Emily Hockaday "Four Poems"
I dream I am a magician. I pull silk scarves
from my mouth, an endless knotted rope. Except they aren’t scarves,
but organs, the vessels that hold my life together. You are weighing them
and you don’t like what you find. Somehow I am never depleted,
and always have something warm and pink
to place in your outstretched hands. How long
can this go on? It seems unsustainable. And what is it
you are looking for? Something that will bring me,
more swiftly, to you?
The light is slant; the trees are shape-shifters in the forest. That cat? Only a crooked
silhouette of bark. Those regrets? A pine felled by the last hurricane, propped up by stumps
and brush. The sound of nocturnal life? This is real. Even the heaviness I feel in my body is
real. I am growing something for us to share. A late walk cannot clear what drags on me. My
father is terminal; there is nothing to be done. Soon he will be a shape-shifter, too, a shadow
in the forest of my neurons. I have a hard time seeing and interpreting what is there. Last
night, a thunderstorm woke us, and I counted out the miles between flash and sound. The
storm’s circumference was wide—strikes simultaneously miles away and very close. The air
builds toward another overnight crescendo. Within my uterus: a charged cloud of electrons
No need for
strands of hair
or small animals
to sacrifice. You know
the sacrifice, and it is one
you will make again
and again. There is no
“right time,” the stars
will not align; you must
grab the opportunity
and yank its roots
from the stubborn ground
with both arms. It will be
easier than you expect,
a paddle, some electricity,
and a calmly beeping ventilator.
And you will say to yourself
that he is in there, that you
are not selfish, that perhaps
he is transmogrified and knows
you the way trees know
each other. Without sight,
My daughter holds the barking dog
To her cheek—an imitation of sweetness.
She doesn’t know the mechanics that keep
it moving or how much force it would take
to pull off the lower jaw. But she might
find out. Every day is a cliché with a baby.
I find myself crying into the bowl of ramen
my husband set before me. The egg is a perfect
white and gold floating in the broth. The chopsticks
stand up in the noodles. “In alternate universe theory,
there are plenty of worlds where your dad is still alive,”
he says. “I don’t know if that makes you feel better.”
It doesn't. The spices and steam from the soup
make my sinuses almost bearable. I am jealous
of those other Emilys. They don’t know their own luck.
Emily Hockaday is the author of five chapbooks, including the forthcoming Beach Vocabulary from Red Bird Chaps. Her poems have appeared in a number of journals, most recently Parks & Points, Harpur Palate, and Isacoustic. She is the managing editor of Analog Science Fiction & Fact and Asimov's Science Fiction and coeditor of the horror anthology Terror at the Crossroads. She can be found on the web at www.emilyhockaday.com and @E_Hockaday.