Each flick of his tongue against my foot
                                                      a smoothness I didn’t expect
                                                                                fire so sudden logs high stacked by lovers
                                                      how bright the first tongue
licked malleolus traced tibia knee
                                                      I could not look at the sky
                                                                                all was a gray through eyes blanked
                                                      as smoke stroked
his lips in the dark dog-warm against
                                                      the flat of my foot
                                                                                became pain became not became flame
                                                      melting to inside of thigh
his teeth pierced to possess and I
                                                      gave over possession gave up body
                                                                                gone of flesh the color flashed upwards
                                                      of its own accord until I
of him had tasted my mouth an open
                                                      gulped smoke as sweet water
                                                                                my ears remembered the river hymn singing
                                                      O glory the sweet sharp
taste of feast    seared meat on his tongue
                                                      holding deep the history
                                                                                of char a new self the old unfleshed
                                                      of flesh
flayed thighs O    I took him    inside
                                                      implored O
                                                                                God on the cross that thief who You
                                                      saved my breath
my breath was his breath and each breath
                                                      a gift given taken each
                                                                                smooth flicker licked the lids off my eyes
                                                      under sky’s blue skin
stretched by the river frozen to mirror
                                                      the syrup sharp stench
                                                                                of foot unfooting itself
                                                      black blossoms
the char taste of feast when I licked he
                                                      rose high
                                                                                as my chin the fire stroked sure as a skill
                                                      as a hand
stroked and softly we were our own
                                                                                fire a stillness I watched and the sun
                                                      in its separate burning
the ice threw off its blanket below
                                                      the hinge of my knee
                                                                                bent the memory kneeling
                                                      down to him
his teeth a secret I held
                                                      in the town square
                                                                                shadows cast flame like flame
my breasts bit bleeding I held his child
                                                                                child daughter a wail inside my wail
                                                      behind the peel
beneath my flesh a hope opened
                                                      of mine own
                                                                                peeling thigh to not thigh not foot
                                                      he held in his right
hand slipped itself through my skirts
                                                      to find
                                                                                not knotted rope not run not body no
                                                      the small
pink bundled beneath
                                                      red inside
                                                                                not mouth not wanted not water
                                                      not again giving
not any more mirror the rivers of water
                                                      not again giving up
                                                                                throat dissolve resolve terminus wanted
                                                      giving up
became not snow the waters he washed
                                                      calendula candlewax
                                                                                child daughter wail hymn my disappear
                                                      hope of water
to vanish my scent off his body
                                                      his hand held
                                                                                the twig its starting flame

Author One.jpgEmma Bolden’s chapbooks include How to Recognize a Lady (part of Edge by Edge, Toadlily Press), The Mariner’s Wife (Finishing Line Press), and The Sad Epistles (Dancing Girl Press). She was a semi-finalist for the Perugia Press Book Prize and a finalist for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s First Book Prize and for a Ruth Lily Fellowship. She teaches at Georgetown College and is poetry editor of the Georgetown Review.

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