blink
a dormer.

So what does it signify?
Am I under siege
or simply overcome?

Despite fingers splayed I remain
unconvinced, certain a gun
in every crowd of glories.

Reckless to wade the hollow
while my undead drift among
and lonely sits upon my lips

–To what purpose?

A diamond-studded shambles is still hazard. It hinders
as you travel, stones in your toes and crowned, a fever
in your feet. So the eyes shine too– a blind dazzle.
Fingertips burn a frenzy as you untie shoelaces
because trailing.

Let the knots tangle spontaneous, let
the ruin come as a surprise. You chart
a course but still the end is always

spinning, bohemians bead-bound and rooted
to the spot and you tattooed among: impeded
genius. It is a seed comfort– how we began.

Indiscernible now as you cradle the stem, press
another petal between bone-dry histories.


Different is a vital fortress.

In Paris ribbon words unend
and twirl in midnight streets,
lit up, lingering. Whereas
Scotland warms itself
under overcast skies, fire
and whiskey and kinship
mingle in the belly. Meanwhile
Maseru is a thin air scarcity,
blanket wrapped on horseback.

How my single heart thought to settle
each one, cold and footsore,slapping
every consonant. Not culpable
but pulsing thumb distinct, enough
to keep a safe distance.

Impossible to say when
the miles ceased and similar
gave me crowd status.This morning
I returned blanched worn, mumbling
into a silence, surprised to receive
a chorus bleacher bound by sympathy,
folding me in among the robes
and then a praise song:

Hallelujah! We know what you mean.

Rubbing a Stone

Each day I choose a bone concern
to upend intention and unsettle myself
tilted toward disaster, begging
a sidewalk. Passersby, their faces blue
with breaths held, betray the sense of
an ending. Certain I am unraveling.

Today I choose my house to spin
a worry because what is not done
is backbreaking shadow. So dragging along
dirty floorboards I splinter the hours
until my fingers fill with wasted fury.
The rabbit’s foot forgotten.
Also broken. Crushed neglect
and ground to a powder, strewn
in lieu of a welcome mat so that
every homecoming is atonement.

I cross the threshold, omens embedded
in my soles. It is a doorknob turning
dread I choose to open.


The Mess

Boredom collects in every corner yet a child dances
on shifting toes until the mess is omnipresent.

It is an instant tragedy: stretching, endless
threat without cure, so left to her own

devices, so devising a plan, feet dangle
or head– either way she is sailing

and the carpet sea is infinite despite a parent’s
siren song. She will not be swayed. She will not be

called back. Graying temples and dust
everywhere. It is a different kind of mess:

unaccommodating loose limbs and anchors away.
I have extra ears now but it is not a novelty.

My name is tip of the tongue refrain, plucked
for constant strumming. I hold the seashell roar

to deafen every drum but the chorus vibrates
a need, demands every cell.


Grief made a twin when these strangers wed.

Immediately the car was stolen
and I was only carrying non-essentials–
save myself, the assault target.

There was no resistance, the panic button
worry a dwindling concern
as my escape fled the scene.


Still pressing red plastic
(a non-action comfort)
I yield to a geometry of fingers.

What have you done?
demanding vows when all I want
is to begin again, to conjure
a razor in my hand and a privacy
to shear the sheep.

But this accordion is not bathroom door sufficient.

I hide behind pleated plywood,
cannot fold enough
and that is all doubt needs, ankle

The veil shakes and the groom
echoes: Not close enough.

I leave my razor in the parking space.


My beauty is gospel in his eyes
only. The mirror is a dispute citing
myriad infractions of size and scale,
of seismic faults. My nose
bears the lie ignobly, shadows
my lips. They shiver– no, tremble
with the tidal grief of what was given
and what was not. Even absence
is a weight and my chin struggles
to keep altitude:

It is insufficient.
Mumble wear that notion until
it frays to mantra:


He is contrary and command
but his anchor will not
stand, for I am brittle
beeswax, flammable under
mirror light and love light,
built for solitude. Unseeing.

In Search of a Good Night

Feeling sorry for the North Star
I tried to shine, to shoot the moon
and land among studded royalty.

Results were insubstantial–
inevitable. The Man winked
his crater eye, unsurprised:

This is what happens to those who strive.
But I was only helping rings hollow and
suddenly dizzy with falsehood and drifting

ice, strewing breath crystals, I am ailing
impoverished and in want of an ending.
The answer is apparent and ticks

elsewhere. Whereas here my sinew
grows tissue-thin, suspended curtain.
Might as well be a wall for I am fortress

confined to a time that neither rises
nor sets and all I ever wanted:
to pull down the sky.

Mourning Myth

Niobe cried a stone rose garden
and now the thorns are dull spikes–
harmless in hand perhaps uncomfortable

but not a tragedy. She knows
the difference. Ancient crevices remember
loss and empty is its own memorial.

a moment of silence

Her broken facade is hollow home
to feral cats. She was wild as well once
upon abandon when seeds cupped

and flung. When a dozen deaths left her
bloodless tomb and the petals will weigh
eternal as penance alias grace.


