Down the road Stieglitz is shot through with some bright light spread across marble table, Chinese food —men crushing words —her paintings he says— symbolizing he says the unpronounceable archetypal— —well actually he says.
I slip past— —down the long bone of road—
—here—the lift the tips of a feather—
the slip of a breeze—
—there, almost missed—
the angle of a brush that says —it’s like this—
your core is not a vagina.
(Those men! Those tongues!)
It’s a hard bulb —a black rock— packed like a ribcage
We have such a long history of erasing peaches with our mouths.
I spend all day mixing the color of this thin skin—
I’ll know it when I see it.
Hold your hands exactly this way
—he says, over and over—
—to me— —to the naked girl standing in the frigid lake— (his newest model his youngest girl yet).
Let’s just say it: blue skin black lake dark woods—
once upon a time— there was a girl.
Once upon a time— —I spent four days perfecting the blush of a peach—
ah. I see it now. Perfection?
Dark pit on a white plate.
Dear Thin Air
—largest quiet, deepest canvas—
—dear rungs to the black door.
Tonight I wait for a friend the stones of the patio cooling.
I feel better when I put my hands on your solid sides
on the ribs of your rising—.
If you look hard enough at the moon, it will outshine— the stars
those holes through which letters drop, suddenly—
please, dearest, you’re beautiful I need you come back down.
Of course —it’s the grip—
hand on rung-bone— it’s the looking up.
Tonight I wait for a friend the stones of the patio cooling—
—my feet arcing into darkness—
—oh, forget whoever it is you are waiting for.
Tonight, here is a ladder— half bright with your climbing—
and half dark with your promise.
Dear Walking Out
Of course we live in houses made of dust.
I lean naked early evening, backbone
to softening adobe— yesterday, a little rain today, a weakening.
I touch my skin— its hundred tiny scars—
its thousand broken roads.
I trace this falling— this dissolving—
a muscle beginning—to dust.
Tomorrow, I will walk out —in first light—
and I’ll find bright bones.
I will gather them— these not-deaths, these moon-shards, survivors, these teeth-in-wind.
Tomorrow I will paint them—
and paint them again—
until every petal of skin
is peeled away.
—dear pantry shelves
—dear January day of clear glass jars—
the colors! Vermillion, melon, indigo
—just waiting for my need.
Each bone viga painted, floor clean— see what hangs on my true skeleton?
And what hangs on yours?
Sister, who do you invite past your front door?
Past the table and chairs —the kitchen stove—
past the ingredients in your pot
that say so much— about you.
What do you keep in the room built only to hold —your hunger?
In mine— a ribcage of shelves a thousand glass sheaths.
One lantern of squash of warmest orange.
Emily Wall is a professor of English at the University of Alaska. She holds an MFA in poetry and her poems have been published in journals across the U.S. and Canada, most recently in Prairie Schooner and Alaska Quarterly Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent book, Flame, won the Minerva Rising chapbook prize. It’s the first book in a trilogy of chapbooks that come to us in the voices of three powerful women. This group of poems will be published in the forthcoming chapbook Both Song and Fist, also from Minerva Rising Press.
Header photo, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hands and Horse Skull, 1931, courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Wikimedia. All paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe are included here by permission of the appropriate agency (see photo credits). These images may not be used elsewhere, copied, or downloaded.