Mother’s Day

I count myself among my absences
& my absences are all the body’s
restlessness with being & never.
Enough. World, what do I have left 

to leave you? I mean to say the work
of counting losses never feels finished.
I have lost nothing & at the same time
I have had nothing. I have had so much –  

a mother & a father, a neck hung
with silver & a single pearl set in
its gold ways. Last week I had a dream
in which I was a mother & everything

lingered like light. In the morning I could
smell on my fingers the blood I no longer
have & should not talk about anyway.
As a woman I have been raised to worship

the raptures I shouldn’t talk about. Take
any way. All end in rupture, bloodied
where water makes little of a woman
who makes worth of little. In the end

every silk is a shroud. Every body is
a shroud for whatever grows inside. What
would you take me for. I am & I am this
glittering dungeon. This afraid. Ashen & shamed.

At night I lay awake & am aware & a thousand
poisons glisten. See. They are mine because
I make them mine. They are the world I set
my life in when first my eyes forced me to see.

Emma Bolden.jpg

Emma Bolden is the author of House Is An Enigma (Southeast Missouri State University Press), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press), and Maleficae (GenPop Books). The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, her work has appeared in The Norton Introduction to Literature, The Best American Poetry, and such journals as the Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, Shenandoah, and the Greensboro Review. She serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief for Tupelo Quarterly. Visit her online at