Pretty soon I’ll be an anecdote collected, having
collapsed upon a purple cloud. The mystery is gone

and its vacancy is a recent crime. You line up
photographs, a body of evidence so goldfinch

slight. It seemed considerable at the time,
how I spilled contents, an endless flame

in the night, how I shared unyielding
to make an audience dizzy with details. You

were never captive– That was my mistake.
Ever the tourist and something else is always

on. So sample another when even shock
has no value. The gold-plated clasp breaks

in my hand. Its cheap glare loosens me.
We will hammer this out I bargain because

I cannot give it up, the trend I follow thread
to needle and to background fade is a bloody

business. Even among the carnage you yawn
and glaze. Your eyes barely register the claim:

I’ll take her vintage typewriter and her first kiss.
Now two pocketed for later, you leave the rest.


In Case Of

Fingers crossed
for I am the absence
and this narrow staircase
knows but one.

Rather it is our memory
that shares a step,
not bodies brushing moonswept
or over the shoulder caution, lips
a whisper spell to keep the enemy
spiraling down, unwinged
and unwon. Not my penance
even though I am breath held
to withstand your shadow, to skirt
your stumble shape.

How can we revoke this passing
when I am the husk, forever field-
bound and harvest was
another home, another story.

You fold my hands as if nails are
the problem and flight is default.
But I will not abide by your beckoning.
You will not call me up
for I am only omen, a grave

Okay okay

Toe stubbed and sore
stumbling into ordinary
you paused
heart in hand.
The pulse was alarming red
so you feared found out
at last or at least
the blush of failure
upon cheekbones
too lost to claim.

If only you knew shame is
a parlous tomb and genius too–
They feckless fester amid
mildew and forgotten.
They languish over grandiose
linger over the dust of dynasties
mistaking rigor mortis for rectitude.

Do not slouch despair your arrival.
You are legitimate and among the living.
Do not envy the extra and their golden archaic
kept to plaques without purpose.
You are daily doing.

And should the cuckoo call
remember the earth and its salt people.
Grow thirsty from routine


How we gathered
began at a table,
that and each other
the only ingredients.
Now is emblematic,
no longer habit–
an annual concern.
From absence, words wrung
lukewarm at best,
settling in our soup,
sips in lieu of a kiss
to swallow the loss.

Still Life

These are not the waking hours yet we are
eye scrubbing hazards in mismatched socks
and coffee stained sighs.

How we slide ourselves into assembly, into cubes, fading
docile in Febreezed cages, whether they intend
to keep us content or merely keep us.

How they claim a purpose, waving creased
evidence, insisting love is this landscape, this
ticket stub, this adventure

we could take when the dust unsettles, kicked up
among the fluorescents and grease fingerprints
muddy the vending machines and us

still considering our options after the cellophane.
Perhaps when all is turned inside out and strewn
silver it will be almost enough

to consumer us, to litter a starry night,
still choking on another industrial gray, the aftertaste
owns our night.

Said the duck to the fox

outside the circle I am one eye open
and even sleeping
anticipate you.
It is the midnight burden of being desired.
Your red shriek sweeps perimeter,
scrapes a valentine.
But I do not buy the scribble line.
You sly.
You balladmonger.
Be gone!
You are a far cry from birdsong.

The World Is

There are unclaimed days
when vowels alone fill my mouth,
consumed by graveyard envy,
limbs wrung out and dishrag dull.

Ghosting quotidian, regret clings sostenuto.
It is this marionette grief that entertains.
I draw the curtain but memory insists
old habits live hard– bruised body, callused tips:
This is how you keep me and my hair nest, purpled half moons.
There is no magic in your wicked ways.
If I could own another stage or trap door disappear,
if the stars could wish upon me.
Instead there is only the motherless void;
there are unclaimed days.

Not so long ago I was precious first and foremost–
That is, not so long ago I was first.
Everyone else was sequence trailing.
You traced each hand,
called it a discovery,
called me Pearl and covered me mantel close
and when I saltwater cried, you hugged me ocean deep
and it was not preventative.
I want your arms unconditional as if
when vowels alone fill my mouth.

But I have grown alphabet poor and empty.
(Some hearts beat, others growl down deep.
You have your rhythm and I have mine.)
Bone bleached and brutal, a private war
I am waging this femur on your smile
and the violence if a floral scent
and the blood is petal soft sacred.
So now I am doubly poor
and haunting the loss,
consumed by graveyard envy.

Thus I am cautionary.
The audience knows, for you were the whisper
snaking up and down the aisles.
They call me back by some other name
and we both burning hate how I return,
head hung, scarred constellation,
holding up that creased corner of sky.
The gazers tire. It is solitary work.
Only trailing dust as I fade,
limbs wrung out and dishrag dull.

A Pair of Nighttime Tankas

Every slippered step
Lullaby hums the blue hour
As rascals scatter
Beyond midnight banister
To slip another secret

Not a steel resolve
That buckles under sunshine
Or Dawn’s dewdrop baptism
I clench fury in my fist
Bound by fingers in the dark