Choosing a Stone
We learned to jump the fence at dusk
and make headstone rubbings on trace paper
after a rain-day when our mother gave us
black crayons, computer paper, and the jar
of coins from our father's dresser to make art.
She hung our perfect pennies in the picture
window, the rain praised them from outside.
We chose smoothest marble, elaborate font,
and made up stories for each name.
We weren't aware then, finding each other
between mausoleums, peering in the stained-
glass windows of the tombs, our story
was already written. If you lift our shirts,
tape the rice paper to our sides, and rub
the chalk across our bodies, you will see––
Robbie's ridges have already worn deep, the S
of our name begins to draw circles in my side.
On the Study of Butterflies
and his eyes told me he no longer hoped he would live to pursue it again
Vladimir and Vera, in seedy motels
on road trips cross-country,
followed butterflies, studied species,
chased what their life and span meant.
My aunt insists my dead father
is reincarnated as one of these butterflies––
because he planned to entice them
into a pine house in the garden one spring,
but by that winter's end he was dead.
When my brother's kidneys started to die,
we chased to net the delicate wings
of my insides that might metamorphose
decay into flight. On that first night
in our hospital beds, pinned as we were
by catheters and intravenous drips,
it became clear that we are all chasing
our own breath, the clock's flutter,
the sureness of wet earth, and
the chase itself.
Mapping His Body
I begin at the three skulls
low on his torso, an idea
from the girl he loved
(or thought he loved?)
when he was sixteen,
a tripod pointing to his then
persistently open heart.
Up the lattice of his ribs,
over his clavicle, around
his shoulder to Jacqueline
with Flowers––I wonder
who she was to him, that he
would pledge the permanence
of his skin, presenting Pablo's
second wife with blossoms
every day. Counting
the freckles to his hand,
his fingertips meet the thigh
that is bare, touching
the one with Don Quixote
where he towers over Sancho,
over the windmills I know
my love also sees as giants.
The landscape's sun
sets and I hide my eyes
in the clean slate between
his shoulder blades, write
and rewrite lines across
his neck with my thumbnail––
the story of where we end up,
an image we are still inking,
indelible and only for us.
The above poems are taken from The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar (Kelsay Books, 2021)
Emily Schulten is the author of Rest in Black Haw (New Plains Press) and The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar (Kelsay Books). Her writing appears in journals such as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Tin House, among others. She is a professor of English and creative writing at The College of the Florida Keys in Key West.
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