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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

                                                                                                              ––Dmitri Nabokov


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 PloughsharesPrairie SchoonerAlaska 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.

ISSN 2632-4423

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